More on the lack of a traditionalist tradition

At View from the Right, James R. writes (regarding our earlier discussion)

Serendipitously I was musing this morning on how conservatives must be autodidacts because the educational-informational establishment won’t present their views fairly and engage in exactly the sort of exclusionary behavior Bonald describes (this before I read your post and followed the link to his). In schools and everywhere people are presented with the best of liberal-progressive theory, such as it is, and told conservatives just follow tradition; if they’re presented with any traditionalist arguments, they are weak and out of context. To learn what traditionalist views and reasons actually are, you have to be an autodidact, and since Sturgeon’s Law applies (“90 percent of everything is crud”), most people get a misrepresented sample (they learn the “best” progressive thought in schools, presented with varying degrees of dogmatism. Thus even when they encounter the shoddier reasons outside of school, they were informed of better ones. But they have to sift through everything to find the best traditional/conservative arguments on their own, and thus get the impression that on the whole liberals are more thoughtful than conservatives).

I think Bonald’s key observation is precisely the ironic one: that those who deny the validity of tradition are currently the only ones with any kind of intellectual tradition, while conservatives have to re-invent their position anew every generation since the institutions through which they would pass and build on their thought have been progressively (literally) demolished. (This is one area where, whatever your other disagreements with Moldbug might be, he has been quite good at analyzing the plight conservatives find themselves in, and why, as a result, they are in continual retreat regardless of the fact that their views are really no less reasoned than that of progressives, and progressives are no less dogmatic and, ultimately, unreasoned than they charge conservatives with being). The irony is that those who denied there is a (Western) “canon” are the only ones who really have a canon anymore, at least in the sense that matters (passed down through established intellectual institutions. As you’ve pointed out, even the churches are no longer reliable on this, and the less said about universities, the better).

I feel sometimes like we’re in Tigger’s position where everything is a key priority that must be fixed, but this one really is. To that end Moldbug, again, offers worthy suggestions: using technology we can now access old books that our progressive “friends” in the educational establishment have no interest in letting anyone know even exist (and which most of them, having passed through a progressive education establishment themselves, aren’t even aware exist). Major work should be done on creating a conservative/traditionalist intellectual repository, and finding a way to publicize its existence broadly so that people become aware of it, and thus can use it as a resource. Something along the lines of what has already been done for K-12ers for Homeschoolers (itself rather imperfect), but for advanced education.

We know we won’t get any help or sympathy from the establishment in doing this, even the supposed “conservative” establishment. Perhaps think upon it as a new Monastic movement for a new Dark Age.

By “Tigger” he means the Winnie the Pooh character, right?  I’m afraid I missed the reference.  Oh well, doesn’t matter.

This is an interesting, and more detailed, explanation of how having an intellectual tradition gives liberals a real edge.  For maintaining such a tradition, institutions are key, institutions that are themselves intellectually active and operating relatively outside mundane politics, such as universities.

I’m not sure what most conservatives would think about traditionalism becoming somewhat self-referential.  I, of course, am all for it; I would very much like us to stop reinventing the wheel every generation.  If nothing else, it’s not conducive to a healthy respect for ancestors to believe liberals when they say past generations had no reasons for their beliefs.  On the other hand, I think it’s important to many traditionalists that conservatism is not the tradition they’re defending.  The political philosophical project is a lower, slightly unclean activity that must be done so that they and others can enjoy their real traditions–religious or regional–without having these contaminated by politics.  I do appreciate the importance of not becoming so obsessively partisan that one lets, say, Christian orthodoxy or the spirit of the South, mean nothing but an opposition to the liberalism working to destroy it.  On the other hand, I think the development of traditionalism really has added to the traditions.  They have become self-conscious, in a way, through it.  Their will to survive has been articulated through it.  In the case of Roman Catholicism, the antimodernist writings of the popes have contributed to the Church’s settled doctrine.  I think there is no corruption, no loss, in allowing it to become a part of a tradition that that tradition should be preserved, and that it is not made bad by offenses against freedom or equality.

13 Responses

  1. I feel that this debate is wrongly framed.

    The Left has an intellectual tradition of several centuries, in the sense that the Left has progressively taken-over the intellectual tradition, in the sense that the Left has come almost to monopolize professional intellectual activity in the educational system and mass media.

    But this is a tradition in the sense that the Left occupies the ground.

    The intellectual ‘tradition’ is simply incoherent, or psychotic.

    For example, post-modernity/ relativism/ multi-culti – these are very obviously incoherent ideas, I mean *very* obviously.

    They are maintaining in place simply because their incoherence does not matter to their survival and thriving – other forces are at work.

    The Right does not require any tradition to disprove the Left – only common sense (Natural Law) and simple rationality. The Right does not even require a religion from an intellectual point of view – although it probably does require religion in a motivational sense.

    Therefore the Right is the default (as I think is shown by history) and the Left requires this vast propaganda apparatus of education, media, law, civil administration etc to maintain the Western population in their state of long-term confusion and psychosis.

    Indeed, an *intellectual* tradition is intrinsically Leftist, in the sense of creating the conditions for Leftism, and amplifying the temptations of Leftism. There is a sense in which once you have recognized and begun discussing the intellectual tradition you are already moving Left.

    It seems likely that a healthy society would not see things in this way – that there would be religion, and a lineage of Holiness and Wisdom, but this would not be seen as a tradition in the modern sense; rather as re-statements and clarifications of stable reality.

  2. James Kalb has noted that tradition becoming aware of itself as tradition means that something has gone wrong with it. That awareness means that it is functioning in a much different way than it has before.

    Here are some thoughts from a liberal on the problems of being a conservative in the modern world:

  3. One of Kalb’s best essays has a lot to say on this topic:

  4. That essay is no good. By hiding from himself the ethnic basis of the liberal ascendancy, he puts the past in the future, presenting problems liberalism has already solved as in sum an insuperable barrier that it will encounter in future. The attitude he takes in his summing up, that it’ll all be all right in the long run because of the essence of human nature, and that there is no burning urgency about solutions, is empty.

    The main problem liberalism would theoretically face is that man must have religion, sex roles and in-groups with some degree of genetic solidarity, and that liberalism, by deconstructing essential aspects of human life will erode any distinct, particular and thus potentially sustainable people that becomes the bearer of its message and the enforcer of its laws. This horse gallops fast, but it kills its rider, and so it doesn’t seem likely to win many races.

    That problem could be overcome if the horse could be passed on to any rider with equal success. But Haiti, for example, shows that’s not the case. The sentiments of liberalism had knock-on effects that led to the utter destruction of the Whites there, but post-genocide Haiti did not become the new bearer and enforcer of the liberal message. Nor did Zimbabwe become a liberal Mecca, nor is South Africa becoming a liberal mecca.

    The other solution would be an un-killable rider. An ethny with great resistance to the virulence of liberalism, and with great inner resources to regenerate the damage that liberalism imposes, could enjoy the kind of advantage over its ethnic rivals that disease-carrying Europeans had over the the natives of the Americas. And this is the situation that we have.

    If it was not so, such a fierce plague would have burned itself out centuries ago.

    Since it is so, the plague will not burn itself out, or not till everything that I for one care about has been exterminated from the world, and not till a new and much worse world will have been created.

    Liberalism would be long-gone if it really created a world opposed to religion, but what it really creates is a part of the world called for by one supremely tough, survival prone religion, that is the profane, empty, demoralizing, deracializing and ultimately all-destroying world outside the boundaries of the only really holy people and the one true God’s special concern with that people.

    It can even support healthy demographics through strong sex roles, ethnic solidarity and genetic segregation, by supporting a distinction between us the holy and them the vile. This is how the Amish get by.

    But woe unto them that don’t have such a demographic hinterland to call on to refresh their numbers.

    And woe unto those who don’t have within the same collective an elite able to dominate events in the corrupted world, for they have lost all control of their destiny in a world where the highly leveraged financial instrument, the all-media blitz and the predator drone dominate the piggy bank, the weekly sermon and the horse and buggy.

    And woe, black woe, unto those who can’t set up the complicated kind of social arrangement needed for long-term collective survival in a world where public space is being flooded with social poison, because the authorities and institutions they look to will not do it, or because the first movers in this poisoned environment have marked them out as enemies and won’t let them segregate themselves and survive.

  5. Here is Rick Santorum playing “Burger King Catholic” (“have it your way”) and The Catholic Knight reprimanding him from an orthodox catholic perspective simply by quoting the proper authorities. (And I think there are even better quotes he could have called on.)

    I think this is a problem from the point of view of any tradition that has a historical connection with Whites. It’s not just that when the people are gone the tradition will be gone, though that’s a big problem. It’s that lived traditionalism generally appeals to the survival instinct of a group of people who are to some extent related, who to some extent have a naturally shared fate into a future without any obvious end. But complete submission of mind and will to the Christian message doesn’t mean that. It means the opposite: consent to (and perhaps active cooperation in) the wiping away of the people, and Heaven for me, little me, an atomized unit of salvation. That is not a traditionalist bargain.

    I don’t think people faced this in the past, so much. When Iceland converted to Christianity, it was as one people. In doing this, the people lost a lot, but they gained a lot too, and the outcome united the Icelanders, averting potential civil war, and made them more numerous, at least to the extent of all those infants who were not exposed to death as they might have been under pagan law, and it left the Icelanders more securely in charge of their lands and future, with less pressure from the kings of Norway.

    I can see how an Icelandic Christian could have been traditionalist even fairly soon after the arbitrated mass conversion.

    That was then. This is now.

    The worsened social environment (for which I don’t blame Christianity) makes the Christian bargain un-traditional, in context, even for people whose ancestors may have been Christians for a thousand years.

  6. Bonald@–Having just last night finished reading both Winnie the Pooh books to my young daughter, I’m fairly confident in saying that the Tigger allusion is a loose one. Tigger never fixes anything–quite the opposite–but he does “bounce” from one thing to another. One might reasonably take him as a metaphor for any desultory activity.

    With that said, among the creatures of the Hundred Acre Wood, Tigger is certainly on the political left–a sort of lissome Newt Gingrich with stripes. Rabbit is a busy body and Owl a pompous fraud, so they are both liberals. The lugubrious Eeyore is a conservative in the we-are-doomed mould of John Derbyshire. Pooh himself is a conservative in the grand tradition of piety toward the order of being. He’s a “bear of very little brain,” but he does the right thing and sees the poetry of creation. As Pooh’s best friend, Piglet is also a conservative, although like many conservatives he is too easily frightened by Hefalumps (a word that has, curiously, come to mean grotesque, over-sexualized women devoid of femininity).

  7. The tigger analogy is from his always saying, regarding any activity, “That’s what tiggerths do best!”

  8. James R. suggests:

    Major work should be done on creating a conservative/traditionalist intellectual repository, and finding a way to publicize its existence broadly so that people become aware of it, and thus can use it as a resource.

    Precisely what Moldbug suggested in his Antiversity.

  9. That is a really stupid post you link to. In it, the Catholic Knight quotes John Paul II doing some of his weird, gibberishy public ruminations and the US Bishops repeating them and adding some of their own in similar style. Then Knight makes a bunch of disconnected, random assertions of his own. And this spectacle proves what, exactly?

    There is no Church teaching on how many immigrants the US should accept, which countries we should accept them from, and on what conditions we should accept them. Santorum does not play Burger King Catholic on immigration. The foggy gobble the Churchmen have emitted on this subject doesn’t resemble Church teaching. It’s just modernists babbling to themselves with all their usual coherence. Certainly, the American Bishops, being the loyal liberal Democrats that they are, want open borders, but they have not seen fit to bind American Catholics to that position, at least AFAIK.

  10. This spectacle doesn’t prove, it illustrates. It’s a topical illustration of the swamp a man stands in if he has resigned himself to the moral authority of Christianity and then wants to argue for resistance to mass immigration.

  11. “I would very much like us to stop reinventing the wheel every generation. If nothing else, it’s not conducive to a healthy respect for ancestors to believe liberals when they say past generations had no reasons for their beliefs.”

    This is so right I would like to engrave it in metal.

    But it’s hard for a people inclined to principled individualism and to give a fair hearing to all to have a tradition that can survive competition with the work backed by a much more collectivist and a cleverer people.

    The fault is not so much in conservative writers as in the committees that bestow rewards and recognition, or fail to, and in the masses of drones in academia and elsewhere that either favor their own team or don’t.

    The silver lining to this very dark cloud is that if you don’t have the ability to be one of the great ones, if all you can do is point to what is good and seek recognition for it, you are still doing what most needs to be done.

  12. […] Daybreaker presented an intriguing theory which would mean a tighter connection between liberalism and the Jews.  It […]

  13. […] the Right has failed to establish an intellectual tradition.  I’ve lamented this irony before, that the schools of progressivism transmit their doctrine in the manner of traditions to a much […]

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