Dieting, death and neo-reaction
January 18, 2018 7:49 AM   Subscribe

Neoreaction A Basilisk is a great look at who the neoreactionaries are, where they came from, and what they believe, and is probably at the moment the fullest account of how internet "rationalism", centered around Eliezer Yudkowsky's LessWrong, sowed a lot of the seeds that led to the birth of neoreaction (though Sandifer explicitly thinks Yudkowsky isn't a neoreactionary himself). Strong recommend.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:11 AM on January 18, 2018 [7 favorites]

It's great to see Michelle Allison on the blue! I read "Eating Toward Immortality" shortly after it came out and thought it captured a lot that needed to be said, that I and probably a lot of others needed to see articulated. Looking forward to reading this thread and the articles.

I've been on the fence about Neoreaction a Basilisk. Maybe I should pick it up.
posted by daisyk at 8:15 AM on January 18, 2018 [4 favorites]

I'm RTFThread, honestly—just popped back after I saw she mentions MetaFilter in an early tweet. Is Michelle Allison a MeFite? :D
posted by daisyk at 8:19 AM on January 18, 2018 [1 favorite]

Wealth is about insurance much more than it is about consumption...insatiable...because insurance is often a zero-sum game...our habits and expectations are constantly under threat because the prerequisites to satisfying them may at any time become rationed by price

(interfluidity, Trade-offs between inequality, productivity, and employment)
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 8:49 AM on January 18, 2018 [8 favorites]

Is Michelle Allison a MeFite? :D

I suspect so, but she may wish to remain pseudonymous here. I don’t know her username.
posted by pharm at 8:51 AM on January 18, 2018 [4 favorites]

Reasonably: that’s a great link. Interfluidity is always worth reading IMO.
posted by pharm at 8:52 AM on January 18, 2018

She is a MeFite and I'll contact her - I know she buttoned a while ago and see if she wants to participate.
posted by Sophie1 at 9:07 AM on January 18, 2018 [4 favorites]

This is something I think of often, when I get frustrated with the Thiels and such of the world: you are still going to be worm-fodder in a couple decades at most, buddy, AND THERE'S NOTHING YOU CAN DO TO STOP IT. Worry about it MORE. Spend MORE of your precious remaining time shrieking vainly against the inevitable. You're still going to end up six feet under.
posted by praemunire at 9:08 AM on January 18, 2018 [6 favorites]

I know an engineer who is really into transhumanism, which the author mentions as being sort of a precursor to this stuff. It always struck me as a cult religion for people who scoff at the very notion of religion - an extremely emotional reaction to the fear of death dressed up as 100% unemotional rationality.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:10 AM on January 18, 2018 [19 favorites]

I read that first title as Eating Toward Immobility, and was like, "Yeah...I've done that."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:21 AM on January 18, 2018 [9 favorites]

The links between orthorexia, magical thinking, the philosophy in this country where every bad thing that happens to you is your fault combined with the real fear that one wrong step can land you in finically ruins seems to be the recipie for the toxic brew that is American Neo-reactionary death panic.
posted by The Whelk at 9:36 AM on January 18, 2018 [43 favorites]

Thanks, pharm and Sophie1, and sorry for getting overexcited there.
posted by daisyk at 9:44 AM on January 18, 2018

Thanks for posting this. I've only read the twitter thread from the block quote so far, but I'm off to read "Eating Toward Immortality" now. I wasn't familiar with Michelle Allison before, and she clearly does interesting analysis.
posted by the primroses were over at 9:50 AM on January 18, 2018

My husband and I talk about this all the time. We both have elderly parents who are completely in denial about their impending deaths and have extreme reactions when their friends die. My mother is on a constant diet of new death defying smoothies despite being 72 years old. He and I, on the other hand have lived through the HIV crisis. We lost most of our friends and both of us feel like we are getting bonus rounds. We have a will, we talk about our deaths normally, as if it is a matter of fact, which it is.

Not that we didn't (and still don't) have friends who believed the perfect diet, the perfect combination or denial of foods would cure them of HIV or keep them alive longer to fight or purify this or that thing.
This is why arguments about diet get so vicious, so quickly. You are not merely disputing facts, you are pitting your wild gamble to avoid death against someone else’s. You are poking at their life raft. But if their diet proves to be the One True Diet, yours must not be. If they are right, you are wrong. This is why diet culture seems so religious. People adhere to a dietary faith in the hope they will be saved.
We still see it among peers, but even more so among our parents generation who have just started to lose friends and family to the ravages of time. Especially after fighting an eating disorder and being in recovery for more than 5 years, I don't have the energy to argue about quinoa with a 75 year old.
posted by Sophie1 at 10:48 AM on January 18, 2018 [20 favorites]

On the other hand, I know people who have retreated to the idea that quitting smoking is also rooted in some kind of spiritual maladjustment.
posted by thelonius at 11:26 AM on January 18, 2018

This is my favorite.

If you give people a ladder to climb to be nearer the gods, they will climb up it, realize the gods are still not near enough, then set the thing on fire until it consumes them like a pyre. This wouldn't be too much of a problem, except usually the ladder is made of other people.

Maybe I got exempted from this fear by losing all my grandparents and my dad by the age of 30. It clearly illustrated to me that my genes on both sides were not optimal for living long, and so while I could and should take care of myself by not smoking and so on, I should also live as much as I could without the assumption I'd get to do stuff later. Cause people in my family generally don't.

It has been helpful in making life decisions--when deciding on career changes, or marriage or a kid, the thought "I might kick off in 30 years and get sick before that, so if I want to ever do this, I should do it now," has been a foot on the accelerator.

The flip side of that is, even though dying by your early 60s is a shorter life than many of us want, it's still long enough that you can't just sit it out.

You can do a lot in 60 years if you want to, even though you would gladly take another 60 if the option were offered and you could enjoy them. And since you don't know which you're going to get, makes sense to use it.

If we make it as a species, our lives will end up being longer, quite possibly, but I'm not going to miss out on whatever gorgeous days and awesomeness I get because immortality isn't on the table for me.
posted by emjaybee at 1:33 PM on January 18, 2018 [13 favorites]

Some maudlin thoughts about my own aging parents got me to thinking how some of their information output might be preserved indefinitely. The web is a transient thing. However if the family photos and history ended up with a DOI, somehow part of the academic sphere, they might have a chance at very long term survival. But perhaps this is foolish, and life should be enjoyed and then forgotten. I feel like I care more about this in the abstract than in any actual interest in my family history, so maybe I also have this unprocessed terror of death.
posted by pfh at 5:10 PM on January 18, 2018 [4 favorites]

I was just directed to this thread by a friend and I'll be thinking about it for a while.

Really feels like it ties into the whole prosperity gospel / the Secret / MLM mindset that has been floating around for a while now. If it's not a diet, it's some pyramid scheme or giving money to a scammer, THAT will give you riches, which will give you immortality.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 7:31 PM on January 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

This was really helpful in marrying the Peter Thiel zero-to-one bullshit with neoreaction and the alt-right generally.
posted by Merus at 8:07 PM on January 18, 2018 [2 favorites]

About twenty-five years ago, it occurred to me that the idea, "If X, I won't die", is one of the most pervasive and unspoken bits of magical thinking that underlies so much insane behavior in Western Culture. Substitute almost anything for X, and it still remains true. I haven't had many conversations lately with enough depth for it to come up. It's interesting to see others realizing that this unspoken paradigm exists.
posted by Altomentis at 8:49 PM on January 18, 2018 [6 favorites]

The Fat Nutritionist, Michelle Allison's blog, has 15 years of insight, wisdom, practical tips, and powerful discussions.

from You Don't Have to Figure Out the Universal Truth of Nutrition
I’ve met many people who appear to be engaged in a one-person mission to discover the universal truth of human nutrition by conducting a series of uncontrolled experiments on themselves. It’s a very human, and very noble, undertaking, but one that always strikes me with its futility. It also carries with it a great deal of stress, and a great burden of effort with very little promise of reward for its champion.

from If only poor people understood nutrition!
It seems like some people are constantly wringing their hands about how poor people eat (to wit: badly.) And the most popularly proposed solution is to teach them (“them”) more about nutrition! Or educate them in general.

Because obviously they just don’t know what they’re doing. And that’s why they eat so badly, and hence, why their health tends to be poorer!

And eureka! — you have a tidy solution that not only absolves financial and economic guilt, but, as a bonus, allows richer, more-edumacated people to assume the role of benevolent experts.

Here comes the part where I bust up that nice, warm bubble bath.

The reality is that people who don’t have enough money (or the utilities and storage) to buy and prepare decent food in decent quantities, cannot (and should not) be arsed to worry about the finer nuances of nutrition.

Because getting enough to eat is always our first priority.

posted by Jesse the K at 7:38 AM on January 19, 2018 [13 favorites]

Very interesting. I think of nationalism - psychological and emotional identification with a national community - as a common way of overcoming fear in general, and fear of one's individual mortality in particular. ("What does it matter if I die, so long as Germany lives?")

Of course it's possible that technological change (spending a lot of time on the Internet) and great personal wealth would weaken your attachment to your home country, making nationalism less psychologically satisfying. One interesting observation in Chrystia Freeland's Plutocrats is that the ultra-wealthy form a kind of closed community regardless of their national origin, and they feel that they have little in common with people in their home country.
posted by russilwvong at 2:18 PM on January 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

The last time I read a thread about the Fat Nutrionist on Metafilter she got ripped to shreds by holier than thou mefites who talked about how THEIR diets worked and how fat people were lying to themselves. To say that I'm elated about how she's treated on the Blue now is an understatement. I was a client of Michelle's about six years ago and she changed my life — I love that she's still fighting the good fight and making waves. She's doing fascinating and important work.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 12:46 PM on January 20, 2018 [9 favorites]

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