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Round-up and recommendations
We kicked off October on MMM with two friends of the show: self-identified anti-feminist Inez Stepman, and expert on self-identity Eliza Mondegreen. Up next was a deep dive with Geoff Shullenberger on the internet personality Bronze Age Pervert, a conversation with the author Rachel Shteir on Second Wave icon Betty Friedan, and a really intellectually meaty discussion on Spenglerian civilizational cycles with the academic Ben Lewis.
My husband and I also recorded three bonus episodes for founding members: the first on the film Boogie Nights, the second on the limits of free speech, and the third on whether gym-honed ladies should date noodle-armed soy boys.
I published two essays on the MMM Substack in October: one on the risk of ethnic conflict as a consequence of mass migration, and another on the fragility of free speech norms.
Meanwhile I wrote for the Telegraph on social media and war photography, and on the failure of the populist Right in the UK thus far. I also travelled to Brussels to speak at the launch of a new outlet, Brussels Signal, and I appeared at the ARC conference on a panel with Jordan Peterson, Mary Harrington, and Stephen Blackwood.
(Relatedly, I’ve had a few questions for the upcoming Q&A episode on how I juggle work and motherhood. I wish I had a good answer, but trying to strike the balance between work and family in a brutal housing market just isn’t easy, which is why we’re in the process of moving out of London. I’ve developed some strategies, and will keep you updated as I develop more. For the time being my key strategy is rise, grind, and try not to cry. Help me out by becoming a paid subscriber!!!)
The Gossip Trap
A fantastic longread by Erik Hoel grappling with the so-called ’Sapient Paradox’:
Homo sapiens (broadly: people who wouldn’t look out of place on the subway), go back almost 200,000 years, possibly having language all that time. And who knows, human-level cognitive abilities might even go back further than that—our cousins (and ancestors) the Neanderthals wouldn’t look very out of place on the subway either. Perhaps prehistorical minds were similarly similar.
In asking “What took so long?” the Sapient Paradox is the prehistoric analog of the Fermi Paradox. Instead of: “Why are we alone in the universe?” the Sapient Paradox asks: “Why were we trapped in prehistory?” And just as the Fermi Paradox implies a Great Filter, the Sapient Paradox implies a Great Trap, a trap in which human society lived for, at minimum, 50,000 years, and, at maximum, something like 200,000 years or even more. Depending on your politics, the Great Trap might be an oppressive patriarchy, or perhaps a decadent matriarchy, or a lazy commune, etc (e.g., Steven Pinker, in The Better Angels of Our Nature, discusses a “Hobbesian trap” of mutual warfare between tribes—although he does not connect this to the Sapient Paradox).
The answer (maybe)? Gossip!
The Problem with Prepping
When it comes to violent early death, starvation, loss of standard of living, everything preppers are nominally concerned about, the things that kill people by the millions, the big five are:
Civil War/regime change
failed domestic outward invasion,
crippling economic sanctions/blockade.
THE MAJORITY of countries have experienced at least one of these since 1900, and a shocking number have 5 or more instances of one or another.
The distinctive thing about all of these, every single one, is that social-political order, from the perspective of the person on the ground, STAYS INTACT throughout all but the narrowly dramatic moment… and maybe not even then.
“What will you do during the end of the world?”
I’m sorry to have to tell you this: But in 99% of all scenarios, You’ll still be going to work and paying your taxes, right up until the death squad rolls through or the press gangs drag you away. The peasants on the eastern front were still working their farms and worried about making quota when the Whermacht went through.
This is the problem with prepper logic. It’s completely passive. The dream of zombie movies is that the living dead will give you a clear-cut moment when the old political moral order is gone and it’s now socially/ethically acceptable to loot what you need from the already dead and shoot the man who’s drooling and chanting “Brains”.
What should we conclude is the most important tool in a prepper’s arsenal? A passport. You might also want to think about joining an organised crime network…
And on that cheery note, I’ll leave you with The Ruin, an elegy in Old English, written by an unknown author probably in the 8th or 9th century, and published in the 10th century in the Exeter Book, a large collection of poems and riddles. The poem describes the former glory of an unnamed ruined ancient city that some scholars have identified with Roman Bath:
These wall-stones are wondrous —
calamities crumpled them, these city-sites crashed, the work of giants
corrupted. The roofs have rushed to earth, towers in ruins.
Ice at the joints has unroofed the barred-gates, sheared
the scarred storm-walls have disappeared—
the years have gnawed them from beneath. A grave-grip holds
the master-crafters, decrepit and departed, in the ground’s harsh
grasp, until one hundred generations of human-nations have
trod past. Subsequently this wall, lichen-grey and rust-stained,
often experiencing one kingdom after another,
standing still under storms, high and wide—
The wine-halls moulder still, hewn as if by weapons,
penetrated [XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX] savagely pulverized [XXXXXXXXXXXXXX] [XXXX] shined [XXXXXXXXXX] [XXXX] adroit ancient edifice [XXXXX] [XXXXXXX] bowed with crusted-mud —
The strong-purposed mind was urged to a keen-minded desire
in concentric circles; the stout-hearted bound
wall-roots wondrously together with wire. The halls of the city
once were bright: there were many bath-houses,
a lofty treasury of peaked roofs, many troop-roads, many mead-halls
filled with human-joys until that terrible chance changed all that.
Days of misfortune arrived—blows fell broadly—
death seized all those sword-stout men—their idol-fanes were laid waste —
the city-steads perished. Their maintaining multitudes fell to the earth.
For that the houses of red vaulting have drearied and shed their tiles,
these roofs of ringed wood. This place has sunk into ruin, been broken
There once many men, glad-minded and gold-bright,
adorned in gleaming, proud and wine-flushed, shone in war-tackle;
There one could look upon treasure, upon silver, upon ornate jewelry,
upon prosperity, upon possession, upon precious stones,
upon the illustrious city of the broad realm.
Stone houses standing here, where a hot stream was cast
in a wide welling; a wall enfolding everything in its bright bosom,
where there were baths, heated at its heart. That was convenient,
when they let pour forth [XXXXXXXXX] over the hoary stones
countless heated streams [XXXXXXXXXXX] until the ringed pool
hot [XXXXXXXXXXXXXX] where there were baths
Then is [XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX]. That is a kingly thing—
a house [XXXXX],