A World of Trauma – Civilizational Psychosadomasochism and Emptiness

According to Google’s vast textual corpora, there was nary an instance of the term “trauma,” or its distinctly psychiatric derivative “traumatized,” in written English prior to the 1880s. The first usage of “trauma” is documented in the 1690s, at which point it referred to physical wounding only. Its “psychic wound” sense did not pick up until the tail end of the 19th century, which is now far more familiar to us than the original sense. Exactly what took root in the world between then and now? The standard narrative is that the medical profession became wiser, but what of the wisdom embedded in our species’ genetic history? Note that even most doctors and biomedical lab technicians know little of basic genetics, or, one has to assume, of evolutionary reasoning. I recall being sneeringly told by one, on introducing her to the concept, that she was only interested in “proper science.” This is about when it set in that even many “grunt-work” scientists are basically morons. She certainly was.

Applying the principles of natural selection (i.e. evolutionary reasoning) to find the aetiology of disease tends to yield different answers from those that are now fashionable. In a 2000 paper, “Infectious Causation of Disease: An Evolutionary Perspective,” the authors compellingly argue that a huge number of supposedly mysterious illnesses are in fact caused by pathogens – bacteria or viruses. The argument is simple: any genetic endowment which essentially zeroes fitness (reproductive potential) can be maintained in a population’s genes only at the basal rate of errors, i.e. mutations, in the genetic code, with the apparently sole exception of heterozygote advantage for protection against malaria. Thus, anything so destructive which rises above a certain threshold of prevalence should arouse suspicion that a pathogen is to blame. This would include schizophrenia, an alleged evolutionary “paradox,” with a prevalence of ~0.5%, especially since, unlike “psychopathy,” schizophrenia has low twin-concordance, low heritability, and is discontinuous with normal personality. At present, direct evidence of the pathogen is scant, but that is to be expected: viruses are tricksy. No other explanation is plausible.

What, then, when one turns the evolutionary lens towards “trauma”? What is commonly called psychological trauma can helpfully be divided into two categories: non-chronic and chronic. The former is what most people would call distress. It is adaptive to have unpleasant memories of situations that could kill you or otherwise incur significant reproductive costs, which is why everyone feels this. It is good to have unpleasant memories of putting one’s hand on an electric fence for this reason. It is bad, and certainly not evolutionarily adaptive, for the memory to continually torture you for years after the fact. I have it on good authority that this does nothing to attract mates, for example.

In light of this, it becomes clearer what may be behind the apparent explosion of mental “traumas” in our psychiatry-obsessed world. One may observe, for instance, that there is no record of anything remotely resembling PTSD in the premodern world. It emerged in the 20th century, either as a result of new weapons inflicting new kinds of damage (brain injuries), or from psychiatrists’ egging people on, or both. If the received narrative about it were true, then all of Cambodia ought to have gone completely insane in recent times. It did not happen. Likewise with rape. One struggles to find any mention of long-term trauma from rape for most of human history. The ancients were not very chatty about it. Of course, they saw it as wrong, as is rather easy to do, but their notions about it were not ours. Rape does impose reproductive costs, but so does cuckoldry, and being cuckolded does not cause chronic trauma. Nor would claiming that it had done so to you do much for your social status. Sadly, exactly one person in existence has the balls to comment on this rationally. Many of these problems seem to originate from something more diffuse, something about the cultural zeitgeist of our age, rather than a particular field or bureaucracy.

It is generally agreed upon in the modern West that sexual activity before late adolescence, especially with older individuals, is liable to causing trauma of the chronic kind. This alone should give one pause, since “adolescence” is a linguistic abstraction with only very recent historical precedent, and many of the biopsychological processes which are conventionally attributed uniquely to it begin earlier and persist long after. The onset of stable, memorable sexual desire and ideation occurs at the age of ~10 (it was certainly present in me by age 11), commensurate with gonadarche, and is certainly almost universally present by age 12-13. The reason these desires arise with gonadarche is simple: they exist to facilitate reproduction. It would make little biological sense in any species other than humans to experience sexual desire but also experience some strange latency period of 1-8 years (depending on the country) during which any acting upon those desires causes inconsolable soul-destruction. Any time something seems completely unique to humans, one has to wonder if it has something to do with uniquely human cultural phenomena such as taboos. It is even more obvious when one observes human cultures which lack these taboos, e.g. Classical Greece. When they married their daughters off at age 13-14, they were concerned chiefly about whether the groom could provide her and her children with a stable living. But they were not concerned about soul-destruction. At least, I’m fairly sure of that. For the record: this is not an endorsement of lowering the age of consent. I am decidedly neutral on that question, but I do not believe Mexico’s answer is any less correct than California’s or vice versa.

It is wrong to say that psychiatrists, or therapists, have a superpower of changing people’s phenotypes. This is impossible, as any such change they could impart would be genetically confounded, i.e. it is genetically non-random sample of the population who are “successful” subjects to their interventions. So it seems fair to assume that a lot of mental health problems are explicable in this way rather than through straight-up iatrogenesis, and their prevalence is inflated somewhat through media hype and social media shenanigans. However, an interesting question is: how much of an evolutionarily novel phenomenon is the field of psychiatry? Are our minds equipped to deal with it? Well, not everyone’s. It seems possible to confect illnesses out of thin air if you subject the right person to the right conditioning, as is the case with the probably purely iatrogenic “dissociative identity disorder.”

Masses of people these days shell out large chunks of their finances on “therapy,” a form of psychiatric intervention which has shown itself to be of at best mixed efficacy. Many long-running randomised controlled trials of its effects turn up jack shit, which ought not to be shocking given what is known about the non-effects of education, extensively documented by Bryan Caplan and others. It has to change the brain in a dramatic way. Still lingering though, is the question of whether it may in fact make matters worse. Many social commentators have taken notice of the way in which mental illness, especially “depression,” seems to be afforded a kind of bizarre social status in some circles, such as within university culture in Canada. Even more galling is that it is not even clear whether “depression” of the garden variety is a disorder; it may be an adaptation that evolved to ward people off hopeless pursuits. Status is a powerful motivator, so this weird grievance culture cannot help, but encouraging people to make their living from talking to such people and consoling them with soothing words cannot be great either, since it is likely to induce the kind of institutional inertia on which the pointless continuance of America’s “drug war” is sometimes (correctly) blamed.

Legalising drugs and investing more energies into high-precision “super-drugs,” e.g. powerful mood-enrichers with no side effects, would do more for the true chronic depressives who literally have never even known what it means to be happy – a malady probably induced by rare mutations if it exists – than what is on offer today. Drugs are the only guaranteed way to do profound psychological re-engineering without gene-editing. It is not clear, though, if the psychiatric industry as it currently exists would be happy to see such problems vanish.


Yangster’s Paradise

“That’s cool, but he has no chance,” was my initial reaction when a friend of mine sent me a link to a story about a candidate who was running for president on a platform of “universal basic income.” Admittedly, I had never heard of Andrew Yang until just a couple of weeks ago and had pretty much already made up my mind to support Tulsi Gabbard in 2020 (though with Bernie now entering the race, her chances have been greatly diminished.) I must say that I feel a tad guilty for dismissing Yang out of hand, since even a brief glimpse of his campaign reveals Yang to be the smartest, most impressive and dare I say, the most serious candidate in this race.

While the other candidates spout vague, meaningless buzzword driven platitudes about “hate,” “privilege” “Russia” and engage in unproductive political theatrics, Yang offers up detailed policy proposals which actually address the most pressing issues of our time. Andrew Yang’s optimistic and solutions oriented approach provides a stark contrast with the rest of the candidates, whose political identities have largely been reduced to perpetual outrage at everything Trump says and does (even in the cases where Trump has embraced traditionally democratic positions, such as peace with North Korea, fair trade etc.)

Yang wisely has chosen to bypass the culture wars almost entirely and instead is focused on crafting complex solutions to actual problems. Rather than pandering to various “marginalized” identity groups, he looks at the bigger picture and remains committed to ideas which can improve the lives of everyone. The other candidates pay only superficial lip service to the issues we face, to the extent they have even thought about them at all. Yang has delved into the nitty-gritty of policy. I’m not even just talking about his “Universal Basic Income” proposal. Just take a gander at the treasure trove of policies presented on his website. This guy has thought of everything. He actually has a real plan. If even 1/3 of Yang’s ideas were implemented, the USA would be a vastly improved country. No other candidate has given any serious thought to the everyday issues that matter to Americans. Just the fact that Yang is promising to ban robocalls would be reason enough to vote for him. Yang’s American Mall Act would help to revitalize, repurpose and preserve many of these culturally important structures.

I like Yang because he combines social liberalism with forward-thinking, transhumanist friendly ideas and bold economic policies, all without succumbing to seemingly obligatory, anti-white racial grievance politics. While the rest of the candidates fall over each other to signal their open hostility toward white people (or some similarly maligned bogeyman) Yang emerges as a genuinely positive force, armed with concrete proposals and determined to make life better for everyone.

Conventional wisdom states that relatively unknown candidates run for office with the aim of getting publicity for their ideas, to draw attention to certain issues and get people talking about them. We live in unconventional times though, when obscure candidates can be memed into political juggernauts overnight. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Beto O’Rourke and even David Hogg were complete “nobodies” a year or two ago and now find their influence inflated beyond that of household name politicians who’ve been in office for decades. It may seem like a long shot, but Yang can win. His upbeat, affable persona and substantive campaign have the potential to transcend traditional ideological divides and win over vast swaths of the American public. If even the most disillusioned among us can manage to muster up sufficient enthusiasm for Yang’s candidacy, then imagine what people who actually do things could do for him. Andrew Yang for president, for the win.

Robert Stark talks to David Cole About LA Malls

Robert Stark and Matthew Pegas talk with David Cole about the history, culture, and aesthetics of LA ‘s Malls. David Cole writes for Takimag and is the author of Republican Party Animal.

Show is available here


David and Robert’s background growing up on the Westside of LA
The Open Air Century City Shopping Center, the original 60’s retro futuristic aesthetics, and the film Conquest of the Planet of the Apes
The recent $1-billion makeover of the Mall and plans to make Century City more urban and pedestrian friendly
The “Westfield Aesthetic”
The old underground 70’s retro futuristic ABC Entertainment Center
The first major indoor mall Fox Hills in Culver City
The Westside Pavilion, Jon Jerde’s 80’s Post Modernist aesthetics (original featured in Tom Petty’s Free Fallin’), and plans to turn it into office space
The 80’s Rodeo Collection, an archeo-futuristic urban oasis model for self-contained cities, and the film Body Double
The Beverly Center, the amusement park “Kiddyland” before the mall , the original 80’s aesthetics with futuristic external escalators, and later renovations
The lack of interest in preserving 80’s architecture
Young people’s interest in 80’s aesthetics and the magical dream like memories from early childhood (Hypnagogia)
The 70’s retro high-rise Mr. C Hotel(formerly the Renaissance) near Beverly Hills
The Third Street Promenade, the first major outdoor mall
The rise of outdoor malls such as Rick Caruso’s The Grove and Americana at Brand and how those are now becoming dated
Future trends, the under construction high-rise shopping complex, the Oceanwide Plaza in Downtown LA
The Jon Jerde designed neon lit Universal CityWalk
David’s joke about the City Walk’s old Rain Forest Cafe and the Museum of Tolerance’s Tunnel of Hate
Westwood Village as the center of Westside nightlife and it’s decline in the late 80’s

Educational Formality and Its Abundance

Obsession with provisioning and protecting children is a trend in the norms of WEIRD societies. In a certain type of person this often leads to an array of strange, inconsistent beliefs. Some complain non-stop about the adult abdication of grown-up responsibilities and simultaneously claim that a 16-year-old engaged in active sexual pursuit of an adult is by definition a victim of child molestation. Others bleat on about the dangers of what they call helicopter parenting while asserting that a mother’s decision to leave her child in a daycare for 8 hours of the 24 in a day is tantamount to a form of child abuse. One may see the concrescence of these stupidities in a recent New York Times article about the harassment of so-called neglectful mothers by public busybodies.

Kidnapping and child molestation are and always have been rare, so this obsession is new albeit no one knows when it began exactly. Likewise, genetics has long since set the record straight on the relevance of parenting to adult behaviour: it barely leaves a dent except in cases of extreme abuse or neglect. Dote on your children or not; they are who they are. Thus, the discourse on how to treat children ought not to focus on how it affects them, but rather what we know to be pragmatic and efficient for both parents and children.

Bryan Caplan argues that education is primarily about job-market signalling, hence the phenomenon of credential inflation and repeated efforts to pour more money into teaching even though it is well known to have weak long-term effects. This means that almost no one remembers much of what they are allegedly learning, and what they do remember is of little use to them in their work lives. Formal education is in actual fact useless to anyone but the mid-witted. Geniuses tend to be self-taught and already know a thousand times more than their classmates by the time they get to school, meanwhile the borderline intellectual functioning struggle through it all and come out at the end with very little signalling currency (i.e. grades).

Formal education before the age of 10 need not exist. It is glorified babysitting. I do not recall learning anything substantive in school for that period of my life, and I know no one who reports otherwise. Child care need not even exist unless the child is very young. Why not just let the kids run free? If this sounds alien and horrifying to you, please note that there are already places on this planet where children as young as 7 may perform most of the functions of daily life with no adult supervision and commute around gigantic megalopolises either alone or in troupes with other children. It requires an intelligent, high-social-capital society where crime is freakishly rare, which can be facilitated by homogeneity, embryonic selection for IQ (since IQ is linked to all things good), and deliciously brutal punishments for the disruption of public order and safety.

Another reason for the alleged necessity of early education is that a child must be socialised, which is to say interact with other children, and this speaks to the age-segregation trend of the First World. It hits high-IQ children the hardest: “He needs to learn to be with people his own age!” No one ever asks why, because no one actually knows why. Children who are adept at talking to adults are probably doing so out of frustration or boredom with other children, especially if they are bright, and it is not as if this “skill” is something they will carry with them for long – once they become adults, they (especially males) will be forbidden from socialising with children lest they be accused of child molestation.

In the days before institutional education was widespread, children socialised with other children, and adults, in their locale with no school, state, or bureaucracy sticking its nose in. Given the aforesaid prerequisites of high social capital, this is achievable to an even greater degree today. Smartphone addiction in children ought to be encouraged; it is the way of the True Aristocrat. Especially, encourage them to use it to get in touch with other children near them, on the same street or what have you, and then get on with their fun and games – no adult oversight needed. A nursery or daycare where I am from is often no more than a repurposed house in a residential area, much less fun than the setup I have described. This will make for less miserable childhoods and fewer put-upon and harassed parents, which, I think we should all agree, are good things.