Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Unifying Theories, vol. 1: Romantic vs. Industrial Societies

Welcome to the Unifying Theories course, here at the Mountain View Scientology Center! I presume you all brought your copies of Dianetics and a check for $2,000? Seriously, though, there really is a Scientology bookstore/center/future site of mass suicide in Mountain View, California. It's downtown right next to an amazing Turkish restaurant. Come for the food; leave with both diarrhea and reading material for the toilet! This is the first of what may be a multi-part series on my larger unifying theories for how the world works. The next one could be "Men are stupid, women are crazy." But maybe not--you remember Ludicrous Video Game Tropes? Only two issues. Sometimes bad things happen to good ideas.

The Idea
I submit that among European societies, all can be divided into two broad categories: Romantic and Industrial. The theory is limited to European societies because I'm broadly ignorant of most others. If there's one thing I've learned about humor, it's that if you're going to generalize about other peoples' cultures they should have at least the same skin color as you. And honestly, I'm not sure it even holds for others. Third-world countries by definition aren't industrial. East Asian societies seem to exhibit characteristics of both. So let's stick to what works. And by the way, you should treasure this paragraph. How many times do I proclaim my ignorance on my own blog? You should probably make a wish, as you would for any other cosmically rare event.

Anyway, the theory is that Romantic and Industrial societies share common weaknesses and strengths. It starts from the bottom, from the collective Ids of human beings over the course of centuries. Eventually, a national character forms, with a number of tendencies that shape the aspirations and capabilities of the entire society. If nobody in France cared about painting, they'd have far fewer painters in general and likely no great ones. I think you get the idea.

What do I mean by Industrial societies? To name a few, Britain, Germany, Australia, America, and Canada because that's basically America.

What do I mean by Romantic societies? To name a few, France, Italy, Spain, and Quebec because that's basically France.

Russia is kind of an exception. It's got elements of both societies, but it's really a Fucked Up society. In Fucked Up societies, they drink vodka. Russia is a fucked-up place filled with fucked-up people and always has been. I took a Russian History class in college, and it was more depressing than my Milton class.

Industrial Societies

Beer
The drink of choice for the industrial man. And his woman. And their children. Beer was one of the few things that was actually safe to drink a thousand years ago, and countries like England and Germany specialize in it. The unique brutality of Australian metal is made possible only by throats well-lubricated with Foster's. Americans similarly love their beer and metal, and while we do produce wine I should note that all our wines are rip-offs of French and Italian wines. So there. Beer is the result of production, not cultivation. You can craft it, yeah. But you can't have beer until you can process grain, and beer is essentially liquid bread. It built the fucking Pyramids! Well, beer and whips. Lots of whips. By contrast, you've never had an Italian or French or Spanish beer, and it's not because they don't exist. It's because nobody outside of those countries wants to drink their particular flavors of swill.

Cars
American cars, though they suffered a decline in the past couple decades with the rise of Japanese manufacturers, were long considered the standard across the world. The British and Germans also make great cars. For Industrial societies, automobiles represent the cutting age of engineering and manufacturing. The two greatest highway systems in the world are the US Interstate and the Autobahn. England might be able to compete if they weren't concerned about rampaging bands of Picts destroying any infrastructure they invest in. Don't believe me? King Arthur, Centurion, now The Eagle. All involve battling shitloads of Picts. I don't make these things up. In contrast, Romantic countries make shitty cars. French cars are such a joke that Paris drivers routinely jostle each others' parked vehicles around to wedge into a space. Nobody cares, because these are such pieces of shit. "But Tony, what about all those Italian sports cars?" While flashy, they are more products of visual design than amazing cars. Ferraris in particular are known for their unreliable transmissions. They make Vespas. I guess those are cool.

War
This is closely related to cars. Why? Because the same kind of technological superiority represented in a BMW as opposed to a Peugeot translates into battlefield superiority. The Spanish Armada was sunk by England. Need I remind you of the tempestuous relationship between France and Germany? It was a rivalry in the sense that the Yankees and Red Sox had a rivalry prior to 2004. When France used the spoils of World War I to build the mighty Maginot line, Germany was like, "You realize that there's another French-speaking country to your undefended North, right?" The greatest French military leader of all time was defeated by snow. Germany is so fantastic at war that we had to essentially ban them from the local ballcourt. And the greatest war speech of all time? English.



Romantic Societies

Wine and Food
They get a combined section because they're intrinsically linked. Wine is an accompaniment for food; beer is a substitute for food. I've never developed a taste for the stuff personally (one of a thousand misconceptions I had about adulthood: that I would "grow to like" wine) but I can acknowledge its role in human civilization. In fact, this might be one of the earliest determinants of whether a society becomes Industrial or Romantic: thousands of years ago when alcohol was the only way to ensure the safety of your beverages, did your society turn to wine or beer? If it's beer, your men will spend the next few centuries taking enormous shits, designing toilets to handle them, and eventually applying that toilet engineering to cars and war. If it's wine, your men will spend the next centuries eating too much and trying to get laid. German food essentially exists to keep you from throwing up your beer; it's just sausage, sauerkraut and heavy grains. Mustard is a food group for German people. English food is so legendarily bad that Nobel-winning economists have written papers on it. Swedes are incapable of creating any food or drink that isn't REALLY WEIRD. Indeed, the best food you can get in either England or Germany is from kebab stands run by Turks or North Africans. Meanwhile, just walk into a sandwich shop somewhere in Barcelona. I defy you to come out of there with something that isn't one of the five greatest things you've ever put in your mouth.

Art and Music
The single most important edge the Romantics have over us stuffy Industrialists. The greatest artists and creative forces in the history of Western civilization were all French, Italian or Spanish. England and Germany have some good prose fiction writers, but the novel is an industrial product. Compare that to poetry, which the Romantics are awesome at but which we can't touch without being embarrassed. "But Mozart was German!" No, he was AUSTRIAN, and both Austria and Switzerland are Romantic societies who happen to speak German. Visit those places sometime; fairy-tale whimsy practically drips from their architecture. Mozart's Austrian operas are amazing; Wagner's German operas are fourteen hours long and inspired the aesthetic of National Socialism. And shall we talk about painting? Italian artists brought about the Renaissance; French artists gave us Impressionism, which is exactly like having your contact lenses get all dry and blurry but without the scratching sensation. Picasso was a Spaniard (and probably un-trustworthy for that reason). And here, by contrast, is the most representative sample of English art I can find:


"It's dreadful, isn't it? God, it's a bore." Those words were actually used by John L'Heureux to describe Joyce's Ulysses, but it's utterly appropriate here. The painting is called "The Northwest Passage" by John Everett Millais, and it's supposed to represent the English national shame at being unable to find and navigate the Northwest Passage--the mythical shipping route across the Arctic ice cap. So, what does Millais give us? A women looking sad as she pores over charts and ship logs. Meanwhile, her grizzled sea captain husband sits inert in his chair and stares out to sea. He's a broken man, confined to his chair for fifteen hours a day by joints corroded by salt and suffering. His arthritis is so bad that he can't un-ball his fists. Erections are a distant memory. He's got nothing to do but sit and rot here in drydock, like his barnacle-encrusted vessel long since broken apart for scrap lumber. Inside, he's already dead, and the sadness in his wife's eyes is less shame for her husband's failure than shame for her own. She wasn't meant to live like this, locked away with a mouldering ghost until at last her Sad Keanu goes to his meager reward of damp earth.


Sex
This is a tricky one; everyone thinks they're good at sex just like they think they're good at driving. The good news is that sex is easier than driving; there's less to pay attention to. It's also lamer because you're allowed to change the music at any point while you drive. Anyway, let's be real: Industrial societies are bad at sex. Our women are intimidating, and our men aren't emotional enough to crack their shells. Industrial societies also tend to be cold and sunless, especially in the winter, so everyone ends up pale and unattractive. As a result, Industrialists are like Pandas: they're just not that into sex. They recognize the practical need for it, but MAN would it be easier if we didn't have to think about this. Interestingly, everything I've just written describes the prevailing sexual attitudes at Stanford University during the time I was there. Girls in general seem to have become skankier since then; maybe it's different. Industrial people are embarrassed by their inner drives in general; the idea of taking our clothes off and flopping around to fulfill a biological need seems...un-dignified.

By contrast, people in Romantic societies spend huge amounts of time and effort on these pursuits. It's why we Americans fear our women going to Italy or France alone; it's not that we fear direct competition with those greaseballs, it's that we know Romantics will happily embarrass themselves for sex. A French dude has no problem begging any attractive woman he sees to sleep with him; after all, if you ask fifty women to sleep with you, at least one of them probably will. And by corollary, if your girlfriend is directly propositioned by fifty greasy long-haired dudes in skinny jeans with unbuttoned shirts, she's going to bang one of them. We can't compete with those guys; they're not even playing the same game.

Thanks for reading.

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