I previously wrote about how those with ancestors from north-eastern Europe are WEIRD. We are culturally unique because we are Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic.
WEIRD does not mean ‘white’. Those whites on the peripheries of Europe, outside the Hajnal Line, are not WEIRD.
Most of the letters in the acronym could apply equally to the high-trust Asian Tiger societies, but they lack our extreme egalitarianism, guilt complex, and low consanguinity and ethnocentrism.
Over time, WEIRD people built the richest, freest, most creative, dynamic and technologically advanced nations in history. That is changing.
Western societies are becoming less WEIRD:
Western: we are ashamed of what we are and wish we were less so. We demonize our appearance, refuse to build in our architectural traditions, cancel our great artists and writers, and despise our own history.
Educated: credentials have increased but our thinking skills and ability to get things done have cratered.
Industrialized: all gone to China.
Rich: some of us are more so but the middle class is being squeezed out of existence, especially among the younger generations. Infrastructure is crumbling and some life expectancies are declining.
Democratic: Almost half the US population does not accept the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election. More about this later.
Along with the terms that fit into the acronym, we also see a decline in other Western traditions.
Rule of law is being replaced by anarcho-tyranny where crimes are prosecuted on a who/whom basis.
On the left we see a retreat from reason and evidence. On the fringes of the right there is a resurgence in ethnocentrism and religious intolerance.
Social trust has declined.
In terms of liberal, Enlightenment values, peak WEIRD was probably reached some time in the 1990s and the subsequent decline accelerated rapidly from 2013 to the present.
I’m not 100% sure, but today I will put forward a theory about two related forces that may have undermined our traditional, Western values – immigration and Woke cultural dominance.
Non-WEIRD immigrants have been arriving in the Western world for a very long time. Back in the day, newcomers like the Irish, southern Italians, Greeks, Turks, Slavs, Jews, Poles and others were not at all WEIRD. They focused on their own families, kept within their own communities, excluded outsiders and sometimes married their cousins – a primary hallmark of high consanguinity.
These groups may have undermined WEIRD values to some extent, but they also mixed and assimilated to some extent. I’ll leave it to others to argue about these extents. In any case, groups that have been living in the West for generations are now much WEIRDer than their counterparts back in the Old Country.
Later waves of immigration have resulted in enormous numbers of new migrants from Latin America, Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Each of these has its own, non-WEIRD values. Of interest to us here are low social trust, high consanguinity and general insularity and ethnocentrism.
This has resulted in whole industries where one’s ethnicity and family connections are now important in hiring and promotion. The most well-known situation is that of Indians, where relations and co-ethnics are routinely favoured while low castes and outsiders suffer disadvantage.
The visibility of Indian nepotism is likely due to their high numbers and relative success, with the Chinese also attracting attention. As other immigrant groups reach prominence we are likely to see an extension and calcification of these practices.
This is not to say that unfair discrimination never existed before. It did. Within living memory, my own family members were sometimes confronted by job ads that said ‘Catholics need not apply.’ And it was never unusual for the boss’ son to land a nice job in the company.
However, immigration appears to have made such practices much more common. When a white American takes control of a division, for example, it is unlikely that it will gradually become whiter and whiter over the following years, with many of these whites being extended family or hailing from his home town. If a Chinese or Indian person takes control, we are far more likely to witness such a transformation.
We have focused so far on hiring practices, but this should act as a proxy for many similar cultural changes taking place within the West. The increase in non-WEIRD immigrants is likely leading to ethnic voting patterns, lowered tolerance for speech deemed offensive and increased corruption and cheating.
This is not to say that all migrants are cheaters or that all native Westerners are as pure as the driven snow. Rather, migrants arriving from highly corrupt, family-focused Third World cultures are likely to be more corrupt and nepotistic than than native citizens brought up in a culture that prizes honesty and fair dealing.
Most of my readers will be with me so far, but some newcomers might not be. For the latter, let me add this: it is very difficult for a Westerner to grasp just how honest his society is, and how dishonest other places can be, until you have spent a long time in the Third World.
In the country where I presently reside, I had to pay a bribe at the police station to get my police record check. My cash withdrawal was declined at an ATM but somehow the transaction was still recorded and the money disappeared from my bank account. Media figures here who criticize the Governor tend to get shot and the murderers are never caught. When a new mayor is elected, there is a period of uncertainty as local businesses negotiate new bribes. And businesses owned by police can break all sorts of regulations and generally do as they please.
Wage theft is near-ubiquitous. Scams are everywhere. Anything of value not nailed down is soon pinched. There are many fake products. You can get off a murder charge by paying blood money. Our very concepts of justice, egalitarianism and a fair go are not universal. They are weird. In normal societies, one’s only family comes before such abstract principles.
So don’t tell me about Watergate. Like I said in the original piece, you have no idea how WEIRD you are.
Even if migrants from such low-trust societies become 50% more honest and fair (by our standards) as a result of assimilation and heightened enforcement, this will still lead to a net increase in the overall level of corruption in our societies.
The effect of immigration is heightened not only by the cultures of migrants, but of the numbers in which they arrive and the expectations placed upon them by the host society.
We currently allow very large numbers to arrive and insist upon little assimilation. This encourages social enclaves to persist, thus better preserving original cultural traits.
Further, multiculturalism in and of itself causes social trust to decline.
The second, and I think much larger, factor undermining WEIRD values is Woke cultural change.
Until very recently, Western societies were by far the freest in the world. Anybody could publish anything he liked online and no one could stop him. A thousand flowers bloomed.
Then Big Tech stepped in.
It started with the cancellation of genuinely nasty and lunatic figures but quickly spread to very moderate figures who dared go against the narrative in part or whole. Here I assume my reader knows the types of people I’m talking about, where they got banned from, and that I can safely continue.
The current owners of the means of communication do not want issues of public controversy to be settled through debate and evidence, even though they may believe their side would win such an elenchus. Rather, they wish to stifle discourse on the grounds that the arguments of the other side – the words themselves – cause harm to vulnerable groups.
As others have pointed out, this is a retreat from the Enlightenment attitude that we can consider an idea without actually holding it, back to the primitive world of imagination in which some words are bad magic and must not be uttered.
The impact of the two changes described will have an effect beyond immigrants and the Woke. Both heritage populations and those holding a non-Woke world view will react, sometimes in ways that further shift the West away from WEIRD values.
Rising ethnocentrism among one group must eventually cause a corresponding rise in such sentiments in other groups.
Some time ago there was a discussion on Zman about the Ahmaud Arbery shooting. That was the jogger shot during a struggle with vigilantes in Georgia. Most responses were moderate, suggesting that the jogger was likely to have indeed been a thief but on the other hand, armed white civilians pursuing a black man was never going to end well and those concerned ought to have taken note of similar cases.
Then one commenter said something like, “I don’t care. Right or wrong, the men arrested are on our side and the burglary suspect is not. So I support the white guys. That’s what they do: support their own team, right or wrong.” This got a lot of upvotes.
Think about that – the readership were not one-eyed zealots. Other comments indicated they knew it was a complex situation and that the whites were foolish at best. But they approved the sentiment of, ‘my people right or wrong’.
That is ethnocentrism.
It is odd that the greatest fear of Woke (at the moment) is white ethnocentrism, because the whole Woke movement pushes whites towards ethnocentrism more forcefully than anything else could.
Lee Kuan Yew said, in a multicultural society all politics is ethnic politics. I’m not sure this is necessarily true, but it is certainly the way the West is going. If one party claims to represent minority interests, will not another party compete by openly representing white interests? This prospect is even more likely once whites become a minority themselves.
It is probable that as immigration and ethnic enclaves progress, Western politics will become less like the 20th Century clash of ideologies and more like the precarious Malaysian balance of power between rival groups that staves off pogroms. And this is optimistic – the pessimistic outcome would be African-style winner-takes-all ethnic politics where one minority uses the organs of government to achieve dominance over the others. In this situation, each change of government merely shifts the oppression from one group to another.
But probably it will be more like Malaysia.
We may also see an echo effect in levels of corruption. High social trust is a case of game theory where everybody cooperates and everybody wins. If too many start defecting, this becomes the norm.
In other words, corruption leads to more corruption and formerly WEIRD people are likely to do things they wouldn’t have previously done. Paying bribes in some situations may become normalized. Cheating in universities is already rife. Lost wallets may not be returned as faithfully as they once were. In business, corners may be cut. And – this is important – heritage whites will be among those doing the cutting.
Similarly, we may see nepotism and ethnic favouritism in hiring become common across the board, not just in those communities where it is culturally expected. Those who continue to hire fairly and blindly will lose the game.
“If everyone else is doing it, why can’t we?”
The 2020 US Election
The UK elites trying to wriggle out of Brexit was the warning shot. The US presidential election pierced the hull of democracy and sank the ship. This is true whether or not the election was stolen, on which I make no comment here.
Democracy does not consist only of free and fair elections. Even Third World countries can pull off those. Rather, democracy comes from the ideological commitment of all sides to accept the result. The losing side sucks it in and vows to flip it next time around.
In some societies, election results are only accepted because of underlying force. For example, Indonesian politicians often have their own private mobs that can be unleashed if don’t like a result, which adds pressure to behind-the-scenes negotiations between strongmen. In this system, democracy exists alongside more traditional dispute-resolution mechanisms.
In WEIRD societies, we accept an election result even if we might have the power to overturn it. The thought to do so does not occur to us.
The most recent election has forever undermined Western, democratic values because in our leading nation, almost half the population believe the result was fraudulent. And here is the vital, anti-WEIRD fact that always gets forgotten: had Trump won, the other half of the country would not have accepted the result.
Both sides now have unofficial mobs that can be riled up and sent out if it seems politically advantageous to do so.
All future elections will exist in the shadow of this one.
The election is not a third factor in our path away from WEIRD. Rather, it seems to be the result of a gradual undermining of our WEIRD values. It was always going to happen. Finally in 2020, it happened. Politics will henceforth be conducted in the Russian style, with censorship, disputed elections and violence. This will be true of both sides because that’s the game from now on.
WEIRD values and norms led to the supremacy of the West over all other societies. However, these values are inherently fragile as they require mutual cooperation and high trust. If too many parties defect, all must defect or be trampled.
Mass immigration from non-WEIRD societies plus internal cultural change along Woke lines has resulted in such defections and broken the virtuous cycle.
The West is becoming less WEIRD and the trend will continue. We have lost our superpower – the hidden cultural traits that led to our wealth, freedom and security. Societies modeled upon alternative norms and values now have a very good chance of out-competing us.
It’s too bad. I liked being WEIRD.