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Essay:Abrechnung mit Reaktion
A series of musings on the neoreactionary movement.
- 1 Deutsches Requiem
- 2 Adaptation
- 3 One problem of democracy
- 4 A bigger problem than democracy
- 5 The marketplace as cancer
- 6 A sickroom for democracy
- 7 A sickroom for the soul
- 8 Building the Cathedral
- 9 Our Cathedral
- 10 Anissimov's six themes
- 11 Abrechnung mit Reaktion
- 12 Notes
It's another Borges allusion I'd rather not explain.
It isn't that I'm not intrigued. I believe, very strongly, that we need to face squarely all of the political, ethical, and social consequences of the fact that human beings are unremarkably descended from primates. One of several possible primate lifestyles is our natural one: we are therefore gregarious, semi-social creatures with support networks and a pecking order, and a sexual division of labor. These social and political aspects of human life have not changed significantly from the Pleistocene to the present. Culture is not some kind of magic curtain that removes us from all this. It, too, exists in the service of our selfish genes' agendas.
Our genes' agenda causes a number of problems. If we hope to rise above what nature made us, we need to understand what's there, and what we are constantly and unwittingly being made to do. Only through understanding what our subconscious drives and desires programmed by our genes are urging us to do, can we hope to recognize and possibly countermand them. Understanding them means understanding your neighbors better as well.
They might have a small point in that evolution assumes that human beings, no more than any other individual animal, are not fungible: they each carry different genes that express as varying traits. The latest euphemism, "human biodiversity", is particularly galling gibberish. Biodiversity has an established meaning that you don't get to usurp. Last time I looked, humans were not facing any obvious genetic bottlenecks. There aren't really many that count as relict cultivars of tomatoes or goats. Efforts to preserve diversity in human genomes seem.... unnecessary. When they go extinct, it won't be for lack of genetic diversity, especially since they're not all that diverse; just that intelligent life is a self-limiting phenomenon.
Adaptation to environments, including social environments, through natural and sexual selection is the linchpin of evolution. Remembering this means knowing why scientific racism is ridiculous. To argue that races or ethnic groups differ innately in intelligence, however defined, is exactly equal to an assertion that intelligence has proven less adaptive for some people than for others. This at minimum requires an explanation, a specifically evolutionary explanation, beyond mere statistical assertion; without that it can be assumed to be bias or noise. The "human biodiversity" arguments about parasite load and the like are simply not convincing; you'd expect them to respond to pesticides and medications. Everywhere, the urban/rural split overwhelms supposed racial differences. Since most human intelligence is in fact social intelligence -- the main thing the human mind is built for is networking in human societies -- a moment's reflection should demonstrate why this is an unlikely scenario.
I mean it seriously: lose the racism. Your cultural criticism is sometimes interesting, but the obsession on inherited differences in ethnic groups is seriously not helping. What you actually seem to want, instead, is ethnically and linguistically homogeneous communities. I can see that a case for the efficiency of such communities can be made; that case does not require the hypothesis of racial superiority. And supposing it's true, what do we do? This is why humans reproduce sexually. Even if there are ethnic groups whose bell curve is redshifted, they must have had something else going for them; how else are they here? Miscegenation is the answer. You've heard of hybrid vigor? Evolution is still in operation. Cream still rises.
Intelligence is a desirable quality. People with Internet access may favor it more than most, or imagine it's the one thing that counts. Indeed, the assumption that intelligence trumps other kinds of vitality makes you part of the problem in U.S. politics. It is almost certainly, to some extent, a heritable quality. It is, if you want to define Homo habilis as a different species. It is a desirable trait. So is resistance to various bacterial or viral infections. Here, too, your genes can deal you a good or bad hand. My point is that I don't expect the human race to be culled for stupidity any time soon. The remaining argument is left as an exercise for the student.
- "Bob" is right. What we need is slack.
One problem of democracy
Democracy, also, has issues. Many of these arise out of its inherently competitive nature. Democracy always seems to entail a series of contests in which losers and winners emerge. Republican governments tend to build hierarchies with tiers of power; it's good to be a congressman, better to be a senator, best to be the president. And you want women to play this?
Yes: when we honestly face who and what we are, we understand that these kinds of structures are inherently
gendered sexed. Effective political equality for female human beings is unlikely in a system built around status hierarchies and ritual public contests for social prestige. These are the sorts of things that boys like and girls don't. (Believing that men and women should have equal rights under the law does not mean that we are forbidden to notice, either.) And it would be the same if we were all still baboons. The great paleo-liberal dream of "meritocracy", where rank and status are the result of a game played fair, is inherently sexist. Political equality for women is going to mean trying something else.
It would help, first, if we pause to remember that ambition is a sin.
- I hold this truth to be self-evident: it is your absolute, inalienable right as a human being to have electrodes planted in your skull that will stimulate your centers for pleasure and well-being without you having to do anything to operate them.
A bigger problem than democracy
Our society faces a larger problem than sexism, and larger even than democracy. The question is, how do we curb the power of money? How do we prevent market prices from being the only measure of value? How do we prevent economic activity from becoming the dominant aspect of most human lives?
This is one of the reasons why I find the idea of hereditary aristocracy attractive, and think that having such a thing as an ingredient of a political system is not obviously beneath consideration. It isn't about restoring some kind of natural order in which lords rule over serfs. It's about placing obstacles in the way of ambition and social climbing. It's about achieving a steady state society.
The aristocratic belief of landed gentry and hidalgos that mere servile trade was something beneath them is an anti-commercial value system that has been shown to be relatively sustainable over time. It will, of course, be accompanied by a generous dose of hypocrisy, just like any other human value system.
Even powerful people are unfree to the extent that markets run their lives. The chief executive officer of General Motors is an ironmonger. She must cultivate the public's favor to get them to buy her wares. To that extent, she is not her own person. To the extent that she buys and sells things -- that she participates in a marketplace -- she is unfree. Look at the scandals that have overtaken Uber and similar startups. Travis Kalanick was apparently not mighty enough to tell the world to go blow its nose. Consider the words of a true aristocrat among men, St. Ignatius: "Employers sense in me a denial of their values … they fear me. I suspect that they can see that I am forced to function in a century which I loathe.”
I want this aristocracy to exist without either imagining that I would be a part of it, or would want to. This is the usual ad hominem directed at anyone who suggests the desirability of an aristocratic polity. William F. Buckley famously remarked that "I should sooner live in a society governed by the first two thousand names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the two thousand faculty members of Harvard University." I disagree: I want to be governed by extraordinary rather than ordinary people, though I admit that I am not one of them. There are certain values and outlooks that improve a ruling class even if they'll never be common in the general population.
We may not want to enlist the Harvard faculty, but we can enlist people who are much likelier to have fancy liberal educations: people who didn't go to college to learn to program computers or sell insurance, but people who went to college for the real reasons colleges exist. It would help if our aristocrats got around, learned foreign languages, and saw the world. It would also help if they had ties to similarly constituted aristocrats in other countries. They should cultivate a certain aimlessness; they should take advantage of their privileges to improvise their lives. Finally, it would help if they knew how to temper self-indulgence and sensuality with good taste. Our rulers ought to be jaded enough to mock moral panics, or (since that demands too much of human weakness) at least the ones that don't involve them directly. Money is like whisky; generally speaking, the older the better. This is one reason I favor a place for aristocracy without fancying myself one.
I'm not looking for Nietzschean supermen. Strict aristocracies don't produce them, anyways; what they do produce is Charles II of Spain. I want the schlecht rather than the böse, the "bad" rather than the "evil". The böse are what we have now, the ambitious little devils polishing their résumés, keeping their noses clean, seeking their tickets to higher elected rank, backstabbing their colleagues in the process. These people are devils in human form, born to sow seeds of mischief. Left unchecked, they will quicken the pace and increase efficiency, to the direct harm of their slower neighbors with other priorities, and thus violating the Golden Rule. Would it really be so bad if the people who governed us spent most of their time catting around, dueling each other, and smoking opium? It would be as entertaining to watch them as it would be hellish to be one. Not terribly different from being a Disney starlet, as it seems to work out.
At minimum, it would put a damper on people going into politics to bother their neighbors; people who go into politics to bother their neighbors often succeed. I think they'd do less damage that way. Room for the effete, for the people who'd never make it on their own, is what I'm aiming for.
- The neoreactionaries believe that democracy is inconsistent with freedom. I say that libertarianism is also inconsistent with freedom. That's why I'm not a libertarian; just a libertine.
The marketplace as cancer
Humans come with a number of pre-equipped features that are useful for building human societies. We come with a program that defines social hierarchies: there is a ranking of people from high to low, and people in such societies are required to acknowledge these ranks. We come factory standard with a program for camaraderie, for fellowship among equals. We come pre-loaded with software for mutual sharing and generosity, that's also capable of detecting cheating. We have a dangerous subroutine that involves purity and disgust; it exists to save us from eating disgusting matter like rotten meat, feces, or baked cauliflower with Velveeta. But when this instinctual subroutine is turned on your neighbors, very bad things happen.
What we don't have in our inherent programming is a module designed to navigate marketplaces governed by the laws of money. This mostly ubiquitous feature of human society was certainly absent in any conceivable environment through which humans have evolved up until the most recent generations.
It's therefore no wonder that it's the chief engine of human unhappiness.
The marketplace actually is what Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett say religion is: a memetic disease. The closest analogue would appear to be cancer; the metaphor holds at least this far, that the marketplace invades, colonizes, and occupies cultural space that were formerly separate and operated under different sorts of structures for purposes other than the making of money.
The marketplace is also the latest form of the Enlightenment's dream of universal values and universal civilization. As John Gray has written, "a single global market is the Enlightenment’s project of a universal civilization in what is likely to be its final form." And this "universal civilization" steamrolls other folkways and their supporting values flat.
There are islands off the coast of Scotland, in the Outer Hebrides, and I understand that those islands are one of the last places in Europe that observe a Sabbath day of rest. This was once a thing. It was considered worthy of public debate whether it ought to be lawful to play games like football on Sunday. Something of the kind was generally observed in most of Europe and the United States before the Second World War. Then, the cancer invaded. A primitive form of identity politics and appeals to fairness were made: we were told that keeping Sunday as a Sabbath discriminated against Jews, Adventists, Muslims, and others who observed a different Sabbath than Sunday. And what was the result? Now nobody gets a Sabbath. The employee who asks for one day of seven as personal time to worship his God will be shown the door. The marketplace metastasized, got a toehold in the Sabbath, and squeezed it out until it was nothing but more marketplace.
The fundamental problem we face is simple. How do we kill this thing?
- I'd even be willing to entertain the idea that differing ancestral lifestyles continue to be visible in differing distributions of heritable personality traits. This is part of the American problem, and the "angry white male" phenomenon. They kept the farmers. We got the religious fanatics, petty criminals and paupers, and cattle thieves; especially too many of the latter. The prouder an American is of his 'Anglo-Saxon blood', the likelier he is to be a Celt. As you wander America, you can't help but notice something breathtakingly simple and obvious. The good places to live are where the non-British immigrants settled. The bad places to live are the places they passed over.
I live too close to Kentucky to be a white supremacist.
A sickroom for democracy
There are few greater decadent pleasures than the reading of jeremiads against decadence. This is the secret golden thread that links Joseph de Maistre with Max Nordau, and Mario Praz to Bram Dijkstra.
And de Maistre's definition of sovereignty is worth reflecting on.
- De quelque manière qu'on définisse et qu'on place la souveraineté, toujours elle est une, inviolable et absolue ... Le souverain ne peut donc être jugé : s'il pouvait l'être, la puissance qui aurait ce droit serait souveraine, et il y aurait deux souverains, ce qui implique contradiction.
- No matter how you define and situate sovereignty, it is always single, inviolable and absolute: the sovereign cannot be judged. If he can be judged, the power that has the right to judge him would be sovereign; then you would have two sovereigns, which entails contradiction.
Now, de Maistre certainly had no time for the democratic idea of popular sovereignty, under which elected leaders are temporary and replaceable by rituals that are supposed to invoke the public will. Whatever its problems as a system of government, the democratic idea does not in fact contradict the unity and absoluteness of sovereignty; in theory, a sovereign people can be as sovereign as a sovereign king.
Still, it isn't hard to notice that most democratic governments don't act as if they are sovereign; they aren't. There are plenty of authoritarian governments that also lack sovereignty. It has been stolen from them, almost imperceptibly.
Again, the villain is the metastatic marketplace. Governments that "strive to be competitive in a global economy" are no longer sovereign, and their peoples are no longer free. If you think so, ask a Greek. They have a judge that stands over their head. They must curry favor with the power of money, and temper their policies to things that do not spook the money. The marketplace is the ultimate conspiracy theory, a great engine of unnatural misery, and the wondrous thing is that the conspiracy is enacted by clumsy but busy invisible hands without any of the conspirators themselves in charge of the operation or even having a bird's eye view of what is going on.
The marketplace is in fact the hidden master of your nominally sovereign government, and a key cause of its inadequacy and shortcomings. And unlike the Trilateral Commission, the Papacy, or even the Elders of Zion, there's no control center, no masterminds to send James Bond to neutralize. The marketplace is like a mass of undifferentiated cells whose only purpose is to reproduce without a purpose, and whose effect is to crowd out the structure that was there before.
- The archeological fallacy. We know that the Mayan people kept much of their high culture, including the script, the calendar, and the astrological records, up until the Spanish conquered them and trashed the place. They had given up on the heroic stone masonry, though, and generally were not ruled by leaders who could command their renewal. This is treated as a decline and fall from the "Classic Maya". You have to wonder whether the average Maya was simply glad to be free of the burden of building pyramids.
A sickroom for the soul
Demographic anxiety has been one of the mainsprings of racism since forever: the fear that people like us are being outbred by people who aren't. Idiocracy: the fear that the smart and prudent are being outbred by mental inferiors who have no thought for the morrow. There is a sort of Lamarckianism inherent in at least this latter fear; the idea that inherited traits are percolated through a populace rather than being quantized in individuals and their genomes. Quiverfull: naive population eugenics that fails to account for the fact that parents really teach their children very little.
Still, a basic appeal to intuition is being made here. I will go out on a limb and say that people who live in Western advanced economies find these demographic anxieties easily understandable. The reason seems simple and obvious: for literate, Internet-reading members of the more comfortable tiers of these societies, the breeding of children brings no advantage whatever. It's not a stretch to move from this observation to the conclusion that intelligence has become maladaptive, something negatively related to reproductive success. Historically, humans have not been reluctant to breed. It is reasonable to ask why. What has changed?
I've wondered for a long time how many patterns of current human behavior are reactions to chronic environmental stress or simple sensory overload. In other words, the sort of thing that might be experienced by an organism whose daily routine was forced into a rigid time discipline; one that ignores season, sunrise, and sunset, and is indifferent to the phases of the moon. Don't be embarrassed; lots of species don't thrive in captivity. If you are unfree, and come rain or shine there is some place you have to be when the big hand is on the twelve and the little hand is on the eight... well, it does take some of the spontaneity out of life. No wonder you need Viagra.
Still, the fact that urban capitalism is likely a behavioral sink strikes me as a point in its favor. Artifice will always be more interesting than nature. Nature is the enemy.
Idiocracy, again, gives us the straightforward version. There's always some reason why the bright couple postpones having children until they are no longer able; it's always something, the stock market or whatever, they can't right now. The stupid... neighborhood pop 'em out like dandelion seeds. It's the old story of kids these days. The world is going to hell.
You wonder what monasticism does to a gene pool. You want to read and write? Come join the cult. Oh, and we're celibate. But the books! The library waits..... A thousand years of this rubbish seems to have done Europeans no harm.
There's always been some of this going around. It remains the case that children in contemporary developed societies are an economic luxury. Something has taken root here and started to interfere with natural human behavior. People consider breeding a burden and a responsibility that they can choose to avoid; and they remain intelligent enough to avoid responsibility. The poison spreads.
In other words, if this worries you, you need to know exactly what you are really worried about. Your enemy is not some kind of general genetic decline. Your enemy is that weariness of spirit and weakness of will that comes from living in an unnatural cage.
- Uncle Al: Do what thou wilt is the whole of the Law. The problem is, we don't get to choose what we will.
Building the Cathedral
I actually find this idea of a 'distributed conspiracy' interesting, and one I'm prepared to accept. The financial system of late capitalism seems one; no one appears to have planned or (until its later stages) intended it. It arose at the confluence of many streams of profit-seeking and rent-seeking behaviors. There's no person or group with their hands at the throttle. It exerts a powerful influence on all levels of human society, and causes a whole lot of counterintuitive behavior. If there were a 'distributed conspiracy', this is what it might look like.
A cathedral is a work of art whose chief purpose is to glorify God. The marketplace is none of these things. A cathedral is always under construction. Many cathedrals have diverse parts built in different styles and to different tastes. Some are much more interesting than others. Still, the use of "the Cathedral" as a snarl world is somewhat disconcerting. For the genuine reactionary, throne and altar go hand in hand.
Now, if you believe in such things as national or ethnic characters, as a citizen of the United States I am bound to find this particular kind of reaction abhorrent to me. We fought a revolution to rid ourselves of a milder and freer version of monarchy than that, even.
I am enough of an old line nativist to see much good sense in being very wary of the Roman Catholic Church on these shores. It is a foreign dictatorship, and its doctrines a foreign ideology. Read Justice Robert Jackson's concurring opinion in Dennis v. United States, 341 U.S. 494, 562 (1951). The Roman church tries to do most of the things the Nuremberg prosecutor there accuses the Communist Party of doing: their leaders, at least, would like them to be a monolithic force whose positions are entirely in the service of a foreign head of state. They seek to enforce conformity with the will of that foreign prince on U.S. laws, and to take away American freedom to do what he forbids. They historically have always tried to arrogate control of the law of marriage and divorce, reproductive rights and regulation, and control of education to themselves; they continue to do so. They've been trying for more than a century to finagle tax dollars for their separatist school system, and increasingly they are succeeding. Pat Buchanan is disqualified to serve as a voice of American nativism so long as he pays that prince his allegiance. World War II is not yet over while the Papacy still exists.
Fortunately, they aren't very good at selling any of this to the rank and file. It's kind of like fascism in Ireland. They tried. They did their best. But it wasn't going to work. Dúchas is stronger than hatred of the British, and the world is a better place for it. This, at any rate, was the brief held by our forefathers, whether British or American, against popery. One would think that twentieth century progressives would find this line of reasoning persuasive. To that extent, they are in agreement with the KKK and Ian Paisley.
Still, we must respect at least the human contributions to the collected institutional wisdom of the Church of Rome; even if by its pretensions to an earthly throne, its miracle working bones, statues, and waters, and its direction of prayer towards the spirits of the dead, we know that wisdom to be the work of our ancient and ghostly enemy. It has a body of statecraft that deserves our respect. De Maistre typically misapprehends the real enemy when he predicted that Protestantism would crumble or reconcile itself with Rome, because he saw a coming conflict of Religion with "Science", and "no religion can withstand the test of Science, except one." De Maistre wrote this in 1817, before any of the conflicts about evolution and before most of the conflicts about geology. What de Maistre actually meant by "science" was modernity, with its reasoned plans to reorder human life in the direction of planned efficiency; the a priori plans of the philosophes who lit the fires of revolution in France, that ultimately erected the regime that for a while operated the guillotines in the name of liberté, égalité, fraternité. His reaction is from something that deserved to be reacted against, and his cold anger needs to be understood in that context.
In short, though De Maistre's partisan view of the future was not quite right, he was on to something. The drive towards planning and efficiency and equality before the throne of gold was a powerful force that needed to be resisted by something equally mighty. The real enemy is the marketplace, and the marketplace is spiritually set in motion by the enemy of God.
- "I feel this Tartar woman is for me, and my blood says, take her. There are moments for wisdom and moments when I listen to my blood; my blood says, take this Tartar woman." - John Wayne, playing Temujin (a.k.a. Genghis Khan) in The Conqueror, (1956)
- That film was tragic on many levels, most notably the radioactive sand that it was filmed on. But its tragedies do not include the fact that Genghis Khan was played by a Caucasian. And anyone who would have denied us the delicious pleasure of seeing John Wayne deliver those lines and many more from that curious script is a philistine ass and a moron.
The neoreactionary concept of the Cathedral eludes many outsiders, including probably myself. I understand Mencius Moldbug is the originator. It seems to mean something between the cultural Marxism of movement conservatism, which ceased to be Marxist some time ago, perhaps mixed with some version of the old journalistic idea of Respectable Consensus in which the New York Times represented the voice of reasonable Liberalism and the Chicago Tribune likewise represented Conservatism. That consensus seems now as distant as the reign of King Arthur. Michael Anissimov gives us this definition:
- The Cathedral — The self-organizing consensus of Progressives and Progressive ideology represented by the universities, the media, and the civil service. A term coined by blogger Mencius Moldbug. The Cathedral has no central administrator, but represents a consensus acting as a coherent group that condemns other ideologies as evil. Community writers have enumerated the platform of Progressivism as women’s suffrage, prohibition, abolition, federal income tax, democratic election of senators, labor laws, desegregation, popularization of drugs, destruction of traditional sexual norms, ethnic studies courses in colleges, decolonization, and gay marriage. A defining feature of Progressivism is that “you believe that morality has been essentially solved, and all that’s left is to work out the details.”
Both "prohibition" and "popularization of drugs"? Moldbug is broader and vaguer:
- And the left is the party of the educational organs, at whose head is the press and universities. This is our 20th-century version of the established church. Here at UR, we sometimes call it the Cathedral - although it is essential to note that, unlike an ordinary organization, it has no central administrator. No, this will not make it easier to deal with.
Moldbug is right about this much. The Cathedral of the neoreactionaries is in fact a work of art whose chief purpose is to glorify God. An ugly one, perhaps; there are plenty of ugly cathedrals. But in the great social constructions of cultural Marxism, you'd run into the logic of underpants gnomes. There was always an missing middle step. On the one hand, you had all the folderol about how power relations are encoded in language, sometimes plausibly, sometimes too shoehorned to be credible. On the other hand, you had the automatic sympathy for most of history's losers, the counting coup of "intersectionality", where you score brownie points for being members of officially endorsed oppressed classes, the more the better. This informed most of the policy positions taken by believers.
The missing middle step was the ethical ideas that tied the theory to the application. You had the idea that language is a tool of power structures, and that you could strike a blow against those structures by reclaiming language. On the other hand, you had the urge to feel very sorry for some people because of the way their forbears were treated a century ago. Nothing that I understand links these two aspects. There is no reason why we should not turn the rhetoric of deconstruction against the self-interested whinings of the oppressed. If the great struggles of life are between majorities and minorities based on "race", sexuality, or ancestry, and actual power flows from "hegemonic discourse", the path to victory lies in solidarity with my own kind. This is, of course, not where they want to take it.New Testament, of course. The Bible. Isaiah: Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low. Jesus of Nazareth: So the last shall be first, and the first last. Jesus, again: Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. The Virgin Mary: He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. The mighty and privileged must be cast down, and the humble exalted: this much, they still believe. Only a society pickled in Christian values could be trusted with "critical theory." Only they could be trusted not to misuse it.
Their hearts, in other words, are in the right place. At its shiniest, this wing of the Cathedral is an attempt to secure equality by reminding us that even the neighbors we don't like very much also bear God's image. It's splendidly wrong, of course; power flows from control of resources, not control of discourse. What it's given us instead is new etiquettes, born of the comical or pathetic belief that minds can be controlled by controlling speech. And since grace is an unnatural irruption into human societies and alien to normal human minds, the new etiquette is wielded gracelessly and gives rise to petty tyrannies of its own.
Now, etiquette is one of the things aristocrats are for. Believers fancy themselves an aristocracy of sensibility and sensitivity; this is another sign we're dealing with a work of art. In this belief system, propositions do not rise or fall on their truth, but on their beauty. And etiquette is generated by aristocrats and studied by those who wish to emulate or pass as aristocrats. This is how identity politics manages to make everything worse. The only place in the United States where "diversity" exists is in the world of advertising and corporate publicity. Note how the stock photos are carefully balanced and present a mix of standardized racial and ethnic identities, all of which are invited to share in the illusion of success, a picture in which the several official multicultures blend into a white-bread, business casual world. These images have been conformed to an ideal in an attempt to please. Notice how easily, and with what little resistance, the "diversity" mummery was adopted by corporate America. If discourse is that big a deal, they can change the stock photos without having to change anything else.
Ambitious or simply hostile people find that this etiquette adds more arrows to their quiver as they seek to kill or injure those in their way. This is its great gift to human betterment. Sensitivity and sensibility are wielded as weapons. Its true seat of power, the place where it is established as civil religion, is in academia. Everybody who learns to speak this language is "privileged", one reason why that label is vacuous cant. Its concerns about the power of language and social representation are the concerns of well fed people in comfortable chairs. Those condemned by this etiquette form a genuine underclass, with the standard model stereotypes applied. They are boorish, vulgar, stupid, and comfortably lazy in mind. Can you hear the "N-word"?
No, the etiquette of identity politics ends up a sort of petty tyranny the same way other kinds of etiquette also tend to do. It is censorious and unpleasant. It is a betrayal of the liberating ideals of the counterculture. It is currently the ugliest wing of the Cathedral, and it took serious effort to wrest that laurel from the Central Planning wing.
But it is not your actual enemy. Your enemy is the ambition that leads the privileged to adopt it and use it to exclude others, and the system that rewards that ambition. Your enemy is still the marketplace.
Anissimov's six themes
Michael Anissimov proposes the following six tenets as the core beliefs of neoreaction:
- People are not equal. They never will be. We reject equality in all its forms.
- Right is right and left is wrong. (I.e. order is better than chaos)
- Hierarchy is basically a good idea.
- Traditional sex roles are basically a good idea.
- Libertarianism is retarded.
- Democracy is irredeemably flawed and we need to do away with it.
- --Michael Anissimov, Principles of Reactionary Thought, More Right, Dec. 13, 2013.
I say instead:
1. People are not equal. They never will be. True enough. To be human is to be caught in a web of relationships. Inequality is a feature of all of them. We reject equality in all its forms. Does not follow, but it does make things easier. I hold no special brief for equality. If it's your social ideal, you are certain to fall short every time. There are plenty of other worthwhile goals that you are guaranteed to fail at. This is not an excuse to abandon them; it is a reason to reject the world that conspires to defeat you. Allowing yourself to see that everyone is not the same does not justify treating anyone gracelessly.
2. Personal freedoms are more important than political freedoms. The right to eat, drink, and smoke what you please, have sex with whomever you please, marry whomever you please, and otherwise to live life on your own terms is a hell of a lot more important than the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. The value and purpose of free speech is in self-expression rather than political discourse. Political discourse is mostly useless; nobody listens unless they already agree. Most "political speech" is as obviously selfish and deceptive as advertising. In government, order may trump chaos; in personal life not so much.
3. The value of order is stasis. Above all, people need security and confidence that their way of life can continue, so they can make their little plans and reasonably hope to see them fulfilled. Technology and capitalism both directly threaten this kind of order. Left unchecked, they make it impossible. The ability to live a decent human life requires protection from "agility" and "disruption".
4. Hierarchy and traditional sex roles are inevitable and inescapable evils. These are things bred in the bone, immune to persuasion and argument. Legislation against them only holds sway under the direct observation of the surveillance camera. What moral arguments against them actually prove is that life itself is unfair and therefore evil. Whatever the merits of those moral arguments, this conclusion is also inevitable.
5. Libertarianism is retarded. No argument here. Humans have blueprints for human societies hard-coded into their brains. The societies they build may not satisfy every philosopher's theory of justice, but they will at least work; their outlines are older than Homo itself. These blueprints feature various sorts of mutualism designed to preserve families and societies as social units. They have nothing at all about 'free markets'.
6. Western civilization is irredeemably flawed and bound to collapse. Seems obvious from America, anyways. The United States seems a doomed polity from here. Huge swaths of its yeomen profess great love for America as a country and people, while holding the actual institutions that define the United States as a nation in utter disdain. Something similar happened towards the end of the Western Roman Empire, where people seem to have simply abandoned the idea that there was any value in Roman citizenship or the Roman state and its institutions. Eventually, the Vandal and Goth armies stopped observing the forms of imperial rule and, at least in the West, nobody minded. Much of the United States is three quarters of the way there already.
The three greatest mistakes the human race ever made:
- The Neolithic Revolution;
- Toleration of the automobile;
- Commercial activity on the Internet.
Abrechnung mit Reaktion
I was interested, as I mentioned, at first. I take the fact of human evolution very seriously. I am inclined to admire people who stick up for unfashionable ideas. I have many of my own, and am a reactionary myself in many ways; one of the points I've tried to make here is to remind people of arch-conservative ideas that don't mix well with neoreaction. None of the historical reactionaries or arch-conservatives would have any truck with Ayn Rand style pseudolibertarianism. They would have seen pseudolibertarianism as another canned ideology, a doctrine out of a book, the same sort of thing that unleashed the French Revolution, only even less humane or idealistic. They would have recognized the Marketplace as a disruptive force that needed to be kept in check. What they wanted was what I want: a steady state society, a world where children can inherit their parents' jobs. The rulers they liked had broad powers to invade 'property' and 'contracts' and 'liberty'. They used them freely at will, to prop up the static order.
To believe in order and stability is to believe in stasis. I'm fine with stasis. We don't want to make the same mistakes again. Tolerating the automobile was a mistake. Commercial activity on the Internet was a mistake.
There's something about the pose that I like, I guess, and the style seems to come naturally to me as well. This essay, with its oblique, you fill in the blanks arguments is an attempt to mimic the general style. It's often like reading De Quincey, and I think I know why.
Seriously, the racism. Are we trolling the world, or doing politics? Grownup politics is about persuading people to agree with you. It's always going to be a hard sell. It undermines the other points of your message to a place where you start to wonder whether the racism is the actual point of the enterprise, and the rest just sleight of hand. It can't be that important.
Or perhaps trolling the hard left is part of the point? Lord knows, they've made themselves easy targets. Who can say? the art of assuming a pose for the sake of rhetorical effect is one I am wholly innocent of, so I wouldn't recognize this if it were happening.
Second: how do you plan to build it, unless you first kill the Marketplace? How do you prevent it from taking over your hothouse cultures and reducing them to the same as everywhere else, the way it has tended to do? How do you imagine your kings will sit peaceful on their thrones, unless you act to curb the sin of ambition? How do you plan to resist the power of money? Without a plan for that, it doesn't matter if you make a king; your king cannot be sovereign unless he is master of the Marketplace as well. It doesn't matter if you carve out an ethnically and linguistically homogeneous state, if your ethnics will still be eating at McDonalds. The Cathedral itself exists only as long as the Marketplace finds it useful: it provides a distraction for moral earnestness, and moves it in the direction of quarreling over the contents of video games and away from asking uncomfortable questions about money. It allows them to be "progressive" and "green" and "organic" at little personal cost. You either have to kill it or offer it something better. I don't see that happening yet.
- The capitalist marketplace, not "demotism", is the great destructive force that levelled the old aristocracies, erased peoples and languages and borders, and toppled both king and God from their thrones. Some places (e.g. France) there were "demotist" political movements; elsewhere, they were muted or restrained (Prussia, Austria); everywhere, the results are the same. The marketplace, being the master of governments, adapts all of them to its needs without regard to their founding ideologies or histories.
- The same capitalist marketplace is the monolithic obstacle that stands in the way of every neoreactionary dream, without regard to which facet of the movement they come from. I find some of those dreams intriguing, others repulsive, but all for better or for worse impossible. None that I have seen have clear plans to contain the power of money; most seem not to recognize the problem. Without sovereignty of the sort that can curb the marketplace, all kings will be crowned serfs, no mightier than the surviving monarchs of Europe.
- I am no liberal, no leftist, no progressive. But I know a common enemy when I see one.
- Martin Gardner, in Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science, ch. 13, tells the story of a political kerfluffle in which various senators from the Southern United States objected to a WWII era pamphlet on race and intelligence that sought to refute Nazi propaganda. It turns out the real reason for their objection was that the pamphlet showed that urban Blacks in the USA were more intelligent than rural Whites. Since the 1940s, mass media have reduced but not eliminated the urban/rural split in IQ. It remains larger than any alleged racial variation.
- Joseph de Maistre, Du pape
- The Mike Judge film remains one of my favorite things, anyway.
- I've always had a special place in my heart for that Irish word. Its core meaning is "inheritance" or "legacy"; for a while, it was the name of the Irish government's agency in charge of historical preservation. It's one of those hard to translate words that encompass an outlook on life, an outlook with which I tend to agree.
- Is treise dúchas ná oiliúint.
- "Heredity is stronger than upbringing."
- Briseann an dúchas trí shúile an chait.
- "Instinct breaks out through the eyes of the cat."
- Cad a dhéanfadh mac an chait, ach luch a mharú?
- "What else would the cat's son do, but kill a mouse?"
- Is treise dúchas ná oiliúint.
- De Maistre, Du pape
- Michael Anissimov, Neoreactionary Glossary.
- Mencius Moldbug, A gentle introduction to Unqualified Reservations
- Hence the identification of fedoras with boors. When formal men's hats were worn unironically, they were only permitted to be worn in certain social circumstances, governed by an elaborate and quite sexist hat code. Later generations remembered that the code existed, but had no intuitive notion what it required, and men's formal hats faded from normal fashion. When worn ironically, they can be worn in the restaurant and not tipped for ladies or removed for the National Anthem.
- (rant) Turn your head and spit, alt.gothic, Dec. 6, 2000.
- Thomas De Quincey is well worth your time.