Sex, Death, and Storytelling | Andrew Klavan | EP 226

Sex, Death, and Storytelling | Andrew Klavan | EP 226

Tour info 2024 (00:00:00)

  • Jordan Peterson announces his 2024 tour, starting in February and running through June.
  • The tour will visit 51 cities in the US.
  • Peterson will discuss ideas from his forthcoming book, "We Who Wrestle with God," to be released in November 2024.

Coming up (00:00:39)

  • Peterson discusses the current moment of great transition, with the passing of his generation and various world orders.
  • He emphasizes the need to start with the question of who we are trying to serve when building governments, communities, and information avenues.
  • Peterson criticizes the top-down approach of solving problems with grand ideas, contrasting it with the bottom-up approach of leaving people alone.

Intro (00:01:25)

  • Andrew Klavan is introduced as a compatriot at the Daily Wire, an author of over 30 books, and a thriller writer influenced by Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment, and Raymond Chandler.
  • The discussion will delve into the Noir genre, the motif of the flawed masculine hero, the balance between monstrosity and goodness in characters, and the complex decision-making process women face in evaluating men.
  • Klavan's journey to Christian faith and its parallel with his literary exploration will also be discussed.

Writing over 30 books (00:03:14)

  • Klavan has written over 30 books, including fiction, a memoir of his conversion to Christianity titled "The Great Good Thing," and a book about the Romantic right called "The Truth and Beauty."
  • He is currently working on a book about why he writes about murder and his thoughts on its significance in human society.

The mimicry of confidence, how bad men misuse female archetypes (00:09:02)

  • The false confidence of narcissists is a mimicry of competence that can be put on very early.
  • Young women are particularly susceptible to this camouflage, which partly explains the differential success of "bad boys."
  • Women are looking for the "Beast" that can be turned into the "Ally," but they struggle to distinguish between the truly unredeemable "Beast" and the potentially redeemable "Philip Marlowe" hero.
  • Another complication is that women and men don't want to be around weak and unskilled men who pretend to be moral and kind.
  • These men parade their weakness as moral virtue, which is seen as a lower form of manhood than outright bullying.
  • Antisocial bully types are ambivalently popular in elementary school and junior high, but their popularity declines as they continue with their bullying attitude.
  • Feminism has contributed to the rise of "bad guys" in popular culture because when masculinity is outlawed, only outlaws can be masculine.
  • The Golden Age of Television (2000-2015) featured shows about bad guys, such as The Sopranos, The Shield, and The Wire.
  • Andrew Tate, a controversial figure, gained popularity despite his misogynistic views because he represented a complex character with genuine physical toughness.

The thing about Andrew Tate… (00:12:05)

  • Andrew Tate is a complex character because not all of his bravado and posturing is false.
  • He is a mixed martial arts fighter and came up from the street, which contributes to his inner conflict.
  • Electronic pimping is unforgivable and not easily recoverable, even with repentance.
  • Tate's physical toughness and the demonization of positive masculinity have led to a weird attraction to dangerous and dark characters.
  • Examples of this attraction include the TV show Dexter and the book/movie 50 Shades of Gray, which represents the feminine proclivity for a certain kind of structured pornography.

The St. George motif in modern storytelling (00:13:44)

  • The St. George motif is a common theme in storytelling, where a hero fights against a dragon or other evil force to save a damsel in distress.
  • Examples of this motif can be seen in the stories of Prince Phillip in Sleeping Beauty and Harry Potter fighting the Basilisk.
  • This motif represents the hero's journey of facing and overcoming chaos and darkness to bring about rebirth and renewal.

To be taken by a brute (00:15:02)

  • When storytelling conflicts with reality, it can leave victims behind.
  • The romanticization of mafia figures like Tony Soprano and the Godfather in movies can be problematic as it ignores the harm they cause in real life.
  • Women face a difficult challenge in finding a man who can confront the darkness of the world while also being productive and generous.
  • The popularity of books like 50 Shades of Gray during the Me Too movement highlights the tension between the rejection of toxic masculinity and the desire for a dominant partner.
  • Similar themes can be seen in the works of Ayn Rand, where characters like Dagny Taggart engage in semi-consensual relationships with powerful men.

How to write a tough guy (00:17:58)

  • Raymond Chandler's writing style is unparalleled, especially in terms of dialogue.
  • Chandler's tough guys are more responsible and have a moral commitment, unlike Hemingway's tough guys who are often transsexual and don't care about the things the author cares about.
  • Rick Blaine from Casablanca is an example of a tough guy who is bitter and doesn't fight in World War II because his girlfriend dumped him.
  • Chandler's tough guys, like the one in The Maltese Falcon, have an underlying moral commitment despite their flaws.
  • Joe Rogan and Jocko Willink are modern-day examples of tough guys who have themselves under control.

Pain response and social mediation (00:21:55)

  • Pain is often a consequence of disrupted social relations, not just anxiety.
  • Loneliness and grieving are variations of pain.
  • Isolation can be a punishment because it is associated with pain, which can be alleviated with opiates.
  • Social bonding is partly mediated by pain responses.
  • People who are more disagreeable show less activation in their neurological pain systems when watching someone else in pain.
  • This lack of empathy can be necessary in situations like hunting, military service, or police work, where physical combat is a real threat.
  • However, this wiring can also lead to antisocial behavior if not balanced with generosity and productivity.
  • Mentoring others and developing high levels of skills in them can be rewarding and orient people towards good.

The virtue that stands above fear (00:24:31)

  • The virtue that stands above fear is the ability to stand one's ground and not be afraid to be isolated or canceled for speaking the truth.
  • This kind of strength is often exhibited by men more than women.
  • Ben Shapiro is an example of someone who exhibits this kind of strength by standing up for what he believes in, even when it means facing conflict or being bullied.
  • This kind of strength is more sophisticated than mere physical strength and enables people to move forward or stand their ground despite being afraid or empathetic.

The biological necessity of abundant compassion and the mother/father dynamic (00:28:00)

  • Women are more agreeable than men due to specialization for infant care.
  • Infants require constant attention and immediate response to emotional distress.
  • The contradictory demands of infant care require two parents: a woman to provide mercy and a man to provide justice.
  • The moral web is complex and requires careful navigation, which is why men go out into the world to support their families.

The interplay of mercy and justice (00:30:51)

  • Conscience is the voice that signifies the interplay between mercy and justice.
  • Characters like Philip Marlowe, Sam Spade, and James Bond exemplify this interplay by balancing justice with mercy.
  • Tony Stark, from the Marvel Universe, embodies hyper masculinity and narcissism.
  • Unlike in the comic books, Iron Man gained prominence in the movie universe.
  • Tony Stark's ability to control and channel the Hulk effectively was intriguing.
  • The superhero genre often lacks sex and death, which are essential elements of human nature.
  • Klavan criticizes the common trope of women beating men in stories, which is unrealistic and distorts our understanding of human nature.
  • He expresses concern about the trend of storytelling that focuses on an inhuman future, devoid of sex and death.
  • Klavan argues that even without immediate physical consequences, the moral web still exists, and treating oneself disrespectfully can lead to self-destruction.

Fundamental misfire ignoring realities of male and female sexes in media (00:34:40)

  • The portrayal of women in media, particularly superhero movies, occupying traditionally masculine heroic roles is unrealistic and ignores the biological differences between men and women.
  • The introduction of the birth control pill has blurred the distinction between men and women, as it has reduced the immediate consequences of sexual activity.
  • The question of "what is a woman" has become paramount due to the pill's impact on reproductive roles and responsibilities.
  • The 1960s sexual revolution was an experiment in consequence-free sex, but the emergence of AIDS and other factors have challenged this notion.
  • The differences between men and women become more pronounced in their 30s, as evidenced by the fact that half of 30-year-old women do not have children and 90% of them will regret it.
  • Removing the immediate physical consequences of a bad act does not necessarily make it a good act.

Mary Shelley, are we damaged by immoral action? (00:38:46)

  • Mary Shelley's Frankenstein can be interpreted as a violation of a woman's prerogative, rather than God's.
  • Science and fantasy have been trying to solve the problem of women and the consequences of physical pleasure.
  • Prostitution can be seen as an attempt to solve this problem.
  • Attacks on men may be an attempt to clear men out of the way so that women can cease being women and become men.
  • The question arises: are we purely physical beings? If the physical consequences of a bad act can be removed, does it cease to be bad?
  • There seems to be evidence that immoral action damages something within us.

The two fundamental mating strategies (00:40:06)

  • There are two fundamental strategies of reproduction among sexually reproducing creatures: zero parental investment and profound parental investment.
  • Fish and mosquitoes are on the zero investment end, producing large numbers of offspring and leaving them to their own devices.
  • Humans are on the profound investment end, with a long dependency period for offspring due to rapid cortical expansion and extensive socialization.
  • Within the realm of human attitudes towards reproduction, there are those who engage in short-term mating strategies and those who engage in long-term pair-bonded mating strategies.

Early sexual experience ramps psychopathy (00:42:06)

  • Short-term mating strategy preference is associated with personality characteristics such as early onset criminality, familial history of antisocial behavior, psychopathy, narcissism, melanism, and sadism.
  • Practicing short-term mating strategies can also produce these personality characteristics.
  • Early and frequent sexual experience is a predictor of criminal proclivity among teenagers.
  • Men who are oriented towards one-night stands exhibit untameable primordial malevolent beastliness.

Can you “solve” humanity without removing it? (00:43:54)

  • The scientific moment presents a conundrum: can we solve the problems of being human without eliminating humans themselves?
  • The essential question is: who are we trying to serve and what kind of creature are we building governments, communications, and information avenues around?
  • The people at the top propose grand ideas for solving problems, while those at the bottom want to be left alone.
  • The American Founders sought to understand what people do right and wrong, and how to control both the people and those who control them.
  • The scientistic worldview may blind us to certain ineffable aspects of human existence.
  • Treating depression with medication may not be effective as depression spreads despite the availability of medicine.

What makes something “real”? Weighing the soul against the body (00:47:16)

  • The question of what defines a man, woman, or human being is a question of boundaries and limitations.
  • Death makes things real because it is the finitude of existence.
  • Something that threatens you with death is serious and helps define what is real.
  • Transcending our mortal vulnerability might not solve the problem of mortality but could substitute a soulless existence for life.
  • Death gives us meaning because it makes every moment precious and urgent.
  • Without death, life would be meaningless and purposeless.

What level of deprivation drives forward momentum? (00:50:43)

  • The lack of death and sex in superhero movies removes the meaning of being human, leaving nothing behind.
  • Some transhumanists believe AI is more important than humans and view human beings as meat sacks that should be replaced by AI.
  • Consciousness and the internal life of individuals are what make life precious and meaningful.
  • The relationship between urgency and the sacred is close, and infinite time raises the question of why anything should be done now.
  • Pornography's impact on young people's relationships highlights the role of sexual urgency and scarcity in long-term relationships.
  • Excessive financial wealth can lead to a lack of deprivation for children, hindering their personal growth and development.
  • The current moment in history involves solving many problems, but the solutions can also create new problems.
  • The vastness of choices and the lessening of consequences threaten to strip away the human essence for whom those choices are made.
  • Returning to Aristotelian questions of who and what we are is crucial in this hyper-modern era.
  • Leaders should consider the nature of human beings and their responsibility in enabling individuals to find their own happiness.

The folly of futurism, purposeful ignorance of the past (00:54:43)

  • Futurism makes it seem like the wisdom of the past is meaningless.
  • People who are ignorant of the past are more likely to make mistakes in the future.
  • People who are ignorant of the past are more likely to be violent.
  • People who are ignorant of the past are more likely to be immoral.

Noah, what it means to be “wise in your generations” (00:56:09)

  • Noah is presented as a man wise in his time and place, meaning he was morally oriented as expected of him.
  • Noah successfully navigated life's challenges and ensured the survival of his family and the human race during a catastrophic flood.
  • All successful ancestors are like Noah to some degree, having overcome life's challenges and leaving behind surviving progeny.
  • After the flood, Noah plants a vineyard and gets drunk.
  • Ham, one of Noah's sons, mocks him while he is naked and drunk.
  • Ham's descendants become slaves, suggesting that adopting a derisive moral superiority to the past can lead to enslavement.
  • Hollywood's portrayal of Noah's story changed God's motive for destruction from sinfulness to environmental concerns.
  • Evangelicals criticized the movie for showing Noah getting drunk, but the producers defended it as being scriptural.
  • Piety can blind people to the true nature of human beings, both their decency and wickedness.
  • The motivation to appear virtuous to oneself and others is often overlooked as a driving force in human behavior.
  • The knowledge of human brokenness can be intolerable, leading to pious individuals who disregard others and those who believe they can do no wrong.

What it really means to take God’s name in vain (01:00:31)

  • The biblical injunction "do not use the Lord's name in vain" warns against claiming moral virtue for self-serving acts, especially those that are narcissistic.
  • The worst extent of this sin is claiming narcissistic motivations are done in the name of God (totalitarian religious zealots) or compassion (modern left-leaning atheists).
  • False moral virtue elevates social status and self-regard without genuine moral effort, circumventing the need to confront misalignment and sin.
  • Enlightenment systems like capitalism and democracy don't eliminate the root of all evil (love of money) and the corrupting nature of power.
  • Humans are broken and contradictory beings, and solving problems doesn't change this fact.
  • Ayn Rand's philosophy elevates power and wealth to a state of virtue, which the speaker criticizes as destructive to the human soul.

Systemic alteration misses the true problem (01:06:10)

  • The speaker believes that systemic alteration does not address the core of the problem.
  • The speaker is more interested in individual motivation and how people can become perpetrators of evil.
  • The speaker uses the example of an Auschwitz prison guard to illustrate how people can be drawn to sadistic misuse of power.
  • The speaker argues that people who are more compassionate may be less likely to become perpetrators of evil, but they may still be vulnerable to other forms of sin.
  • The speaker suggests that people who have never had the opportunity to exercise power over others may not be aware of their own potential for evil.

Coming to the idea of a moral good through the existence of moral evil (01:08:12)

  • Andrew Klavan's interest in theological ideas and the connection between psychological and theological issues influenced his journey to faith.
  • Klavan found it challenging to express his newfound faith through natural fiction and turned to fantasy writing, but ultimately believed that God is the God of the real world.
  • Reading Crime and Punishment at 19 made him realize the existence of truly evil acts beyond constructs or relativism, leading him to believe in a level of meaning beyond the natural, which he refers to as Transcendent.
  • Klavan criticizes postmodern ideas for disconnecting words from meaning, allowing for the abdication of responsibility, and leading to hedonism, contrasting it with Shakespeare's portrayal of madness in Hamlet.
  • Klavan discusses his personal journey of understanding evil, drawing parallels with Sam Harris's struggles with the same issue.
  • Raised as a secular Jew in coastal cities, Klavan faced skepticism towards religion and belief in God within his social circles.
  • He grappled with postmodernist thought and the limitations of theory in capturing the nature of reality.
  • Klavan emphasizes the connection between moral reality and the existence of an ultimate good, which he argues must be personal and involve choice, consciousness, and morality, suggesting that the concept of relationship plays a significant role in understanding moral reality.

Personality and identity only exist within a relationship with a grounded being (01:14:55)

  • A human being is a personality that exists in a relationship.
  • Our relationship with the world is covenantal, not as dead objects to dead facts.
  • The most profound moment in literature is Moses confronting the burning bush, a symbol of creation and destruction.
  • Moses' encounter with the ground of being transforms him and charges him with the responsibility to oppose tyranny and slavery.
  • Moses, an escaped criminal and shepherd, has a normal life until he encounters the burning bush.
  • The voice of being speaks to Moses, transforming him and leaving him with the aftermath of figuring out how to lead as a flawed person.

When the logic of God became impossible to ignore for Andrew Klavan (01:18:17)

  • Andrew Klavan emphasizes the importance of opposing tyranny and slavery, highlighting the need for moral fortitude.
  • Klavan experienced a personal crisis at age 28, leading to a mental breakdown and suicidal thoughts. He sought help from a renowned psychiatrist and underwent a miraculous transformation, recovering from his mental health struggles and becoming a joyful person.
  • During his recovery, Klavan explored atheism and found that only the Marquis de Sade made sense to him.
  • Klavan highlights the significance of Dostoyevsky's novel "Crime and Punishment," which illustrates the consequences of violating intrinsic moral order and the inevitability of punishment for crimes.
  • Klavan discusses his leap of faith and rejection of Dostoevsky's philosophy, finding the world without God to be one of torment and suffering.
  • Klavan criticizes the modern marriage of hedonism and power, arguing that it leads to tyranny and identity crises.

With every talent comes a corresponding impediment (01:26:00)

  • There is a genetic proclivity for antisocial and psychopathic behavior.
  • The constraints around our relationship with the good vary from person to person.
  • Everyone is given talents and impediments.
  • The parable of the rich man illustrates that having wealth can be an impediment to salvation.
  • The parable of the unjust Steward shows that those pursuing money can be wiser and more moral than those claiming dogmatic moral virtue.

“I met my wife hitchhiking,” love and the spiritual reality (01:28:22)

  • Klavan met his wife while hitchhiking.
  • He describes the experience of meeting her as finding the missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle.
  • This experience made him realize that he was capable of perceiving a spiritual reality.
  • Klavan criticizes postmodernists for talking about the meaninglessness of language while disproving their own point by using language to communicate.
  • He believes that we can know some things, such as the fact that going north leads to Canada and going south leads to Mexico.
  • Klavan had a default agnostic or atheistic mindset, but his experiences led him to trust himself and his ability to perceive spiritual reality.

God, the need for a father figure, and decoding Freud (01:31:56)

  • The speaker reflects on his journey to embracing God after a mental breakdown.
  • He questions whether his embrace of God was genuine or driven by a desire to escape pain.
  • The speaker discusses his upbringing in a Freudian world and his eventual rejection of Freud's specific ideas.
  • He acknowledges the value of the therapeutic relationship and the importance of love in his recovery.
  • The speaker emphasizes the power of stories in helping us understand and process complex emotions.
  • He shares an anecdote about reading Patrick O'Brien's novels and finding inspiration in a character's prayer.
  • As an experiment, the speaker decides to thank God for his journey out of darkness.
  • The next morning, he wakes up with a renewed sense of joy and clarity, which he attributes to his newfound gratitude.

Malevolence is worse than death (01:35:09)

  • Freud's theory that religion is a shield against death anxiety is flawed because medieval people decorated hell with moral obligations and the reality of eternal punishment, and Christianity requires believers to confront malevolence and suffering.
  • The argument that God is a projection of the father is flawed because all our desires have an answer in the world, including the desire for God, and the moral sense is a result of evolution in relationship to an existing moral order.
  • Religion can be a joyful journey towards self-discovery and fulfillment, and the only evidence for love, including the love of God, is experience over time.
  • Andrew Klavan invites viewers to join him on Daily Wire Plus for an extended discussion on the overlap between evolutionary and religious views, where he plans to delve deeper into the concepts of gratitude and joy and their interconnectedness.

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