FORWARD BASE B

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Attack on Titan and Modernity

I watched the first two seasons of the anime, Attack on Titan and was quite impressed. It was the darkest and creepiest concept I’d seen since Berserk. The Japanese have an amazing eye for visual details in the natural world I never tire of whether it’s falling rain or cherry blossoms. That comes across strongly here too conveying visually both the sweetness and impermanence of our brief lives.

The basic premise is a great walled medieval city has been under siege by shambling giants for hundreds of years, as long as even ancestral legends can remember. Life has gone on normally inside the walls while only a handful of scouts have to deal with the harshness of the outside world. Then one day, a giant even taller than the walls peeks over at the terrified people below and everything goes to hell from there, complete with a breach in the wall.

We soon see these giants attacking the city itself, forcing the locals to retreat behind one inner wall after another as they are forced back.
The titans themselves are the most unsettling creatures I’ve seen since the titular Aliens with their chestburster larvae.
The Alien Xenomorphs are designed to appear as foreign as possible. The titans are possibly even more terrifying because of their familiarity. They look like very large, naked people at first but something is missing. They have vacuous facial expressions and their eyes are totally innocent like those of a baby. Even as they approach with mouths eagerly open and hands outstretched their pupils are dilated as though they may be friendly.

The human foolish enough to fall for this ploy is scooped up with a firm hand and promptly chopped in two by a great set of teeth, the hulking beast oblivious to their desperate pleading as they go in. If their whole body somehow goes down the Titan’s gullet without immediately debilitating blood loss, they get to perish in the steaming heat of the Titan’s stomach amidst a clutter of twisted corpses they are soon to join.
What’s more horrifying still is for all the titans’ hunger for humankind they don’t need the nourishment and periodically cough up “hairballs” of undigested human body parts. To add insult to injury the butchery to which they are single-mindedly devoted serves no apparent natural purpose.

I see this new Japanese Titan myth as a natural descendant of the African zombi myth that later became popular in the West.
Zombis were originally an allegory among African peoples for humans torn away from all family and identity by the slave trade, the living dead. In the modern West, zombies live on as atomized individuals in a post-Western atomized society where nobody cares about anyone else because all others are just adversarial competitors in the market economy whose main contribution to one another is to drive down each others’ wages.

The Japanese have one of the last, best societies on earth that is high trust and homogenous with low crime and world class health care and education. They have refused to have third world immigration on anywhere near the scale of other modernized societies preserving their ethnic domain and culture. The fertility rate is among the lowest in the world with a large and dysfunctional culture of incel outcast males but the Japanese have weathered population contractions before when hitting the very limited natural carrying capacity of their mostly mountainous, resource-poor island chain.

The variables that are different this time are those introduced by the modern neo-liberal capitalist economic system that pits all humans against one another in a fight to the death in a single grand arena.

The adversarial nature of man vs. man is the very core thesis of Attack on Titan. The overt adversaries resemble humans, but like zombies lack empathy or any trace of human spirit. Man vs. man is a strong direct theme in the series. As the humans are forced back by the Titans, there is less food and resources to go around, meaning much of the population becomes unsupportable surplus. At one point, the unimportant, the useless, and the old pretty much draw straws to go on a mass suicide offensive against the Titans so the rest don’t starve.
Furthermore, it is strongly hinted throughout that the central government of the great city is highly corrupt. To everyone’s astonishment, the most promising Titan fighters from boot camp are funneled away from the front lines to the government enforcers and secret police instead. Amidst an existential crisis of the entire species, scheming politicians are still up to no good. As if that were not enough, a religion of evangelical fanatics also vies for power and influence in the dying embers of the human world.

Even in the most dire circumstances, humans still engage in relentless zero sum games against a heavy backdrop of nihilism.
What is most shocking is this narrative comes from one of the best-off societies on the planet. Yet they too are consumed by the malaise and despair and decline that besets everywhere else.

History tells us there are sweeping trends that affect everywhere. A Japanese mercantile elite overthrew landed warrior aristocrats just like in the West when exposed to the same technology and pressures. They pursued a flavor of nationalism very similar to that in Europe and America at the time. The outcome was inevitable and so it is now.

Even if all the foreigners were instantly expelled from the United States, the intractable questions remain as we can see from the example of Japan. If these questions were answered, foreigners would be little threat and kept as powerless guest workers or expelled at will rather than function as a civilization-destroying political wedge.

Japan shows us that modernity poses a spiritual and cultural challenge that every 1st world country must deal with as roughly the same historical forces are in play from one end of the globe to another as it has been before.
Caught in a vice between attacking swarms of Titans and the backstabbing tendencies of our own treacherous kind, we seek a way towards a worthwhile future where people can cooperate again against common threats.

The society that figures it out first seizes the unclaimed prize. Or perhaps we all sink back into a great Dark Age.

There’s No Power Without “Downward Distribution”

“Downward distribution” or worse, “socialism,” gets muttered in tones of dread from vanilla conservatives to hard core dissidents. This is a sign they are deeply confused since distribution of resources is what makes a ruler to begin with. In primitive societies, there are big men who work hard to throw the biggest feast and win followers. In early cities, the civic life and religion revolves around distributing grain from the temple granary. It is only in mega-societies of millions where flows of wealth are less transparent that anyone could forget the ruler rules by largesse.
As it is, the roads, the parks, libraries, schools, the military and police, the utilities, the courts, public entertainment, are all forms of downward distribution that establish the legitimacy of a ruling class. If the rulers did not redistribute in ways that provided a net benefit against any alternative, no one would suffer them to rule if they could possibly help it. Even if a local gang is the strongest power, it taxes for protection and its godfather may grant a favor in return for your loyalty on his daughter’s wedding day.

When I see rants about downward distribution on message boards, I understand they are really concerned about the wrong kind of redistribution. Yet these critics are almost unanimously unable to make this critical distinction because they buy into an idea of a mythical independent man who pulls himself up by his own bootstraps. This attitude may not have been wholly delusional in an immature frontier society but in the US the frontier started to close off in the 1890s, helping to trigger a wave of populism then as the pressure release valves suddenly stopped working as well. Now, the frontiers are long gone and there are 330 million mouths to feed in an ungovernable omni-ethnic empire.

Until those with that conservative impulse examine themselves, they are doomed to abject failure. They idolize the lone wolf stronger than all the rest or the elite cadre but all social animals decide affairs by politics, or in other words, alliances rather than individual prowess. This is why an alliance of women and gays can effortlessly push aside the protests of individual men. Even an alpha chimpanzee has to be careful about making too many enemies. Thus we need not dwell on theories of Biological Leninism. If one philosophy encourages individual competition and another encourages collective action, an alliance of children throwing dirt clods triumphs just as easily.

Those who like to call themselves right-wing typically exclude more than they include. Joining their group is supposed to be a hard and selective process. This is the fundamental mistake they make in politics. The right fails to distinguish the ethics of the close-knit tribe from the process of making alliances, even with people and groups they may not like.

The right also lacks any introspection about what kind of group it is. Conservatism, for instance, only really appeals to the white upper working class to the middle of middle class outside of major city centers plus some well-to-do country club types. Nothing they do can broaden that appeal. Neither “natural conservatives” nor Prester John will ride out of nowhere to save the day. Conservatives are the classic case of a static tribe that thinks it is an alliance. Since 2016, reality has caught up with them no matter how they might weep and gnash their teeth. They are but one part of a coalition now, unable to decide elections even on their home ground.

The right wing desires power but it always floats outside their grasp and it will always do so until they recognize that that downward distribution is a tool for sealing alliances that help get them what they want. For decades, their reaction has been to thrash and flail like a drowning man, giving anyone who tries to rescue them a sharp elbow to the face in their panic and paranoia. It is a mathematical law that the party of the 48% loses every election by at least 4%.

First, the faction that wishes to assume power must assess who they want to include and who to exclude from a hierarchical alliance while maintaining strict standards for their core tribe which they intend to occupy the top rung. So the problem lies not in whether or not to redistribute, but in how and how much to redistribute to each included faction. Then, when that is decided, it remains to figure out which enemy factions the alliance should attack first and most intensely.

Lately, the term “incel” has entered into the popular consciousness after possibly a decade of it being common parlance in the manosphere. Incels are men who have nothing to lose in the present system, many of them skilled and educated. They are the very stuff from which a re-alignment in power is made. The cost of their loyalty is very little as a plant kept in the dark loves dearly a single hour in the sunlight. Yet right wingers want only Christian married men with solid careers and successful businesses who can spit tight game when needed. They just don’t get it. The people they want most are those least likely to rock the boat.
The raw material is already abundant. Someone astute just needs to throw a few bones in the right directions.

The core thesis of an alt-center is the golden mean where the interests of a neo-tribal aspiring upper caste and its supporting alliance intersect. Instead of shaming the man who doesn’t get laid, offer him virgins if he’s willing to take big risks against the common enemy.

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