We game ourselves to better game others
Quite the tour de force! Our capacity for self-deception is awesome, and to understand it in ourselves and others absolutely crucial. And you are right in pointing your finger at the rationalists as well here.
While the "false consciousness" tale popular among Neo-Marxists can be very dangerous, I suppose they were onto something initially, and these hyper-norms sort of get uploaded to the Freudian super-ego, but we are often just not aware of this at all. It *is* possible though to transcend it, through self-work and honest feedback, and often personal crisis. It's the only way not to get sucked into a spiritual wasteland of captivity to evil, or, if you prefer, the worst kind of evolutionary dead-end.
Great looking article Lorenzo! I will read it fully after i write this comment -for a reason.
There is definitely a positive something going on. ESP or some sync level. Many substack writers i follow keep saying that their work is being copied, or 'I just wrote about that- you must be reading my mind!". But whose ideas are they? are we not just sharing more honestly now?, seeing the similar patterns and focused on a more singular primary goal?
Maybe this is how we will stop these anonymous psychopaths, by being honest sharing humans.
by the way, i just wrote this-
Love the piece. I love reading about evolutionary reasoning of the way things are.
I do wonder about the creation of the special category of "hyper norms" as a bit of special pleading in favor of explaining the particular destructiveness of our moment, but agree with the idea that it has been incentivized by the lack of disincentives.
In any case you got a new sub.
I really like the use of evolutionary reasoning in this piece. So fascinating. I am the world’s worst liar, as we’ve discussed privately, but I can deceive myself - we all can.
I just keep getting more impressed with the quality of discourse on Substack. This article was deep and intense. I wonder why this kind of deep discourse isn’t occurring on university campuses. Not really. We all know why.
A good analysis of what is happening within Western society. I emerged from it thinking that it had dealt convincingly with the emptiness of modern social philosophy.
The analysis can be simplified by the simple dictum that "Politics is Power". As Cicero told us, religion is the tool of the state to unify the people behind its power. The Romans had the Imperial Cult then Christianity, Pagans elevate their tribal god, Muhammed had Islam, Russia had Orthodox Christianity then Marxism, the British Empire had Protestantism etc.
What we are witnessing is a West that has grown socially divided and feeble after 75 years of hegemony. It is now beset by enemies. The enemies within need help from outside. The outside enemies nurture the enemies within. The objective of the outside enemies is to create anarchy and weakness, the objective of the enemies within is to create anarchy and revolution.
These are the power structures that are in play:
Outside the Western Alliance:
The imperial powers: Russia, China
Within the Alliance:
Philosophies inside the West:
The Postmarxists - these are the new form of Trotskyism/International Socialism/Communism/ Socialism. Communitarians are also postmarxist now.
The new National Socialists such as multinational corporations, International Banks and the Corporate Foundations (Soros, Kellogg, Ford, Rockefeller, Gates etc) - these believe that Corporate structures and their "enlightened" oligarchy can rule.
The state philosophy of Russia and China (analogue of state religion) is the new National Socialism.
The new National Socialism is winning because it owns the mass media. Those corporate bosses are looking forward to a new world order in which there are no borders so that money, goods and people can flow freely around the world. They will use any tools at their disposal including BLM, LGBT movement etc. as their foot soldiers. The wealth of China means that the corporate bosses are actually working in the interests of China, many are even owned by China.
We are witnessing the steady fall of the Western Empire. The Romans felt the same way when their empire fell.
Very insightful. I feel that you have articulated the cognitive processes behind the collapse of complex societies most astutely. Perhaps with this understanding we can salvage our own. To comment on some of my favorite quotes:
"Feminism functions as the networked social aggression of highly educated/credentialed women."
Indeed, and it does feel very aggressive. I abhor aggression, but very much feel that it should be direct if employed. Perhaps this is only because such circumstances would play to my strengths, but I think that there are structural advantages to this as well. Aggression is anti-social and interferes with cooperation on a structural level, so it seems like occult aggression that can't be addressed directly would be the most caustic to social cohesion.
"Homo sapiens: the ape that murdered its way into niceness. The human condition in a nutshell."
This dynamic burned deep into our psyches is the driving force behind karma in my estimation. It is a real force that I believe emanates from this fundamental truth.
It seems to me that the key enabling structural component is isolation from consequence, which also seems to be related to the elimination of tests of character in favor of tests of hyper-norm fluency. It follows that a functional elite - in the sense of an elite which is resistant to the siren song of hypernormativity - must involve tests of character, and must be continuously exposed to consequence for error.
Rotating our perspective on contemporary society, the manipulable wokeists have themselves provided an invaluable character test. By viciously attacking noticers, cancelling conscience-speakers, disemploying those who refuse to participate in their many obvious lies, they have involuntarily highlighted a potential intellectual elite class who have passed through a grueling character test. Passing that test demonstrates that they are willing to risk everything, and sacrifice it if need be, for the sake of what they perceive to be true and just. While the potential elite currently lacks institutional power, they are gathering cultural power at a remarkable pace.
That dynamic is just a sort of historical dialectic. An interesting question for the successor institutions will be how to formalize tests of character, without the tests becoming so formal that they are too easily gamed. And related, how do we ensure that as people rise in society they are more, rather than less, exposed to the consequences of their mistakes?
"Moreover, as political conservatism correlates highly with the personality trait of conscientiousness"
No. Conscientiousness correlates slightly with political conservatism, r < .3. Yes, the evidence for such a relationship is robust and well-established, yet no social scientist familiar with statistics or the scientific literature would call this a large or high correlation.
I say this as someone who is more than willing to criticize the psychology of the modern left:
In my opinion the worst thing about the Woke is that they play fast and loose with the facts, and spin the truth to tell their story. Please, *please* don't do that.
This whole essay is brilliant, particularly with regard to the issues in academia. I hadn't thought of conscientiousness as being a more conservative trait, but it makes sense. I thought the line, "Feminism functions as the networked social aggression of highly educated/credentialed women" really rings true. I see it a lot in the Uni I work for. The abject viciousness masquerading as concern for equality in various parts but especially within the institution's "Women's Network" has been shocking, but it serves a purpose. It scares off any dissenters and creates more social power for the bullies (even if said bullies still can't define what men and women are).
They create problems in order to exert control, make themselves seem important, irreplaceable even, get onto committees and make sure their cv looks nice and fat for any future promotional bid.
Short reminder that Lorenzo is in Australia, so he's asleep right now. However, this thread produced so many good comments he's gathered them up & responded to them here: https://lorenzofromoz.substack.com/p/self-deception-and-social-corrosion
Do be aware that there will be some he's missed (ie the more recent ones), but that he continues to update forthcoming essays in light of people's comments. Relatedly, if I'm able to place the essays in book form with a publisher, they will be published in corrected form throughout, with acknowledgements (handles are acceptable; Lorenzo has already written a corrected follow-up thanking a smart bloke who calls himself "Rooster Luggage" on Twitter).
I've noticed that the hypernormative tend to be neurotic and anxious, like amateur getaway drivers revving their engines as the rest of the guys rob the bank. The strain of self-deception--cognitive dissonance--is the price they pay for constantly policing their own self-image while stealing from the virtue bank.
Eventually, I'll work this metaphor out to include the entire criminal justice system but not tonight.
Re: the reference to beta males conspiring to murder alpha males - would you have a reference for this evolutionary insight?
I seem to remember that it is possible that just as different reproductive strategies (apologies to be heteronormative, Helen!) pay off for human beings (traditional marry, settle and raise kids models representing an optimal approach for beta males, while high status, high earning/wealth alpha males pursue multiple partner strategies - either sequentially or concurrently - to maximise genetic distribution).
This might suggest that far from being extinct - alpha males continue to exist within human society.
A different route to the same conclusion might be identified by looking at optimal survival strategies in resource scarce and resource rich societies and environments.
The very cooperative strategies that you disdain might be key to survival in settler or marginal societies. Hence the enduring appeal of communitarian approaches in fishing communities or Scandinavia/northern Canada etc. Theodore Zeldin described the differences in social structure (primogeniture vs equal distribution of assets among offspring, matriarchal vs patriarchal structures etc) as predictors of political alignments compellingly in the 1990s - taking France (obviously) and Spain/Italy as his models. This was before more recent political realignments, natch.
If this was possible - and I appreciate that this runs counter to your far more developed/refined approach - might it not be possible to believe that the current liberal/reactionary cultural struggle is a struggle between different groups within society seeking to maximise economic returns by defining the boundaries of acceptable behaviour within different habitats. (This might seem a little Marxian for you - I found discussions about intra-elite competition during the English Civil War compelling! Luckily for capitalism, London bankers and the gentry defeated the aristocracy….)
Just as cultural preferences for monogamy could be understood as beta females and males raising the opportunity costs of partner poaching - or on a more mundane level our relative social preferences for honesty in economic transactions and legal penalties against fraud or theft.
High trust societies seem to perform better economically, if I briefly link back to social relations.
The more interesting question is how alpha males and females can ensure social compliance from poorer members of society following the collapse of traditional religion.
Apologies if this all seems too relativistic/abstruse!
Why does conservatism correlate strongly with conscientiousness? I've heard this argument before but never quite understood it. Does it refer to 'small c' social conservatism, or being on the political right in general?
Matt Taibbi referenced a Twain story I was unfamiliar with, but reading it, it was a lovely fable about self deception in a group of people.
The Man that Corrupted Hadleyburg
>will tend to supplant no clear analysis of social dynamics
typo? or just too big brain for me?
"no" -> any