Category Archives: Society

Diverse GenCon

GenCon, the biggest board game convention in North America, has a very diverse (read: non-white male) line-up for its Insider Featured Presenters this year, including a female majority. I’ll let a celebrator explain (H/T: VD):

That’s right, folks. There are 13 female IIFPs and only 12 men. This means there are MORE WOMEN THAN MEN, and that is a HUGE FUCKING DEAL, because that is a HUGE amount of change in a really short period of time.

So, how did GenCon attain this goal of diversity:

And importantly, this lineup is much more reflective of the diversity of activity within the gaming industry as a whole. In years past, in order to get selected you pretty much had to be a cishet white dude working for a mainstream company on trad tabletop games. But this year’s lineup includes a wide swath of thought-leadership in the hobby, including tabletop publishers, LARP designers, event organizers, activists, critics, podcasters, academics, and community managers. Which is EXCITING!

Consider the nerd/geek distinction when reading the italicized list.

Here’s the list of people and their credits.

It has abandoned having presentations from people who create board games in companies that matter, in favour of people who like to talk about board games or have nothing to do with board games. Of course, our diversity celebrator thinks abandoning the raison d’etre of the convention is EXCITING!

Why is it that diversity is only ever achieved by allowing those who don’t make things, unimportant people, and those aren’t involved in the activity equal say to to key players who actually create things?

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Also, notice this: more women than men is a huge deal. The individuals and their worth aren’t even mentioned, just having women there is all that is celebrated. Yet it is evil to suggest that: “Indies chosen as IIFPs were selected because of pretentious identity politics and not merit.” It’s all identity politics all the time with them, yet pointing it out is just wrong.

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Contra Vox, I doubt this particular action will effect GenCon attendance over much. Of the many people I’ve known who’ve gone to GenCon not one has ever mentioned attending a panel. Most of the people I know who go, go to play as many games as possible and buy the newest games. I doubt a change in the industry panel line-up will even be noticed by the majority of attendees, let alone effect their attendance. (Although, it could be a first step to other measures).

The Geek/Nerd War

Recently, I’ve seen a few condemnations of nerds, such as from Esoteric Trad here, and some stuff from Twitter:

I’m a bit of a nerd myself, so, I’m going to talk about the nerd/geek culture war. I’ve written on Gamergate a few times before, and if you read my Lightning Rounds, you’ve seen my support for Rabid/Sad Puppies. The standard line is that these is SJW’s vs. anti-SJW’s, which is true, but not the entire story.

The roots of these conflicts go back a bit farther. You may have noticed a link I posted to a comment on SSC where a commenter links the culture wars to the Something Awful/4chan split. That may be part of it, but a larger part of it is the nerd/geek conflict within what we’ll call fandom for lack of a better word.

The terms are often used interchangeably by most, but the terms refer to different groups within fandom and each has there own distinct, if overlapping, culture. Or, perhaps more to the point, nerds have systems around which geeks build a culture.

One man did a statistical analysis of the usage of the words and how they correlate with other words. He defined them as such:

geek – An enthusiast of a particular topic or field. Geeks are “collection” oriented, gathering facts and mementos related to their subject of interest. They are obsessed with the newest, coolest, trendiest things that their subject has to offer.
nerd – A studious intellectual, although again of a particular topic or field. Nerds are “achievement” oriented, and focus their efforts on acquiring knowledge and skill over trivia and memorabilia.

Others looking at this topic make a similar distinctions:

Nerd – intelligent, industrious, understands things

Geek – Interested in things that others are not interested in, know a lot about their interests, but usually do not understand underlying principles

The statistical analysis comes to this conclusion:

In broad strokes, it seems to me that geeky words are more about stuff (e.g., “#stuff”), while nerdy words are more about ideas (e.g., “hypothesis”). Geeks are fans, and fans collect stuff; nerds are practitioners, and practitioners play with ideas. Of course, geeks can collect ideas and nerds play with stuff, too. Plus, they aren’t two distinct personalities as much as different aspects of personality. Generally, the data seem to affirm my thinking.

Look at his chart:

Note what words are strongly geeky: culture, #shiny (a firefly reference), #stuff, #trendy, #technology, #etsy. Compare that to the strongly nerdy words, which are mostly science and studying. (Cellist was due to outside factors and the goths reference seems to be from making a distinction between high school cliques goths and nerds).

Nerd things are ideas and academics. They like understanding and mastering systems, accomplishing things, and playing with new ideas. On the other hand, geeky things are stuff and culture. Geeks like learning trivia, keeping up with a culture, collecting, and spending time with others doing these things.

On the other hand, there is a geek culture and a geek community. For geeks, the community, it’s culture, it’s status (#trendy), and its accoutrements (#shiny #Etsy #stuff) takes precedence over the thing, and are the focus. They are more into people, and less into systems.

Put simply, nerds are into things and ideas, geeks are into community. Now, these two aren’t mutually exclusive, there’s overlap, but they are still distinct ways of being part of fandom.

I use the word fandom because I can’t think of a better one, but it is misleading, fandom is itself an aspect of the geeks. There is not really nerd culture, there are simply gatherings of nerds. Nerds will enjoy something alone, when they gather, the focus is on enjoying the thing and mastering the system of the thing, not each other. They aren’t people persons, they’re thing and system persons. Nerds are semi-autistic spergs.

This recent Cracked article illustrates nicely. The authors are geeks:

And people need a sense of community to truly and meaningfully coexist with a thing that they love.

A geek needs a sense of community, because the community is what he’s there for. The nerd doesn’t. I’ve played video games my entier life, and have never had a ‘sense of community’. Other than some rare session of SSB with friends, 99% of my game-playing time has been alone. A nerd plays games because he enjoys games, a geek dose it because he wants community.

(Wolinsky then proceeds to punch down at the nerds and say why games need to be ruined because, like a lot of geeks, he enjoys using his meager social skill set to beat on nerds and try to destroy things they enjoy).

I’ve been a nerd my whole life, and was recently introduced to geek culture, in my late-20s. The idea confused me somewhat: why would you need a culture? Nerd stuff was stuff you did on your own or with a few friends and kept quiet about around normal people. Why would you need a culture to play video games or read SF?

Read this article on geek consumer culture and the first few comments. To them the hobby is all about consumption and status. As a nerd growing up poor, that wouldn’t have even occurred to me. I got SF book from the library because I enjoyed them and games with holiday and birthday money.Their being status or merch behind it, or that people would want the status of nerd or geek didn’t cross my mind.

The fake geek girls controversy illustrates this as well. Girl geeks get legitimately upset when people try to take their geek cred away from them and it seems to some men defending their geek cred is important to them. Both seem alien to me. Why would you care? Growing up, I just wanted to do the thing. I tried my hardest to convince my sisters (and the rest of my family) to play board games (sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, sorry Axis & Allies) because that meant I got to play more. I tried (and failed) to convince my sisters and brother not to play video games because that meant they would hog the system, at least until we got a N64, at which point I needed more Smash Bros partners. There were no thoughts of status. If others did the thing would I get to do more of it or would I get to do less of it?

Anyhow, back from personal digression, the tension between the nerds and geeks has been everpresent in fandom since it began in the way back when. It was a tense, but symbiotic relationship. The geeks needed the nerds in fandom because the nerds made and understood things. The nerds needed the geeks in fandom, at least if they cared at all about fandom, because they’re the ones who created fandom.

This mutual dependence and tension has always been around, but lately there’s been a shift. First, fandom activities have become increasingly accessible: the effort needed for creation or system mastery have lowered, so the geeks don’t need the nerds as much as they used to, if they need them at all. Power slowly shifted towards the geeks.

As well, when the Big Bang Theory came out and was followed by a slew of high-profile superhero and fantasy movies, fandom suddenly became hip. Normal people started wanting to do fandom things and the geeks started inviting them in. That’s not necessarily bad in itself (although, I don’t really see the point). The problem is when this occurred normies don’t have a nerd personality: geeks may be different but they’re still people-focused so normies can understand them. Nerds, though, are still those introverted, systems-focused weirdos. They joined the geeks in the internal culture war, and now they geek/normie alliance is trying to push the nerds out.

Wil Wheaton, is the ur-geek who exemplifies this trend. He’s a geek who outreaches to normies through stuff like Tabletop (not to mention he was in BBT) and is heavily involved in the geek community. He’s set up this dichotomy of what he calls “power gamers” (ie. nerds) who (evilly) like mastering systems and hurt the geek community with their focus on things and ideas over people, while the noble Wil Wheaton builds the geek community (even if he occasionally has to sacrifice rules accuracy or dumb things down a little, both of which nerds generally detest).

In, tabletop RPG’s there have been a number of different play styles. The oldest and, until recently, most common was the power gamer (nerd) playstyle: min/max a character to best master the game system, build a world, explore the world, destroy the baddies, loot the room, save the princess, and level up. It was focused on system mastery, world-building, and problem-solving. These gamers tend to use crunchy systems with lots of numbers (like Shadowrun or the Hero system).

A smaller strain was the Roleplayers (geeks). To this strain story-telling and character interaction was more important. RPG’s were more about collaborative story-telling/improv acting. Combat and dice rolls were minimized because they interrupted the story. NPC’s became fleshed out characters rather than amusing plot devices. And so on. They tend to focus on RPG systems with fewer numbers but (like Fate or Fiasco).

Neither is inherently better (I’ve enjoyed both Fate and Fiasco) and both can be accommodated by a decent GM, so neither is wrong, but recently, the geeks, using their increased influence have been pushing their role-playing style as the correct way to do things. It’s gotten to where the point where the “correct” opinion, the on pushed by Wheaton, is that the story is what matters, while “power gamers” and min/maxers are doing things wrong.

This geek/nerd conflict is what is playing in the Sad Puppies campaigns and GamerGate.

Science fiction has always had a divide (more a continuum, really) between hard and soft. Hard SF stories are geared towards nerds; the world and the ideas would the focus of the story, they were the main characters. The science was central to the story and the story existed to carry the ideas. Characters and their interactions were made to carry the ideas.  Asimov is a good example of his, his characters were almost always little more than plot devices to carry whatever idea he was exploring.

Soft SF, on the other hand was more about the characters than the ideas. They were space operas, where the science was meant to carry the story. Star Wars is the best example of this. The science was simply a plot device. You could easily change the setting to medieval Europe, replace X-wings with pegasi, photon torpedoes with arrows, and lightsabers with magic swords, and the story would not change in the least. Dr. Who is similar, the sonic screwdriver might as well be a magic wand.

Fantasy had a similar, less prounounced continuum. Was the focus on the characters, or the world and the ideas the world-conveyed? The divide was less pronounced because Tolkien, who created high fantasy, Lweis, and Howard who created swords & sorcery, focused on both and did both well. That and fantasy only has to be internally consistent, while SF has to be internally consistent and consistent with known science.

The puppies are nerds. They’re looking for old-school/hard SF/F based on systems-level thinking: world building, ideas-focus, and science. While the anti-puppies are geeks have been pushing for the softer stuff. Even beyond that they’re pushing romances in space, where the SF/F is barely a gloss. Normies who join, generally go towards the soft SF like Doctor Who and Star Wars.

Gamergate is similar. The GG folks are generally nerds, who just want to play games and master complex game systems. Meanwhile, the anti-gg force are all about creating an “inclusive” community (which is somehow needed to play games buy yourself on a screen) by kicking out all the icky gamers (ie. nerds) who are too focused on playing games rather than telling stories with games.

You can see this in anti-gg’s criticisms of games, such as in the Cracked article quoted above or in this piece I wrote on earlier. They want games to become art (ie. have status among the “right” people) and to become a form of interactive story-telling. Gamergate want games to be games so they can focus on mastering systems.

Neither side is particularly “right” in which way is the best to read, write, or play. The main problem, is the geeks are trying to drive the nerds out because those nerds are to focused on enjoying stuff, rather than making an “inclusive” community so that everyone can buy toys and get geek status.

It also the geeks that are forcing this stuff onto you normies. Blame them for perpetuating the culture you detest.  We nerds are fine without you and just want to be left alone.

Virtue Signalling

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”
(Luke 18:9-14 ESV)

Land linked to this tweet by Scalzi, where he shows he doesn’t understand the concept of virtue signalling.

Virtue signalling is a relatively new phrase, but the concept has been around forever; Jesus pointed it out.

Virtue signalling is not virtue, it is the pretense of virtue.  A virtuous person is virtuous because they act virtuously. A charitable man extends mercy to those around him, a generous man gives to those in need, a kind man treats his neighbours kindly, and so on.

Being virtuous generally, at least if the virtue is not one disdained by fallen culture, results in status. People look-up to virtuous people. But on the other hand virtue is hard and requires sacrifice and discipline. You are only as generous as the portion of your income you’re actually willing to give to others.

Some people try to acquire status the honest way, such as the pharisee above. They practice virtuous activities so they can show off their virtue to others. But this virtue is not real virtue.

A generous man gives to the poor because it’s the right thing to do or because he is compelled by compassion, duty, or guilt; he does so for some reason intrinsic to himself and his own character. He is generous because he is a generous person. The generous man who gives to the poor while telling those around him how generous he is, is not being virtuous. He is not displaying his own virtue, rather he is buying the status of being a generous person with his gifts.

These people status-signal by committing acts of virtue for unvirtuous reasons.

We can see this type of status-signalling clearly in corporate charity. A corporation will donate a significant sum to a charity and hold a press conference to get good PR for it, or they’ll create their own charity linking their brand to the charity and themselves to virtue.

Some status-seekers are not honest or virtuous enough to acquire virtue status the honest way. They seek the status without even committing the act that would indicate this status.

There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet.

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him.
(Acts 4:34-37, 5:1-6 ESV)

Ananias saw that Barnabas received status by his generous gift to the early Christian community and desired that status for himself, but he suffered not just pride, but greed. He was too greedy a man to purchase fully the status he desired, so he lied before man and God about what he was giving the community. He received a just punishment for his deceitful status signalling.

Some status-seekers are too lazy or not deceitful enough to do deceitful status signalling, but are too lacking in virtue to honestly acquire status, so they go for the third form, hollow status signalling. In this form, you virtue signal by offering an easy gesture that you and everybody else knows will accomplish nothing.

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“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
(Matthew 6:1-6 ESV)

Ideally, people would practice virtue for virtue’s sake. This is true virtue. Sadly life doesn’t work that way. We are fallen and in love with the praise of man. Everybody wants status and everybody will signal.

Honest signalling is hypocritical but a minor amount is not particularly harmful. Note that Jesus said “they have received their reward”, not that they have committed wrong (the Priest’s folly seems to be pride, rather than signalling). Honest signalling is mostly harmless when done within reason.

On a personal level, you should probably repent impure motives if you catch yourself doing this. On a societal level this is generally harmless, possibly even beneficial, assuming the virtues being signaled are themselves good.  If people do good for bad reasons, they’re still doing good. Their soul is between them and God. As well, it is often difficult to tell if someone is being genuinely virtuous or being virtuous for praise.

Generally, people seem to be fairly tolerant of honest signalling as long as it doesn’t get obnoxiously over-the-top or goes too far in its hypocrisy, and that seems the right way to approach it to me.

Deceitful signalling is bald-faced lying. This should be, and as far as I can tell usually is, condemned outright when noticed.

A lot of hollow signalling is neutral or even good. Offering condolences or prayers (rather than just simply praying) after a tragedy, even one having nothing to do with you on the other side of the world is harmless, and in many cases just showing a little bit of support is a positive. Saying “it’s nice to do nice things” is empty signalling, but its harmless and reinforces the value of virtue. Traditionally, hollow virtue signalling has been a nice social lubricant.

The main problem with traditional hollow signalling was that it could be used as a replacement for doing nothing. But those who hollow signaled were likely going to do nothing anyway, and their hollow signalling was only really effecting their immediate social circles, where everybody would and could easily see what they were doing.

The problem is that social media has changed the game. Most people, a select few politicians, talking heads, celebrities, and corporations aside, were limited to hollow signalling to their own limited social circles, where it was usually harmless and often upheld the common values of those circles. Occasional holiness spirals would erupt

But social media has made it a lot easier to hollow signal and a lot more public. This has lead hollow signalling down a dark path.

The first, is that hollow signalling has combined with activism to become something called “raising awareness“. Raising awareness took hold a while back, but it was usually in support of something: a benefits concert, a charity run, a food drive, etc. The activism used to always be in addition to or in support of some form of honest signalling that at least tried to actually accomplish something, but somewhere along the line, when combined with social media, raising awareness became its own independent form of activism. Now raising awareness has infected everywhere and is often used instead of doing anything.

Hollow signalling, in the form of ‘raising awareness’, has to many become its own goal, replacing activism or other types of real action. People are deluding themselves into thinking signalling is a form of action, thinking they’re doing something when doing nothing. #Kony2012 is the ur-example of this.

The second problem is that public hollow signalling is becoming the default. Some forms of hollow signalling have always been expected by default (“my condolences on your loss”), but these have have been private. But now, ideological activists are trying to force it so that it expected that everybody, or at least everybody important/relevant, has to do some hollow signalling. The popular rainbow flags and Brett Favre were examples of this.

Finally, and relatedly, hollow signalling is being weaponized. Rather than being a social lubricant for your social circles, it is becoming politicized. There have always been holiness spirals, but those spirals usually required some action or effort and happened over periods constrained by time and distance. Now spirals are immediate and require no effort. Activists are using this to weaponize signalling, forcing people signal properly, often through the threat of job loss..

Going back to the beginning, the problem with people like Scalzi is that they have so bought into the weaponization of hollow signalling that they think that people who don’t agree with them or even point out that signalling is not action are are evil people engaging in the same type of signalling but for evil.

That’s virtue signalling in a nutshell.

Natalism and Status

Natalism has been going around lately. TRS has linked the problem to affluence, Yuray has made the fairly obvious observation that minor tax incentives are not enough to raise the baby-making rate, while Spandrell has linked the the fertility crisis to kids costing lots and recommends making it profitable with major tax incentives.

I’m actually rather surprised by Spandrell’s answer. He’s the one who’s been pushing Status Points theory the hardest around here and has noted that any kind of insanity can be accomplished when status is on the line. As we’ve seen, people will go to almost any length for status.

It’s obvious that women want to work rather than procreate, but this is not because (most*) women particularly like working or because they prefer work to marriage and family. It’s not because housework is drudgery, most women who work do something similar to housework in their jobs.

The reason women want to work is because working is high status.** The reason women don’t have children is because having children is low status, and the more children the lower the status.

Examples of this abound: When you read about the Duggars or another large family, you will almost assuredly find criticisms along the line of ‘use a condom’ or ‘brood mare’. Women who stay home to care for their family are ‘stepford wives’. Women who spend their lives on home and family are ‘wasting their lives‘. Relationships show a lack of ambition and too much traditionalism (which is negative). Young marriage is discouraged. Etcetera, etcetera. Feminists have been working very hard to destroy any status attached to motherhood.

You’ve no doubt heard the blatant lie that motherhood is the toughest job in the world? Nobody could honestly believe taking care of a child is tougher than working in a coal mine or as an infantryman in Afghanistan, but everybody spreads that lie because it bolsters the low and declining status of women with children.

Having children is low status, but even beyond that status games pervade all of motherhood. The mommy wars aren’t about whether children are better off being raised by their parents or by daycare workers, it’s about who gets good mother status points: stay-at homes or working mothers.

Before you thinks that good mother status contradicts my thesis, know that low status is still some status, while having no children is no status. Have you ever read an article by childfree women? I can almost guarantee you it was complaining about how others expect them to have kids, think them odd that they don’t, or using the status of having kids to one-up them.  In other words, their primary complaints are about the status hits they are taking for not having children. These status hits gnaw away at them despite having an ‘exciting, meaningful’ life of travel, work, and leisure. (Notice how they will always status signal other areas in their life to make up for this lack of status).

Having children is lower status than eduction, working, travel, or having status-giving interests. Being a stay-at-home mother is low status compared to being a working mother. Having many children is lower status than having one or two children. Having children young is lower status than having them once infertility hits.

This, more than anything, is why he have such low birth rates.

So, the answer to the fertility crisis is not tax changes, natalism benefits, or motherhood welfare. The way to get women to want to reproduce is to make children the ultimate status symbol.

Read the story of Leah and Rachel in Genesis 29 and 30. Having children was high status, so they did everything they could possibly to produce more children so they could win the status competition against each other.

We need to make it so that instead of the culture lauding whorish celebrities and woman CEO’s, mothers are celebrated. We need news reports to make glowing reports on women having their 6th child, rather than shows idolizing women who adopt foreign children or slutty daring dresses. When Mrs. Duggar has more status than Hillary Clinton, that’s when we will turn this ship around.

Sadly, we don’t control the levers of the culture-industry, so there’s not much we can do for society as a whole, but there are things you can do in your own little circles.

Make a point of praising women who have kids and their mothering skills. If a family is thinking of having another kid, make a positive comment. Praise young men and women you know who are thinking of young marriage, and otherwise encourage young people aroudn you to marry early. Let some disappointment slip out if people say ‘two’s enough for us’. Register some thinly concealed disapproval or contempt if someone says, ‘we don’t want children’. If you can smoothly do backhanded compliments or negs for the self-sterilizing, that would work too. And so on.

You’re working against the combined forces of the media, academy, bureaucracy, and culture, but you might be able to have some influence. Status is mainly an abstraction of a multitude of positive and negative social interactions. If you add to the interactions around you, elevating motherhood and deriding self-sterilization, you might indirectly change a few minds in your local communities. If enough people do it, maybe the trend could be reversed.

One warning, try to keep it subtle enough. Push too hard or too blatantly and you it might backfire if they get defensive or if you look like a jerk. You want to subtly influence their general perception of status, not come off as someone pushing a low status opinion.

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* Before some idiot brings it up: yes, not all women are alike, yes, there are some women that like their jobs, and yes, some women just don’t like children. A generalization is not an absolute, spare me.

** And yes, because they need cash, but the need for cash came after the desire for status. The drive of women into the workplace was due to status, but once women entered, it drove wages down and costs up, forcing more women into the workplace for monetary reasons.

The High-IQ Homo Economicus

You may have read parts of the Kevin D Williamson NRO article attacking the white working class. It’s behind an NRO paywall and I refuse to pay them for anything, so I haven’t read the whole article, but the excerpts I did read lead me to make to Twitter tirades. I have since found an version of the original article here.

The first rant was about how Kevin is an ass for attacking the white working class for being what it is after decades of prolonged government attack, which he partially supports, destroyed it. The second is was a rant on how soulless high-IQ homo economicus, like Kevin and his ilk, set up an inhuman system designed for them, then sneer at how others the system is not designed for fair poorly under it.

This gives me the opportunity to write something I’ve planning to write for a while now, but haven’t got around to yet.

Now, before I begin, because some cucks like Tom Nicholls argue like 14-year-old socialists, I will clarify my personal position. I come from the working class. Through the luck of genetics and the grace of God, I happen to have be born with high intelligence and an impersonal, homo economicus sperginess, so I am now personally comfortably middle-class, but I see second-hand through family the degeneracies of the lower classes. As well, I am not a Kremlin troll (although, if a Russian psy-ops happens to read this and wants to pay me…)

The current socio-economic system is designed by rootless, soulless, high-IQ, low-time preference, money-/status-grubbing homo economicus for benefit of those same homo economicus. It is a system for designed for intelligent sociopaths. Those who are rootless with high-IQ and low-time preference can succeed rather well in this system, but it destroys those who need rootedness or those who are who are low-IQ or high time preference.

Kevin says, “Nothing happened to them. There wasn’t some awful disaster.” But he’s wrong, there was a disaster, but no just one, multiple related disasters all occurring simeltaneously. Ones that would be missed by a rootless cosmopolitan like Williamson. These disasters include the sexual revolution, the long march, feminism, mass immigration, globalization/off-shoring, forced integration, the drug epidemic, mass TV propoganda, governmental growth, and cultural genocide.

Within a span of a few decades working-class whites saw their communities invaded and destroyed by immigrants and integration, the traditional sexual/moral framework destroyed and replaced by degenerate Hollywood mores, the collapse of restraining institutions such as the church and local community, and what forced into competition for what jobs weren’t off-shored to foreign places paying starvation wages with imported illegals willing to work for almost nothing.

Every support the white working class (and for that matter the black working class) had vanished within less than a generation. There was a concerted effort to destroy these supports, and this effort succeeded. Through minimal fault of their own the white working class was left with nothing holding them up.

Now, some people can succeed in this. Low-time preference, high-IQ groups and individuals, like New England puritans and myself can more or less get by without too many supports. Rootless homo economicus, like Williams, New York bankers, and hipsters, can have satisfying(?) lives living in a rat utopia, grubbing for dollars and status, anomie won’y affect them much. Sociopaths (in the colliquial sense), like most politicians, are made to survive in soulless, inhuman system.

For these types of people this is functional, but different people and groups naturally have differing temperment, intelligence, and time preference. Most people are not high-IQ, soulless homo economicus, most people are of average intelligence and have a strong need for communities and community support. Just as with corporal punishment, differing people require different socio-economic structures and controls.

A high-IQ Jew can probably have a dozen sex partners without becoming a single mother, then go on to either economically-productive bitter cat-ladiness or a stable low-sex marriage. A high-time preference Scots-Irish or black with a dozen sex partners is probably a single-mother with multiple baby-daddies and either a Wal-mart job or welfare payments. In a realm of easy divorce, the marriage of a low-time preference post-puritan will probably survive, but that of a low-IQ trailer park resident won’t. In a town with minimal economic prospects and easy access to welfare, the high-achieving, socially-isolated nerd will probably find it easy to ditch town for university and a Silicon Valley career. The low-achieving stoner or the son of a tight-knit farming clan won’t, and will likely choose the path of least resistance. The low-time preference WASP with good job prospects from an intact, single-child household may snort a line or two of coke on occasion and he’ll be fine, the high-time preference Scots-Irish from a broken family with an unemployed father will follow that first hit of meth down to destruction.

Working-class whites (and blacks, and hispanics) are not able to and can not be expected to function in an inhuman, cutthroat, anomic socio-economic system designed by and for upper-middle class WASPS and Jews. They are no more constitutionally endowed to be able to than women are to be marines. Some of the working-class on the right-side of a bell-curve or two may be able to extract themselves from the cultural collapse and some others may be passed by, but most are no more able to escape than a baby is to swim.

People are not equal. Differing people and groups have differing levels of in-born ability to be responsible. You can talk personal responsibility all you want, but most people require cultural and institutional structures to help hold them personally responsible. Those structures are gone, they’ve been destroyed.

You can not expect natural peasants and yeomen to be able to properly hold up the responsibilities of natural aristocrats or priests.

****

Nature-defying leftists think they can remodel men and make them all into perfect new socialist men. All men are blank slates that can be molded by education to become perfect. Man is perfectable. Of course, every attempt at perfecting man has failed.

Modern conservatives, having whole-heartedly adopted liberalism, fall into the tabula rasa trap from a different angle. All men are capable of perfecting themselves, they just need to become rugged individualists and pull themselves up by their bootstraps. While personal responsibility and individual effort are important, to think that all men are capable of self-actualization in anomic isolation is just as nonsensical the New Soviet Man.

Most men need community, cultural, and institutional support to self-actualize.

Now, there it is possible to just say, fuck them, they lost the darwinian struggle and deserve to die. Rootless conservatives like Kevin certainly do, as they propose that the broken white working class just move and gets jobs. Rather than trying to fix a system that was designed to destroy working-class communities, he glorifies a system where men’s only hope is to leave behind their families and the towns where their ancestors lived for generations to move to anomic, demographic-shredding urban centres to simply to be able to provide for themselves. Whatever you might call such inhuman mammon-worship, it is nothing anyone sane would recognize as conservatism.

Real conservativism and reaction recognizes that not all people are equal. You can’t just abandon whole swaths of people to anomie, poverty, and economic misery. Superiors have a duty to protect and care for their inferiors just as the inferiors have a duty to obey and respect their superiors. Conservatives can not abandon the idea of noblesse oblige.

****

None of this is to say that we should adopt socialist or communist policies where everybody gets free government handouts. That’s just another form of anomic, inhuman mammon-worship. There are other options besides anomic socialist mammon-worship and anomic corporatist mammon-worship. I’m planning another post on economics, hopefully soon.

****

Finally, just to make it clear, there is nothing shameful about not being an aristocrat or priest or with being a yeoman, peasant, or even a slave. While our modern status structure prizes the priestly class (ie. the educated, the academic, the high-IQ, the journalist, the bureaucrat, etc.) as having status above all, primarily because the priestly class seized the status hierarchy for themselves through their control of modern mass communications, this is a corrupt and degenerate status hierarchy. (The aristocratic class is all but dead). The denigration of the admirable yeoman or peasant and the loss of the status that used to be given granted to an honest blue-collar family-men is an evil corruption.

Anybody, who knows their proper position in the hierarchy and faithfully renders their duties should receive the proper honour and status. Such is right and noble. The priestly class should and will pay dearly for their destruction of the natural status hierarchy.

Christian Culture

Evo X asks why Star Wars is more popular than God. I’ll answer.

My parents were really into the Christian culture thing (my mom even owned a small Christian bookstore home business for a couple years) and so was I until some time in my early 20’s. I watched Veggie Tales, McGee & Me, the Greatest Adventures, Gerbert, and the rest. I listened to the music of Carmen and DC Talk (but not the Newsboys), and tons of Christian metalcore, punk, and hardcore (FaceDown Records!). I read the Left Behind, Wally McDoogle, Baker Street Sports Club (and spin-off), and Lightning on Ice series, among many others. I owned the Picture Bible (the Bible in comic book format), many of the Archie Christian comics, and Heroes of the Faith bible comics (which I thought were pretty cool at the time, because look at that blood and brain matter. That series was surprisingly gory for the Christian culture industry).

So, you can believe me when I say I know that there are people who do (or at least did) try to keep their kids in the Christian culture industry. As far as I can tell, some people in my church still do. I’ve seen kids in my church carrying around their Action Bibles and Christian manga.

The problems are many. First, it doesn’t work unless you isolate your children from non-Christian children. I enjoyed Veggie Tales, but when your friends at school have no idea what “Whoa I ate the bunny” is and are instead referencing the Simpsons (which you’re not allowed to watch) then you want to watch the Simpsons, just so you can understand what “Hi diddly ho, neighbourino” refers to. When the secular culture is omnipresent, its very difficult to confine your kids to Christian culture.

(This can lead to some ridiculous situations. If you can only listen to Christian music or have Christian cultural products, it becomes tempting to try to define what is Christian as broadly as possible, so you can enjoy what your friends do. Every even quasi-spiritual band is scouted for how Christian they were. I’ve watched as young Christians argued that Linkin Park is Christian).

Second, it’s limited. Sure, there are some comics, some shows, and some movies, but there’s only some (and even fewer which are actually good). How many times can your kids watch Veggie Tales before he gets bored? How may times can you turn on the Greatest Adventure, until you get sick of hearing it in the background, much less your kid? There’s more books, but still it’s limited. There are only so many Christian products being produced, you’ll eventually run out. I like metal, there’s some, but not very many, Christian power metal bands. I couldn’t fill my desire for metal on them alone.

Third, it’s comparatively crappy. Everyone, including almost every Christian, knows that Christian cultural productions are not very good. This is especially so in the area of movies and TV. The only truly good Christian movie I can think of was Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, which was created apart from the Christian culture industry. Most of the rest range from crappy to mediocre. As someone in our sphere (I think, I can’t find the piece), wrote on somewhat recently, it takes the whole support system of Hollywood to make a believable movie, and Christians just don’t have that.

It’s somewhat better in books, because those don’t require as much support, but even so: Left Behind was the Christian cultural phenomenon, but the books were decent at best (I read most of them) and the movies (I haven’t seen) were supposedly terrible. Wright’s the best contemporary Christian fiction author I’ve read (by far) and he’s outside the Christian culture industry. TheChristian talent pool is also much smaller, so the likelihood of a spectacular Christian writer is lower. As well, the need many Christians have for works to have an explicit Christian message and to eliminate vice (no swears or drinking) makes subtler and/or realistic stories more difficult, while also severely limiting some genres such as fantasy (ironic, given the predominance of Tolkien and Lewis in the genre, I know) or SF.

Music is also somewhat better. There are some solid bands, but still, Christian music is generally inferior. Besides the talent pool issue, one problem is the Christian music industry attempts to be relevant, which generally ends up meaning they’re chasing whatever trend is popular at the time. So, by the time they actually get around to writing and producing the music, they’re already feeling like mediocre derivatives of trends from a few years ago. KJ-52 is an excellent example of this. He is (was?) the biggest name in Christian rap, but he put out his first CD a year after the Slim Shady LP, and was signed to a Christian label a couple years later. He sounded like an Eminem clone chasing the trend (and naming one of his main tracks Dear Slim didn’t really dispel this). Most Christian music is like this, copying what was popular years, sometimes decades, before. The only genre I can think of where Christians really lead the fore is metalcore (I don’t know how or why Christians became such a strong presence in metalcore, although it might have something with the influence of Living Sacrifice).

The Christian music industry also has the problem of mainstreaming. There’s a general trend that as a Christian band distinguishes themselves and becomes more popular, they begin to tone down the Christianity and lose their distinctiveness. For example, my two favourite bands a decade ago were Disciple and POD. In their early stages, Disciple had a heavy, distinct, and somewhat vicious rap-metal sound with a very strong Christian message (most of their early CD’s contained a sermon as a closing track), but as time went on, they became more popular and started getting some mainstream attention. The music became more generic, less heavy, and the rap-metal sound was replaced by grungy heavy rock. The Christian message was heavily muted. Same with POD, who got a lot of mainstream attention for a Christian band. A band that had a song called “Abortion is Murder” and explicitly named Jesus in their first album, eventually moved to esoteric talk of Zion and Jah, sounding more Rastafarian than Christian. They also moved from a distinct, heavy rap-metal sound to a reggae-infused generic nu-metal. This process has repeated among countless other bands.

That being said, given the nature of the music industry, there are some great Christian bands out there. In metal, Theocracy is one of the best power metal bands, period, while Tourniquet played unique progressive thrash I have yet to see matched. I’m sure most other genres have similar examples.

Finally, a major issue for individuals is cost and availability. Christian stuff simply costs more and is available in fewer places. A mainstream CD costs from $10-15 (CAD) from HMV, which can be found in any mall. A Christian CD from a Christian bookstore is generally $15-20 (or more, I remember one Disciple CD putting me out $28), and you have to drive out of your way to get there. Even buying from Amazon it costs more. I remember the books costing more and the movies costing more. Amazon may be leveling this out, but I remember the price differences being quite significant.

So, the Christian culture thing is possible and people do it, but there are a lot of factors that pull against it and make it difficult. Bu even if you do do it, in the end, it doesn’t really work. Even if you homeschool, eventually your kid will join the rest of the world (unless you do an Amish colony type thing) and secular culture will get him. There’s a huge trend of Christian kids losing their faith in college and the Christian cultural industry is one of the contributors to it. Antibodies to secular culture needs to be built up while young so the child has a hope to resist it. For example, I’m the only one of my siblings to remain a practicing Christian, despite our upbringing in the Christian cultural industry and my parents attempts to limit secular culture. I’ve seen a number fo other families whose Christian-culture raised kids have strayed upon leaving high school. Some come back, some don’t.

A Facebook Poll asked people to list their favorite books; while Harry Potter came in first, 7.2% of people listed the Bible.

Obviously this is not a good way of comparing affection for Star Wars to affection to the Bible, but having interacted with people, 7% feels rather close to the actual percentage of real Christians.

This one is interesting, because despite my regular quotations of the Bible around here, I would likely not list the Bible as being among my favourite books.

I’m not fully sure how to explain it, but there’s something separate between the sacred and the profane. Important sacred things are measured by different standards than mundane things. I wouldn’t read my Bible for fun and enjoyment and I know of few Christians who actually enjoy reading scripture, yet it’s the book I’ve spent the most time reading by far. I wouldn’t call it my favourite book, but it is definitely the most important and influential book in my life. It’s simply measured differently.

Maybe a more relatable example will help. Amazing Grace is simply the most beautiful, emotionally moving song I know. Yet, I have never listened to it for entertainment. It’s not and has never been in my iTunes or on my MP3 player. I would definitely not call it my favourite song. It’s in a separate category all its own, along with other hymns. It’s set apart.

Relatedly, however much I love heavy metal, I’d strongly object if we added heavy metal worship music to my church. It simply wouldn’t be right.

That might be the problem with the Christian cultural industry, particularly music. It is trying to make the sacred profane and bringing the profane into the sacred. Worship music is set apart; the old hymns have a power and meaning to them. Translating that power, that meaning, into popular music is difficult. The Bible has deep truths, translating those into mundane stories of popular fiction is difficult, something only the most skilled wordsmiths are capable of doing right, which is why so much popular Christian literature is so heavy-handedly clunky.  It takes a lot of skill to produce Narnia, very few writers have that skill. While trying to make a mass market thriller spiritually meaningful is a near hopeless task.

One example of the profane infecting the sacred that really rankles me is Grace Like Rain. It’s a “redone” Amazing Grace in contemporary style that adds a course. The song itself is okay if you like CCM, but churches have taken to adding this to the worship music repertoire. So, you’ll be singing along to Amazing Grace, then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, a pop music course of “Hallelujah, grace like rain…” will interject itself, completely ruining the power and atmosphere of the hymn. The sacred song is profaned by the injection of CCM.

The secular and the sacred are separate. Adding the sacred to the secular is difficult and the unskilled will ruin it. Adding the secular to the sacred ruins the sacred. (also, CCM should be kept out of the church).

Culture Loss

Why not bring in immigrants and refugees? These people just want a better life, why not open the doors and let them in?

Spandrell found a thread of a Belgian couple sharing their journey through the Congo in 2008, and it is interesting, and answers why we shouldn’t.

Big mistake. We were stuck. The water came to the bottom of the door. This particular mudpit had a bit of a funny smell. It was the favourite place of the pigs so it probably contained a fair amount of sh*t. It sure smelled like it. The entire village gathered round us while we got out, knee deep in sh*t.

They did not offer help.

We started clearing the wheels. Josephine hurt her foot on a stick, the pain could be seen on her face. The people thought this was extremely funny and burst out laughing. This was very humiliating for Josephine and I could see the anger on her face. We looked at eachother and understood that this was not the time to get angry or start discussions with 50 or so people. We continued to work. As I bend over to clear the mud from underneath the car my pants get wet up until my ehrm.. ‘privates’.. . Once again this is the funniest thing these people have ever seen. Hilarity ensues. This was very humiliating to us.

Eventually they offered to help us if we pay them. I tell them that I do not have money. They did not move an inch.

The same thing happens a little bit later:

No surprisingly nobody they offered their assistance, they even had some shovels. But they wanted money first. By now you probably think we are just stupidly stubborn and naive. We probably are, but we refused to give in to corruption. I once again told them they were free to help, but we would not give them money. So I continued to dig on my own with an entire village as an audience.

Here man meets tribal culture. He calls it corruption, but it isn’t, it’s culture. Why would people help others outside their tribe without a reason? Why would someone honestly expect unrelated others to help them?

I live in Canada. Everybody gets stuck in the snow on occasion. When you do, you’ll always have someone stop to help push your car out and get you on the way. One time I slid up the curb and got stuck in a small snowbank at 2 am on New Years (it was a patch of ice, not alcohol). The family in the house came out and helped me push and dig it out for 15 minutes, until someone in a 4×4 showed up and gave me a quick tow. I’ve stopped to help others push as well. Helping to jump-start someone else’s car is barely worth remarking on. It’s just something you do because you trust people will help you out when you need, and so we all get to avoid freezing to death trying to get our cars going.

This is a cultural practice built up by an uncountable number of positive interactions over a unnumbered years. The Canadian experience is the unnatural outlier, the Congolese experience is the natural norm. Helping strangers get their car unstuck is an unnatural cultural practice held by a limited number. It is just one of many western Europeans have built up. These practices have not built up in many (most?) other countries.

If you import foreigners from Congo who do not have this cultural practice, fewer positive interactions and more negative interactions build up, and eventually a some tipping point, you no longer have the cultural practice.

This is the harm immigration causes, it wears away at built-up cultural practices. The insidious danger of it is that this regression is barely noticeable until one day you get stuck, look around, and wonder, ‘why is nobody helping me?’

Of course, cultural practices go far beyond simply pushing someone’s car.

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I asked them if they would want us to help them if they had a problem. The acknowledged this. I said what they would think if we asked for money before we would help them. They called us racists and immediately demanded money from us.

Welcome to your future.

Also, the demands for money or free stuff is omnipresent throughout the trip. Everywhere they go, someone is demanding money, drinks, phones, or the like from them. Is this the cultural practice you want imported to your country, where ‘le Blanc’ is seen primarily as a source of free stuff?

We opened a can of Coke (still from Zambia) and a jar of pickled onions to eat with our bread.

Those ‘horrible’ people did not have a Coke, even if they had the money to buy it, it was not avaialble. They did not have pickled onions either. And between the two of us we ate as much bread as an entire family would eat for an entire day.

We tried putting things into perspective. Maybe we shouldn’t be here after all?

This is what immediately follows their ‘stuck in a mudpit’ story. The answer to the question is ‘correct, they don’t belong there’.

But more interesting is how they do not seem to make a connection. Maybe there’s an underlying reason why people who won’t help others stuck in mud don’t have Coke and pickled onions available. Coke and pickled onions require cooperation in the marketplace, but how can there be cooperation when you can’t even trust your neighbour to help pull you out of the mud?

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If you want to know why there’s no social trust, here’s an illustrative example:

We came across a small motorcycle. You’d see them from time to time, it is the most luxurious transportation people have here. They are litte chinese 50cc (or 125cc) bikes. We stopped to let him pass and he stopped to greet and ask us if we had some oil for his engine.

All over the world there is an unwritten rule that in remote or difficult to travel areas people help eachother. That is why in the sahara everybody says hi to eachother. That is why in the Mongolian steppe people drive for kilometers just to check up on you. People help when needed as they know they will be helped when they are in need. We very much honour this unwritten rule and will always assist when we can.

So when this guy asks for oil, I do not hesitate and take out a my spare can of oil. I warn him that this is oil for diesel engines, but that does not matter to him. It is probably the best oil he would ever find to put in his little bike. As I am pouring oil from my can in his can the passenger of the bike starts begging with Josephine. I am not impressed when Josephine tells me. And when the bike owner too start to ask for money, it really pisses me off. We are helping this guy and still he begs for more? So I pour the oil out of his can back into mine and tell them to sod off. In our car and off we go.

For almost a month now we were in a serious fight with Congo. We were fighting against corruption. We were fighting against the roads. A constant battle. Congo was giving us a serious beating, but we stood strong and did not give in. Slowly but steadily we were winning this battle against the Congo.
But while we were so busy battling the roads and the corruption, Congo sneaked in from behind. It had transformed us into loud and angry people. With no remorse, no compassion, and a total lack of rules.

What happened to the unwritte rule of the road less travelled? The rule we nohour so much? All out of the door..

Congo had beaten us a long time ago already. Just like it had beaten most of its own citizens.. And we didn’t have a clue

The defections finally got to our generous tourist and finally defected himself. I wonder if this will cause him to further defect in the future?

Foreign cultural practices are acidic and burn away your cultural practices.

****

Here’s the price for not having a culture of trust and cooperation which would allow for road-building:

As said, traffic is always local. They somehow manage to get cars into larger towns and then drive it around town, but no trough traffic. So cities/towns/village that are not on a river or on the limited railroad network have very limited supplies.

Up to 600kg of goods are transported on these bicycles. They do not ‘ride’ them, but push them instead. You can see there is a stick connected to the bikes handlebars.

This is the major transport method in Congo. It is probably one of the most ‘popular’ (this does not seem like a good wordchoice) jobs. There are fixed routes and people often travel in groups. For security reasons but also to help eachother on the hills.

At regular intervals on the main “bicycle” tracks there are “service stations”. This is usualy a small hut where one can eat a meal of fufu. They would also have a pump and some basic tools to fix flats.

We saw many of these overloaded bicycles before, but on this stretch of the road it seems to be the only means of transportation.

It must be very hard work to get these loads over the sometimes very rough roads. The ‘drivers’ are away from home for weeks on end and probably barely make any money out of it.

And here’s another cost:

We came across a truck that was parked in the middle of the track. Luckily the surrounding area was pretty open, so we could pass it.

Us: “Bonjour, ca va?” – “Hi, how are you?”
– Them: “Ca va un peu bien ” – “I am doing a little bit ok” -> typical Congelese answer this!

Us: “Votre vehicle est en panne?” – “Did you truck broke down?”
– Them: “Oui, mais ils vient avec des nouveaux pièces” – “Yes, but they are coming with spare parts”

So we chat a bit and we ask what their problem exactly was. They left Ilebo for Kananga with a load of building materials for a rich guy in Kananga. Their engine had completely seized. Their cargo was transferred onto another truck and they had taken the engine out and transported the engine to Kinshasa to get it rebuild. In the meantime the truck ‘crew’ stayed onsite to safeguard the truck. But they were very happy as they just received news that the necessary parts for the engine were now ordered in Germany, so the parts would come arrive in Kinshasa in a few weeks time!

A fascinating story, and they told it as if the was the most normal thing in the world. Fair enough. We said our goodbyes and asked them one more final question. How long had they been here?

“Un peu plus qu’un an maintenant” – “Just over a year”

The most normal thing in the world“. Is this the culture you want to import?

****

After the preceding stories, someone did help them:

It took three more attempts to drive out before the village priest (7th day Adventist by the way) encouraged a few strong men to help.

***

Some other people in the Congo were more proactive:

When we continued on the same road we would pass other smaller mudpits. These bogholes always had a “crew”. When a truck arrived, they would throw in rocks so the truck could pass… for a fee ofcourse. After the truck passed they removed the rocks again. A lucrative occupation!

In our books this is just plain wrong and we refuse to support such behaviour. So we always charged trough in 4×4, hoping we would not get ourself stuck.

The corruption is omnipresent and not just limited to roads. The tourists can hardly go anywhere without some official or another demanding a road toll, a non-existent “tax”, or a “fine” for some made-up infraction. As the tourists note, despite all the road tolls:

Nothing ever returns to the maintenance of these roads, or anything remotely related to the province it is in. It shows:

All the roads are like that or worse, My favourite is the one with the tree in the middle of it:

Here’s there first two days of travel. Remember, day one was the fast part of their trip with the best roads.

Less than 200 miles in day one, barely 50 in day two, while driving a sturdy 4×4. That’s how bad the roads are.

But between the corruption and and distrust, why would anyone build a decent road? Who would build a decent road?

There was one group who tried, the Belgians, which brings me to the next point.

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At some points the trip reminds me of Skyrim. The Congo resembles a pre-civilized society but there’s the (sometimes functioning) ruins of an ancient civilization scattered about.

Fallout 4 or a Belgian Ruin in the Congo

They’re driving down unkempt, potholed dirt roads, then suddenly:

The bridges were something we were very concerned about upfront. Congo has a lot streams and rivers and we knew the roads had not seen maintenance in many many years. If a bridge broke down, that could be a major problems. Up until now however we did not have any problems with the bridges. Some of the smaller bridges might have been dodgy, but all of them were passable. Most of the large bridges were fortunately made out of steel and in reasonably good nick.

Take the bridge we just crossed for example. I find it amazing that is still there. Numerous armies have crossed the Congo in the last 20 years, chasing their enemies down to the capital. Now, I am not a military expert, but if my army was losing terrain to the enemy army and I have to retreat. The one thing I would certainly do was blow up all bridges after me. Had it happened but was the damage so small that it could easily be repaired? Or did they just not bother? Or did they lack the explosives and time to actually blow it up? Who knows…. but at least the outcome is good for us now!

A bridge made by the evil Belgian colonialists over a half-a-century ago still functions, but the Congolese can’t keep basic roads functional. Here’s the ruins of “what once must have been a grand building… marked with logos from a Belgian University… [that] must have once been some scientific study centre of sorts.”

Everybody talks shit about imperialism and colonialism, but when the Belgians were there the people of the Congo had peace, order, bridges, working roads, a functional bureaucracy, non-corrupt police, and scientific study centres. Are the Congolese better off being ‘free’?

Here’s the tourist on the dark Belgian history:

I presume you are referring to the “not so nice” role Belgium has had in the history of Congo. For a while I thought that would be a problem as well, but it isn’t. Just about anything that still exists in Congo is made by the Belgians. The older generation who had their education from the Belgians really have fond memories of that era. And at the moment Belgium is still one of the main funders of the country (via aid). The dark pages of history during the Leopold 2 era is not what the Congolese people think about. All in all I think being Belgian was actually a plus. As a matter of fact, a lot of people asked how things were going with the “war” in Belgium :-o

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Speaking of functional bureaucracy, mismanagement is not limited to infrastructure. Here’s the tourists on getting a permit to be tourists:

Nobody really know what kind of permit one needs, let alone where to apply for it. But everybody agrees that a permit is required. Officially it has got something to do with the many mining areas to be crossed. We contacted the few people who have attempted travelling trough congo but they too never managed to get hold of the permit. One of these guys did get arrested and deported because he could not provide a permit.
Our Belgian Consulate really tried hard to get this stupid little piece of paper for us, but to no avail. They even managed to get us invited with the governer of Katanga, but he too could not give it to us. After many days of trying we asked the consulate to give us some sort of official looking letter with an official looking stamp. We would chance it without the permit!

****

There are some actual functional paved roads around, made by foreigners:

So, why is there an asphalt road in the middle of Congo? Not connected to the rest of the road system (due to lack of road system).

There reason is simple: Diamonds. This is the main diamond center of Congo. This has attracted many people ofcourse, but the local people barely benefit of the natural wealth of the region. Officially it is the third largest city of Congo, after Kinshasa & Lubumbashi. Although by now it is probably the second largest city with over 2 million inhabitants. It also a politically important region. Most of the recent political problems start here. When Mbuji-Mayi “explodes” the rest of the country usually follows shortly after.

The diamong mining companies ofcourse need transport. Most is done via air, but the heavy supplies (fuel) are brought in by train. The nearest train station is in Mwene-Ditu. Hence the tar road between Mwene-Ditu and Mbuji-Mayi.

It’s hard to say “the local people barely benefit” when the mine is the only reason there’s a decent road in the area.

Here’s an interesting tidbit on who they talked to while prepping for their trip:

2) Coca-cola company: If there is ony thing you can find anywhere in the world it is Coca-Cola. They should know how to get their goods in the country. We had no response on mails, so we called them up. Their answer was pretty short: They do not have a distribution network outside the major cities in Congo 8O And it proved to be true, Congo is the first country we have visited were Coca-cola is hard to get once you leave the major cities.

****

An interesting thing about the trip, is the number of Catholic missions in the Congo, how often that’s where the tourists stay at them, how much the tourists appreciate them and their kindness, and how much a relief the priests are. From the way the tourists talk about them, Catholic monks seem to be what keeps the country even somewhat functional. I’m not going to quote all of the references, but here’s a few.

Here’s some priests picking up the white man’s burden. It speaks for itself:

The priests (Brothers actually) are nice guys. There are 4 of them, young and smart. All of them have studied in Lubumbashi or Kinshasa. After they finished the seminary they were sent to a mission. They cannot choose which one. We could hear the sadness in their voices when they told their stories.

They sampled the “world” when studying, they have a degree (one of them had a masters in engineering) and then they are sent to a mission. They know they will probably never have the chance again to live in a city. At the mission they take care of the kids, teach, etc.. A noble and rewarding job. But they carry all this knowledge that they cannot put in practice here. They have no computers, no tools, no electricity, no budget, …

Their living quarters were very comfy and clean for Congolese standards. They had a radio and a TV set. Because of their proximity to Lubumbashi they had a regular supply of newspapers.

The priest-engineer was setting up a project to generate clean energy from a river. He had a recycling project. A radio project. An irrigation project, … He had to run all these projects without any funds, without material. So many ideas, so little chances.

They remained positive but you could see it in their eyes that they were sad. Without a doubt they would take the first opportunity to get out of there. It would be a great loss for the mission and the village but I couldn’t blame them. In the way our talks went we thought we could hear them crying for help. To take them to Europe, to give them funds, to supply them with material. They did not speak these words, but to us it was clear that they really longed for those things. We were not able to provide this. It made us sad and we felt guilty.

Here’s another set of priests carrying the burden and the thanks they get for it:

We rolled into Kamina and had a warm welcome by several “frères” (Brothers), among them Frère Louis, the belgian brother that hosted us in Luena. The other frères were Croatian. They all have their missions deep in the brousse, but this week they had their annual gettogether.

The missions was big and well organized. They had all the facilities, even a workshop. They were responsible for almost everything functional in Kamina. Churches, school, farms, factories, …

That night we talked for hours with Frère Louis. Our little adventures here dissapear in the nothing compared to everything he went trough. He had been in DRC for over 40 years, he stayed during all the wars. He had to abandon everything and run for his live three times as teams were sent out to kill him. But he always returned. Many books could be filled with his adventures.

He is also responsible for most of the bridges Katanga. He build hundreds of bridges himself. He has a small working budget from Franciscans, but he funds most of it all by himself. He has put every last penny in the Congolese people. That is why his house in Luena was so rundown.

He also told us about the Mayi-Mayi rebels that still roam the jungle. We were not prepared for the horror stories we would hear. I still have problems giving these stories a place. They are not just stories though, he gave us a 100 page document with his interviews of victims. If you thought, like us, that cannibalism was something that belonged in comic books and dusty museums about Africa. You are wrong. :cry:

But not everybody is called to the self-sacrifice of the mission field:

Unfortunately the father of this mission was not there, but his apprentice was. A very young guy, fresh out of school. He was not happy to be here, that much was clear. He did nothing else but complain and he would whine on endlessly. He was not a bad guy, but was wan’t very good company either.. oh well.

And not every priest remains uncorrupted:

We discussed our plans with Abbé Omer in the garden of the mission (it must have been a wonderfull garden back in the days.. now it looked a bit rundown). The good news was that there was good ferry here that could take us across the mighty Kasai river. The bad news was that nobody every uses that ferry and it does not see any regular action.

Omer knew the guy who was responsible for the Ferry, a chap called Barthélémy. He even has his phone number, but he does not have credit on his phone. No problem, he can use ours. A conversation in Lingala starts, it takes about ten minutes until we run out of credit on our phone. I actually think they talked 1 minute about the ferry and the other 9 minutes about other things, but anyway. Here was the deal:

– Price for a two-way trip is 50$US
But,
– we have to supply our own diesel the engine of the boat. 150 liters is required (!). that’s about 200$US (Diesel here is cheaper because they have a regular supply via boats from Kinshasa).
– we have to supply two batteries to start the engines of the boat
– the ferry is on the other side of the river and they would only be able to get it across somewhere next week

That’s just great!

We immediatelly uttered to Omer that that was a ridiculously high price, one we would never pay. And that we wanted to cross as soon as possible. preferably tomorrow.

What followed was a very difficult negotiation. Abbé Omer insisted that he acted as an intermediate person. According to him to protect us from getting ripped off (because we were white). I was actually convinced that he was playing a game with his mate Barthélémy to make some money out of us. It took us many hours on the phone to finally convince this Barthélémy to come to see us to discuss the price. He would come at 8 the next morning.

Later that evening Omer suggested that we he would have to inform the police of our presence (c’est normal!), it took us a lot of persuading for him not to ‘give us in’.

Interesting that Omer is a local.

****

Of course, some secular non-profits are there to, but they are not as effective as the evil Catholics, MNC’s, and imperialists:

They told us about the mysterious roads. Apparently some NGO (they did not know the details… or they told the details and we forgot) has funded the construction. Several teams started working at several locations. The different bits were supposed to connect at one point. As of recent, work had nearly stopped… no more budget. It was unclear if more budget would become available or not. In any case the idea of the construction was to invest all the money in labour instead of buying an expensive CAT. Great idea ofcourse, that way all the money stayed in DRC, instead of filling the pocket of some bigwig at CAT. If you look at the road it was quite a feat. They thought about drainage and everything. Unfortunately they could not compress the earth enough with the tools they had. We already started a few ruts, it would only take 1 heavy truck to completely destroy these roads again. These roads would not last a rainy season.

Here’s Barthélémy’s ferry:

We couldn’t believe our eyes when we finally saw the ferry.

It looked brand new!
It wasn’t..

A German (?) NGO had funded the restoration of the ferry recently. It had received a nice fresh coat of paint, but the money to rebuild the engines had gone missing.

****

Here’s some more local cultural practices excerpted from a 131-page document by a priest:

“Y”‘s brother went fishing in Missa and saw mischief like cutting of ears. They fry the ears in a pan eat them. They make the victims look at how their own ears are being fried and eaten. They are being accused of cooperation with the Congolese FAC army. The May May continue to eat humans. Y’s brother managed to escape to Bukama, this is where I met him.

They kill those four soldiers and eat them. They then carry one of the heads of the murdered soldiers to Kintobongo and put the head on the table in our mission. They do this as warning not to attack hem, if not this is what happens.

..The hunters (May-May) asked food at the woman of Chef Kitumba. The women told they did not have food. The hunters then demanded that they roast their children for them to eat.

The commander Bati dared to display a naked woman. With a pen he pointed at every part of the “intimate organs” and told the onlookers the names in dialect. What a humiliation.

We are living in a situation of pure and simple cannibalism. The may-may plunder, rape and kill the civilian population. They then eath their meat, raw or smoked. This is true for the May-MAy chief Kabale, who was killed recently (15/05/2006) by the population of Kayumba.

Do we really want to bring these kinds of cultural practices here?

****

Of course, it’s not all bad:

We stopped in the first village. A car in the village.. with white people in it. Now that is an attraction ofcourse. And if they are covered in mud from head to toe it is even more interesting.

I do not have to explain we drew a bit of a crowd?

But people were actually quite nice. They offered us to use their shower (a tree with a mud wall before it and a bucket) and after an hour or so they actually left us alone.

Later that evening some kind of custom officer came to see us. He wanted to see our permits and whatnot. We kindly told him to bugger off and come back tomorrow. Surprisingly, it worked. Next day we were gone before he came back ;-)

As soon as it got dark we got into our tent and looked outside. We could see several fires in the village were people would gather around and sing and dance (mostly women). Small groups of men were having discussions. Peaceful village.

But small villages aren’t all good either:

The first village we encountered seemed deserted at first, but as soon as we entered the village we saw people coming at us from all sides. They had machetes and sticks and were shouting. “Des Blancs. Argent!” – “White people. Money!”. They were all over the place. This was not good! I floored it and sped out of the village. A rock hit the back of our car.

What in gods name was that all about?

Very few Congolese had made us feel welcome, but this was plain agression! It scared the hell out of us.

We passed another village, and once again a mob formed as soon as they heard us coming. Machetes flying round, racist slogans shanted. Once again we did not give them the chance to get near us and blasted out of the village. They tried following us. This was turning ugly, if we would get stuck here we would be in big trouble, these people did not want a chat!

****

Anyway, I’m about twenty pages into the thread and it goes on for almost 100 pages. I’m done reading and commenting on this (for now?), but I hope you found this illuminating, or perhaps endarkening?