Why refight old lost battles?

There have been some responses to my defense of monarchy against democracy at The Thinking Housewife, so far mostly negative.  One question that people have raised against me, there and previously, is  “Why bother arguing for monarchy?  Even if you’re right, there is zero chance that America is ever going to have a king.  Aren’t you just distracting us from more pressing issues?”  Of course, proponents of democracy don’t mean that, since the practical debate is over, both sides should just move on and there should be no more claims of any sort on the relative merits of monarchy and democracy.  They mean that we monarchists should acquiesce in the wrongness of our position and the rightness of our opponents’ becoming common knowledge.  So one response I could always make is “you started it”.  I generally don’t bring up the issue, but I’ll defend my beliefs when they’re attacked.

But why not just drop that one belief?  Am I not unnecessarily marginalizing myself by embracing a position that is complelely rejected by the mainstream?  Could I not have a bigger effect by shutting up about my more eccentric beliefs and just focusing on those issues where public opinion might actually be moved?  As a short-term strategy, that has a lot to recommend it.  If I were running for political office (which would arguably be hypocritical for someone of my anti-democratic beliefs), I suppose I would have to learn discretion in what opinions I disclosed.

In the long-term, though, I think conservatism has suffered greatly from surrendering on what seem like impractical or unwinnable issues.  Cummulatively, all of this surrendering gives our enemies complete control of the historical narrative.  In the history books studied by our children, progressives are always right, and conservatives/Christians/anti-egalitarians are always wrong.  We have always supposedly been so wrong that our actions can only be explained by reference to irrational fears and hatreds or by selfishness and greed.  We’ve given in on the meaning of every past progressive-reactionary clash:  1776, 1789, 1830, 1848, 1870, 1936, 1960, 1968.  For each historical argument, it always seemed easier for us to give in and focus on present issues instead.  We may poke fun at the idea that the 1950s red scare was pure paranoia, but we don’t fight it enough to make a difference, and it remains the official view, the only one that anyone who’s not a Cold War history buff is ever likely to encounter.  We get irritated when we see the Left romanticizing the Spanish Republicans; but the Left still gets to teach our children to admire those priest-butchering savages.

It just never seems worth enduring the hatred of the Leftist hivemind over academic historical arguments.  We’d prefer to take our stand on something current.  But when we do that, we guarantee ourselves failure.  Imagine for a moment how things look to the average public-school educated, television entertained voter when Left and Right square off on some issue of current import.  He sees two sides, one of which is acknowledged by common consent to have always been right in every past argument of this kind.  The other side admits that it has always been wrong in the past, but insists that this time–for the first time ever–things are different.  In the past, appeals to tradition and natural law have really just been unconscionable defenses of privilege and injustice, but this time they’re actually valid!  That doesn’t sound very likely, does it?  The voter has been given one historical narrative to use in understanding the present:  heroic progressive faces off against the forces of oppression and ignorace and inevitably prevails.  Since this script is the only one in his head, he’s always going to end up being sympathetic to the Left.

Of course, what makes me absolutely livid is the implication that we Christians and conservatives owe the Left, that they did us a favor by vanquishing us, and we’re better off under their rule.  Supposedly, these freemasons and deists had a better idea what a “truly Christian” society looks like than actual Christians did.  The treaty-breaking Piedmontese conquerers did the Papal States and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies a favor by devouring them.  The pope should be thankful for being “relieved” of his temporal domains, these self-righteous pricks have the gall to suggest.  We Christians should be grateful to be ruled by benevolent atheists, because otherwise we’d just kill each other.  We are incapable of self-rule; we need Leftists to rule us.

So perhaps you understand better why I can’t and won’t let these issues go.  I will go on cursing the American and French revolutions, the Risorgimento, Spanish, French, and Mexican anti-clericalism, communism in all its forms, and the sixties.  I will continue to defend King Louis, Tsar Nicholas, and Pope Pius.  This for the practical reason that if the Left is allowed to control the past, it will control the future.

14 Responses

  1. Vive Bonald!

  2. hear, hear! My favorite bit: “heroic progressive faces off against the forces of oppression and ignorace and inevitably prevails. Since this script is the only one in his head, he’s always going to end up being sympathetic to the Left.

    Of course, what makes me absolutely livid is the implication that we Christians and conservatives owe the Left, that they did us a favor by vanquishing us, and we’re better off under their rule. Supposedly, these freemasons and deists had a better idea what a “truly Christian” society looks like than actual Christians did.

  3. Do not surrender. But as you continue to fight these battles, bear in mind Matthew 10:16: “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore as wise as serpents, and as harmless as doves.” The wolves in this case are defenders of the progressive consensus, who are not interested in debate and exist only to silence you through defamation and dynamic silence. There’s no merit in martyrdom if you have a choice and can do more good alive than dead (silenced). As for being “harmless as doves,” I take this to mean that we should, insofar as possible, avoid arousing the wolves. As for being “wise as serpents,” I take this to mean that we are to strike selectively and when it is to our advantage. Christians are, in other words, then as now, a guerilla force opposing an vast army whose name is legion.

    As a practical matter for reactionaries who engage in historical revisionism, this means you do not stand up and announce that you are a monarchist, or a moral absolutist, or a champion of patriarchy. (I’m talking about what reactionaries say in the world, not on blogs like this one or among themselves.) That’s effectively saying: “Hey, wolves, I’m a sheep. Over here, wolves!” What you do, I think, is raise questions that appear harmless (the dove part) but in fact strike at the heart of the progressive consensus (the serpent part). We call this sort of question a “nagging question,” meaning a question one wishes to thrust out of one’s mind, but can’t. And the longer the question stays in one’s mind, the more evidence one notices (for the first time) suggesting that the question has an unexpected and alarming answer.

    Here’s an example I read just last night in an old book. The author remarked, in a seemingly offhanded way, that if the American South had no right to secede, then we all must start singing “God Save the Queen.” It makes you laugh (the dove part), then it makes you wonder (the serpent part); and the wolves just growl in their sleep.

  4. Agreed. For myself, I take a bit of obscene pleasure in puncturing the left’s little narratives, obviously stupid as they are, even though I know it will accomplish nothing. Amazing the fun you can have turning the left’s hermeneutics against them.

  5. I think this is exactly right. The historical narrative is key to understanding what should be done in the future; by creating a counter-narrative, we create a counter to the current paradigm. We’ll stand by you defending the Tsars and the Popes as long as we can.

  6. Hello. From my perspective, as a Classical Republican (think Rome, 2d century BC, or our own early republic), liberty demands that a people be self-regulating. That is, they must hold to precepts about civic duty and personal morality that make a limited, republican government possible. I am distressed to think that the U.S. is definitely passed all possibility of civic and private virtue, because if true then the next step will be chaos. After chaos, inevitably, there will be tyranny. My strong suspicion is that such tyranny will be little like the monarchy you espouse. Indeed, as a conservative, I would prefer a genuine monarchy to a Napoleon or Hitler. The best we may be able to hope for is an Augustus. It may be foolish, but I cannot abandon all hope just yet.

  7. The American South did not have a right to secede under the terms of the US Constitution. It was within the territorial boundaries of the USA from the beginning. Disgruntled Southerners could leave the USA if they pleased, they just could not take US land with them.
    In 1776 everyone understood that the colonies were but a tiny inhabited fraction of a vast continent that was soon to be occupied by English speaking/European immigrants .It was far from settled who had the right to that future. The borders did not even exist.
    At the end of the day, British “rights” in North America were no more secure than the rights of the Native American Feathered Indians.
    Ben Franklin tried to be honest with his English friends by letters in the mid 1760s. He said, more or less, These people over here will always remain proud to be British but since they are all land-owners and generally well off they will instinctively regard themselves as co-equal to the English. And he went on to say that the best terms that the UK could ever get vs. its American cousins was Union and defacto independence for America – thus forming a combination which would “overawe the world.” He was absolutely right but convinced no one at all; so a long nasty war happened.

  8. This isn’t a burning historical grievance for me personally. My ancestors were loyalists who moved to Canada after their land was confiscated, and then Yankees who fought for the North. I mentioned it mainly as an example of how it is possible to strike out at the dominant narrative by planting a nagging question.

    But Rum, why doesn’t your argument against Southern secession work just as well against the patriots of 1776. If they really didn’t like taxation without representation and all the other impositions listed in the DOI, weren’t they free to move but not take the land with them? The size and fluid geopolitics of eighteenth-century North America are irrelevant. Either we have two instances of treasonous rebellion, or we have two cases of justified revolt. The only difference is that one succeeded and the other failed.

  9. Mr Smith has a point, especially where singing “God save the Queen” is concerned. Some of us British liberals can be remarkably chauvinistic about this sort of thing..

    It’s always a useful exercise to put yourself in your enemies (or opponents’) shoes, ask what they would want you to do, and then do the opposite. I leave it to you to consider whether that would imply endorsing a patriarchal, absolute-monarchist agenda.

  10. I’d say that there was no possible legal basis for the 1776 rebellion. Leaving aside the antiquarian question of the Jacobite succession, I would have thought that a commitment to royalist conservatism would necessarily imply loyalty to Queen Elizabeth II and her heirs and successors.

    Nevertheless, it’s never too late. Should you wish to honour your loyalist ancestors, I’m ready to receive your oath of allegiance as a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of England and Wales.

  11. When the original 13 States were voting on the New Federal Constitution, some of them added language to their assent that said, in effect – that even though this constitution gives states no rights to leave the union, we claim the Moral Right to rebel against it it leads to tyranny.
    In other words, opposing tyranny (however undefined) was the mainspring of the founders political ethics.
    The South in 1860 was wrong in those terms because the USA was per se the main force for liberty in the World and would be critically weakened by division.
    How could any of us get by without a good rationization now and then?

  12. Just leave the key to the White House underneath the mat outside Admiralty Arch chz thx.

  13. As an American Anglophile whose French protestant forebearers arrived in Virginia in 1686, I will concede this: If Napolean had actually won his war with Britain the absence-without-leave of the America colonies would have to be, from the long view, seen as unforgive-able.
    Likewise, if the experiment in America with self rule had followed historical norms and the fledgling republic fell into the usual pattern of a silly revolution followed by chaos, tyranny, and then worse, the loyalists who fled to Canada would have been deemed righteous and far sighted.
    In fairness to the confused mortals compelled to find their way thru that storm, it would take the passing of about 100 years to get to clear answers.
    BTW, there is a reason that the English language is used on every commercial Airline, anywhere in the world, when it talks to the ground. The losing did not happen.

  14. “there is a reason that the English language is used on every commercial Airline, anywhere in the world, when it talks to the ground”

    Indeed. The dominance of English comes in handy in the business world too (I find that German clients resent it less than the French ones).

    It won’t last, sadly. I remember a joke that I heard when I was a kid, that optimistic parents were having their children taught Russian and pessmistic parents were having them taught Chinese.

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