Nanking

The Mad Monarchist is fearless!  A while back, I thought I was really offending established pieties by saying that the attention given to “the rape of Nanking” is largely driven by Chinese immigrants wanting to move their way up the victimology hierarchy.  Now MM has brought together evidence that the official casualty estimates for the massacre have been grossly exaggerated.  He attributes it to the communists wanting to deflect attention to their own horrific cruelties.

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.

Alternate history: suppose there were no WWII

In 1945, Leftism emerged victorious over the whole planet.  It can be hard to remember how different things were about a decade before, in the mid thirties.  The Western world then was undergoing a serious crisis of faith in the 19th century creed:  liberalism, democracy, capitalism.  It was a great time for communism, but it was also a surprisingly good time for the genuine Right.  The thirties witnessed the rise of conservative heroes like Franco, Salazar, and Dollfuss in Spain, Portugal, and Austria.  In Italy, Mussolini had swashed the Leftist republic and made peace with the Church.  One could have reasonably hoped that Italian Fascism was evolving into a form of conservatism.  Germany was ruled by a loon, but a loon who had crushed the German Left and given his country a respite from democracy.  The Catholic and Orthodox Churches were enduring savage persecution at the hands of Russian, Mexican, and Spanish Leftists, but they were withstanding it heroically.  The self-confidence of Christians was actually pretty high, as one sees in writers of that era like Chesterton and Thomas Merton.  They believed society was broke and the Church had the answers, not vice versa.

Was it inevitable that the Left would triumph?  No, at least it was not inevitable that it would triumph so quickly.  Drieu has, in one of my old comments, mused that an Axis victory was Western civilization’s last hope.  My opinion is somewhat different.  I think the non-Leftist West was doomed the moment WWII started.  But in 1938, we were not yet doomed.  I could potentially save the West if I could just go back in time and take over Hitler’s brain and tell him not to start a war.  It was so stupid anyway.  Germany and the Nazis were really riding high; why the hell did they risk and lose it all?

Suppose I did go back in time, and I replaced the real Hitler with Bonald-controlled zombie-Hitler.  Zombie-Hitler’s one imperative is to hold what he’s got and not start a war.  Zombie-Hitler decides Germany has sufficiently stuck it to the Treaty of Versailles, and he goes on to spend most of his time playing golf.  No big initiatives, no new world order.  Being top dog in continental Europe is enough.  Of course, zombie-Hitler keeps his dictatorial rule, censorship, beating the crap out of communists, and other such worthwhile activities.

Now, I really doubt that if Hitler hadn’t provoked a European war, anyone else would have.  So let’s say that the non-democratic parts of Europe–the majority of European countries, remember–just sit there for a couple of decades and rule their countries with minimal effectiveness.  The crisis of faith in democracy, which always needs to think of itself as the wave of the future, deepens.  My guess is that the French Right would grow in strength until, by the end of this period, France gets sick of being the odd man out in Europe and adjusts its constitution in an authoritarian direction.  Now democracy is a peculiarity of England and her progeny, making it much less internationally attractive.  What’s more, England rules a vast empire that it acquired undemocratically through conquest, so the great beacon of democracy can easily be painted as hypocritical.  Let us imagine that an anti-colonialist movement arises in this alternate history, as it did in ours.  The rebelling natives are really driven by nationalism, but they look for the anti-English ideology with the widest traction.  In our reality, this was communism.  In the alternate reality, it would have been fascism, which would have better suited their true motives anyway.  And in my alternate reality, zombie-Hitler has made fascists risk adverse, and they’re naturally gravitating toward conservatism.

In 1958, a new man ascends the throne of Saint Peter.  He thinks to himself that maybe it would be best if the Church were to “open its windows”, address modern man on his own terms, and initiate a more positive relationship with the world.  It is amusing to think what aggiornamento would have meant in such a world.

 

The unity of Christian reactionary blogs (the “Kalbosphere”)

Bruce notes that there is now a group of Christian reactionary bloggers with sufficient cohesion–he mentions Jim Kalb, Larry Auster, Laura Wood, Proph, Daniel, himself, and myself–that we should have a name for ourselves.  The first suggested name was “Kalbosphere“, but now “Christian Reactionaries” or “Orthosphere” seem to be emerging as favorites.  Last night, I spent an hour writing up some detailed thoughts on this, but when I clicked “Save Draft”, the whole thing got erased.  A week’s blogging time down the toilet.  Oh well, here’s the short version:

It seems that there are two classes of people we might want to name so there should be two words.  The classes are

A:  The group of Christian reactionaries that have found each other and read each others’ blogs regularly.  That is , the point is not just that we share certain beliefs (as we might share beliefs with people we don’t know exist), but that we’ve coalesced into an intellectual community.

B: Anybody who shares our core beliefs, which I summarize thusly:  God and His natural law should rule human communities as well as individuals, and this ordering under God should be subjectively clear to the community’s participants.  Plus, Christianity is true.

All members of A are also members of B, but not vice versa.  A descriptive name like “Christian Reactionaries” should probably be used for group B, since it would be awkward to say that so-and-so who has been laboring alone as a Catholic monarchist for years but hasn’t yet heard of us is not a Christian reactionary.  “Orthosphere”, “Kalbosphere”, or something like that would be good names for group A.  Since it denotes a particular group of people, it should be more like a name than a description, so ideally people should not understand it until they get to know us.

Also, you guys can settle on whatever you want, but I’m not going to type anything with plus signs.

Career and the heart of modernity

Let us first realize how unprecedented our situation is.  The great Emile Durkheim identified the key new feature of modern society as its being built around “organic solidarity” as opposed to “mechanical solidarity”.  In premodern societies, each household performs similar economic functions and does so largely indepedently each other.  Thus, it makes sense to have a single standard and set of expectations for everyone (or, rather, one for men and another for women), because, except for small ruling and clerical classes, everybody does pretty much the same things.  In modern societies, we’ve replaced this with a system where everybody’s pooled into one tightly connected economic system, and we’ve pursued specialization and a division of labor so that people do very different things.  Each person has a single, tiny focus, and relies on everybody else to supply his other needs.  This destroys the “mechanical” solidarity of one standard for everybody, but it creates a new “organic” solidarity around our much tighter interconnection.  In the short run, modernity creates alienation:  specialization and individualism erode our sense of community.  But Durkheim was convinced that the cure was to go all out for modernity, and it will cure its own problems.  Once inheritance is gotten rid of (based as it was on the idea of household independence and thus no longer making sense) and wealth is based on merit, our economic system will no longer seem unfair.  Our sense of alienation will be cured by the specialization that caused it:  new profession-specific societies will provide us with the sense of belonging we have lost.  Individualism itself will serve as a common creed to replace all the other social creeds it destroyed.  (My understanding of Durkheim is based on these selections.)

Modernity’s true ideology, one shared by nearly everyone, is the “career”.  Every adult should have a career, and this career should be the main organizing principle in his life.  A career presumes organic solidarity:  a man’s career is supposed to take him away from home and family and set him to work producing something to be consumed by society at large, rather than by his own kin.  This, however, isn’t enough to make work a career; this just makes it a “job”.  A career is also supposed to be the prime outlet for a man’s creativity, intelligence, and initiative.  His bonds with his coworkers (with whom he spends more waking hours than he does with his spouse) provide him a sense of belonging and common purpose.  Career is the ultimate fulfillment of Durkheim’s vision.

Career has largely devoured older forms of belonging–home, tribe, religion–just as Durkheim hoped it would.  There are certainly economic factors in this:  the extreme division of labor certainly brings certain efficiencies with it.  It could well be–I will not speculate on it here–that a sufficiently dense population is stuck with organic solidarity.  What interests me, though, is the ideology, the fact that we have decided to regard this as a liberation rather than a curse.  What’s more, we have outpaced economic forces, deliberately attacking other ways of organizing one’s life.

The romantic conception of work–that it uniquely manifests the “species-life” of man as an intelligent, creative individual–arguably goes back to Locke’s defense of private property.  It is given full expression in Marx’s early writings (especially the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844).  Of course, for Marx, this vision was an indictment of the modern system, because it was obvious to him that the wage-employed hyper-specialized laborer of his day was not engaging in expressively creative work.  Similar criticisms came later from the Agrarians/Distributists.  For both Marxists and Distributists, employment and the division of labor are inherently alienating and must be abolished.

The ideology of the modern age, which we may call “careerism”, has done a remarkable thing in accepting the Marxist/Distributist romanticized vision of work as the outlet for creativity and saying that the current system instantiates this ideal, at least for those with true careers.  Adherents of feminism, an aspect of careerism, would no doubt take offense at the idea that they are proponents of the capitalist system, but this is hardly credible, given that they preach that no woman can be fulfilled without being part of it.  Most people, of course, wouldn’t call themselves anything as radical (i.e. anything as explicit) as feminists, but they accept the careerist creed.  No one thinks it controversial to tell children to start dreaming about the careers that could “empower”/”fullfil”them and let them “change the world”.  When we tell these kids to study hard and get good careers so they can “make something of themselves”, it doesn’t strike us as insulting to those without careers–who are therefore presumably not “something”–although it should.  We never come out and say “your career should be the focal point of your life; everything else should be organized around it”, but this is implied in the way we live and the advice we give our children.

Well, what’s wrong with telling everyone to look for a rewarding and challenging career that will make them “something”?  The ideal of careerism is, after all, somewhat broad; it blesses a great variety of callings.  The trouble is that it’s still not broad enough.  One of the main criticisms leveled at medieval Christianity (and at medieval Buddhism, to the extent anyone but me criticizes Buddhism) is that it was a religion aimed at clergy.  Its vision of human excellence supposedly required one to be a priest, monk, or nun, and it had nothing to say to a layman who wanted to acheive holiness in his lay life.  In short, it valorized a far too small part of the human experience.  Now, whether or not this is a fair criticism of medieval Christianity is a topic for another time, but it is quite odd that the same people who level this charge don’t realize that their own ideology is obviously guilty of it.  Most people don’t have careers, not in the sense of careerist ideology.  This ideology is then forced to regard these people, or at least their way of life, as fundamentally defective.

Today’s world is an exact analogue of the popular image of the “theocratic” Middle Ages:  a society designed for clergy where a majority of the populace were not clergy.  Today, we offer career as the priviledged means of personal fulfillment, but most people don’t have careers.  Thus, careerism has shown great intolerance, or at least a stunning lack of sympathy for, those who don’t fit the careerist pattern:  religious contemplatives, unskilled workers (i.e. those with “jobs” rather than “careers”), and housewives.

The hostility of modernity to the consecrated religious life is so open and extreme that little needs to be said about it.  Closing monastaries and convents is a quintessentially modern thing to do (as is guillotining their former occupants).  What’s really striking is that the contempt for the contemplative life has seeped down even to Catholic apologists.  How often have we heard them tell us that the great thing about the Rule of Saint Benedict is that it forced the monks to work and so valorized labor as a path to holiness, or some such nonsense?  We are then unseemily eager to point out that the monks performed social services like distributing alms.  We seem positively embarrassed to admit that the primary purpose of these institutions was prayer and worship.  (Here modernity has been more gentle with the Buddhists.  Nobody asks how much of Buddhist monastaries’ resources goes to poor relief or reclaiming swamps.  People seem to accept that that’s not the purpose of these organizations.  Sometimes they even recognize that having an organization with explicitly spiritual aims might be a valuable thing.)

What about that majority of men (and now women) whose jobs involve no particular skill or creativity, who generally don’t see their job as a calling but mostly as a way to pay the bills, who work 9 to 5 and then return to their more cherished home life, who find their life’s meaning in family, hobbies, or something other than the job?  For rhetorical purposes (the purpose of posing as a voice of the majority), the careerist ideology will sometimes say that these people have careers, but if it says that, it must admit that they are inadequate careers.  They certainly don’t measure up to what a career should be.  Something is wrong with these people.  We may say it is their fault:  they’re just lazy or dumb.  We may be more generous and say it’s society’s fault for not educating them enough.  What we certainly won’t do is defend their way of life.  Our rulers rather work to destroy it through free trade and mass immigration.  There’s something very wrong that it is becoming harder and harder to support a family–or even maintain a job–without becoming some kind of college-credentialed specialist, but for our politicians (especially, I’m sad to say, our Republican politicians) the answer is always career retraining and more higher eduction so that everyone can become an engineer or entrepeneur.  This is how beholden to careerism they are.

Finally, there are the housewives, who endure as much hostility as the monks.  They are the last representatives of mechanical solidarity:  the home as a place of valuable and creative work, not just relaxation and consumption.  Feminism exists largely to eliminate this holdout.  According to careerism, one needs a career to have an outlet for one’s creativity and initiative and to be socially engaged.  I am fond of pointing out on this blog that most jobs (and even most careers) involve less, or at least no more, opportunity for creativity and initiative than organizing and keeping a household and educating children.  In fact, Chesterton’s argument against women having jobs basically comes down to the claim that it would dull them.  Men have already been narrowed by specialization; let us not lose the womans’ generalism too.  Of course, Chesterton’s goal wasn’t just to keep women in the home; he was more ambitious than that.  His goal was to bring the men back home too, as farmers and artisans.  Is it workable?  Or is it–like Marxism–an accurate diagnosis of the tendency of careerism to distort the soul tied to an unworkable cure?

I’m not sure.  I’m convinced that conservatives must fight careerism, explicit and implicit, when it erodes the morale of these other honorable ways of life.  We are the natural allies of the cleric, the unambitious family man, and the housewife.  Some people, men and women, indeed have callings to a career, and God speed to them.  I decided I wanted to be a physicist in third grade.  In fifth grade, my mother once punished me by forbidding me to read about the theory of relativity for a weekend.  By junior high, I had taught myself multivariable calculus.  (I used to sneak into my parents’ bedroom to read my father’s college calculus book–I needed it to follow an exposition I’d found on the Euler-Lagrange equations.  For some reason, I thought this was something I wasn’t supposed to be doing.)  Most of the other kids I knew weren’t like that.  As seniors in high school, they didn’t know what they wanted to “do with their lives”, even as the pressures to find a career calling in their souls got ever stronger.  Most people don’t have a particular career calling–their passions lie elsewhere–and there’s nothing wrong with that.  It may be necessary in today’s world for the man to take on a career, and not just a job, anyway, to work as if he had a passion he doesn’t have.  I do not concede this, but I admit the possibility.  Let us put up a fight, though, before we let careerism devour home life as a whole.  We certainly should not push women, whom nature has particularly ordained to the care of young children, into the careerist path unless they have a genuine calling for it.  It may still be necessary (and given how the non-work related social world has been practically deserted, it may even sometimes be desireable) for noncareer women to have jobs, so long as their maternal duties come first.  Patriarchy gives no inflexible rules here.  It only demands that family duties come before work in our self-understanding.  In fact, family duties inform our understanding of work, i.e. seeing it primarily in terms of the father’s provider role rather than as a means to “self-actualization”.

Why the hell do I bother?

The obituary for this blog was written before I typed its first line:  “Here lies Throne and Altar.  It’s author was a sexually repressed, closed-minded, hypocrite who never had any reasons for his beliefs except a blind faith in tradition.”  Not one word I’ve ever written could be used as evidence for any of those assertions, but that hardly matters when the enemy has a louder speaker, and I can hardly complain, given that this has been the fate of so many men better than myself.

Here’s The Social Pathologist taking a first draft.  We traditionalist conservatives, you see, see no need to think because we assume that tradition is infallible and want to precisely replicate the past.  Now, it doesn’t matter that not one social conservative–not I, not Jim Kalb, not Allan Carlson, not Roger Scruton, not Laura Wood, not Gerry Neal, not Alte, not Jerry Sayler, not R. R. Reno, not Larry Auster, not Robert George, not Proph, not rkirk, not anyone he or I would call a traditionalist or social conservative–has ever espoused the absurd position he attributes to us.  (Our rather more nuanced attitude toward tradition is explained here.)  Why bother addressing–or even acknowledging the existence of–the reasons for our beliefs when SP can apparently just peer into our souls and know–without ever having met any of us or being able to adduce any evidence for it in our writings–that we’re really just motivated by a neutrotic refusal to acknowledge female sexual desire?  I really wouldn’t mind if SP just said that he was unconvinced by our reasons for refusing to share his enthusiasm for game and female careerism, but it’s really impossible to carry out a dialogue with someone who simply refuses to admit that we have reasons but just goes on to make up discreditable motives to impugn us with.  In fairness to SP, the temptation for one side (the “moderate” one) in an intraconservative dispute to use Leftist stereotypes to tar their opponents is always very strong.  The stereotypes are part of the general pseudoknowledge, so they can generally be flung about without evidence for them demanded, and it’s an easy way to gain the sympathy of Leftist onlookers.  What we’re seeing is a reoccuring feature in conservative history.

Paul Gottfried tells the story in Conservatism in America of how the neoconservatives took over the conservative movement, expelled their enemies, and then announced to the world that for the first time conservatism would now have intellectual substance and a strong grounding in reason.  As Gottfried points out–and it should be obvious from the intellectual output of the two eras–this was egregiously false.  The pre-takeover traditionalists maintained a level of culture and theoretical depth that the neoconservatives never matched, even before they descended into partisan hacks.  (Gottfried sees this, even though he has disagreements with both camps of conservatives.)  Note that the neocon victors didn’t say that their rivals’ reasoning was flawed or unclear; they simply denied its existence altogether and so didn’t have to bother responding to traditionalists’ criticisms.  They were able to do this by playing on the Leftist stereotype of the unthinking traditionalist; they knew if they played that card, the Leftist media would back them up.

Of course, the idea that the continental European conservatives were blind partisans of tradition with no defensible reasons for their beliefs–“immoderate and inferior copies of Burke” as I’ve put it–has been repeated so many times with such assurance that no one seems to care anymore that there is no truth to it whatsoever.  For example, Louis de Bonald’s most famous book, On Divorce, contains not one appeal to tradition.  Neither did Le Play, La Tour du Pin, or Maurras ever make the ridiculous claim that because we used to do it that way, that’s how we have to keep doing it.  They all grounded their positions in what they took to be the lessions of history, theology, and social science.  Some of them had scientific pretentions themselves, and Robert Nisbet argues in The Sociological Tradition that the French Right laid the groundwork for the science of sociology.  You may say that their reasons were wrong, or that circumstances have rendered them invalid, but you cannot say that they didn’t have them.

An example of this casual lying about the French Right, which I’ve already noted, is Philippe Beneton’s forward to Critics of the Enlightenment.  He makes the argument that the counter-revolutionaries based their argument entirely on national traditions, and now their nations have taken another track, so they’re entirely without a leg to stand on.  Beneton is apparently unembarrassed to make this argument even when none of the counterrevolutionaries in the book he is forwarding ever make the argument that he says was their only one.  Another case is Isaiah Berlin, who liked to say that he found anti-Englightenment thinkers’ alleged rejection of reason interesting, when what he really found it was comforting.  How nice if you can just pick a few quotes from de Maistre, Vico, and Herder that seem to confirm that you, the party of Enlightenment, hold a monopoly on rationality!

Carelessly denigrating the intelligence of social conservatives is particularly popular if said conservatives are evangelicals and the attacker is a Christian academic on the make.  Consider this book review in Books and Culture of Darryl Hart’s From Billy Graham to Sarah Palin:  Evangelicals and the Betrayal of American Conservatism.  (The extremely positive review is also illustrates the bizarre fact that evangelicals like to be told that they’re stupid.)  It’s the standard attack–evangelicals are theocrats; they’re obsessed with abortion and gay marriage; they don’t present reasoned arguments, but just invoke the Bible–with the Jeffrey Hart/Sam Tanenhaus twist of saying that getting all bent out of shape over social issues is a betrayal of true conservatism (the latter consisting of perpetual graceful surrender to the advancing Left).  The evangelicals are utopians with no sense of prudence, no respect for custom or precedent.

… after thirty years of laboring with and supposedly listening to political conservatives, evangelicals have not expanded their intellectual repertoire significantly beyond the moral imperatives of the Bible….evangelicals are more likely to support political plans to improve society, grow the economy, and expand the United States’ global presence as long as doctors are not performing abortions and ministers are not presiding over the marriage of gay couples.

At least as the review presents it, the case is a hopelessly self-contradictory mess.  Abortion is nowhere discussed in the Bible, so in becoming pro-life evangelicals prove that they aren’t limited by explicit Biblical commands.  Pursuing economic growth and opposing seriously immoral acts is hardly utopian.  If conservatives base themselves off of inherited tradition, what would be wrong with invoking our civilization’s holy book anyway?  But one gets the impression that Hart’s personal holy book is the secularists’ separation of Church and State (i.e. State atheism), which he claims to have extracted from Luther’s Two Kingdom theology, and which is apparently the only bit of Christianity that it’s okay to invoke in the public square.  Hart says that “the source of American greatness…lies with its political order more than its religious identity.”  This is obviously false if Christianity is indeed the path of salvation and by what is “great” about America we mean what is most worth preserving.  (And what other definition matters?)

I can now see that there was an element of unhealthy pride in my motives for starting this blog.  I had spent quite a bit of time in isolation trying to explain to myself not just what was wrong with liberalism run amok, but what precisely was right about the things we’ve been taught to regard as self-evidently bad:  patriarchy, monoculturalism, censorship, etc.  As far as I knew, I was giving a more rigorous defense of these things than had yet been attempted.  After all, “everybody knew” that “sexists” and censors have no arguments, right?  While I knew that wasn’t really true, it did seem like the arguments existed but were scattered or not spelled out in previous works.  Well, now I had the full exposition.  Wait till I show the world!  They may not agree, but if they notice me at all, they’ll have to take it seriously.

That was obviously vanity.  In fact, I doubt there are any observations or arguments here that haven’t been written down by past generations of conservatives, many times before.  Given French legitimism, Jesuit natural law communitarianism, Dutch Calvinist sphere sovereignty, German Right Hegelianism, Russian mysticism, American Agrarianism, and the metahistorical masterpieces of Spengler and Voegelin, one sees that conservatism is poor neither in arguments nor in genius.  What it does lack is a tradition.  The irony here is exquisite, isn’t it?  Conservative thinkers do brilliant work, but it doesn’t get passed down.  A T. S. Eliot, say, will produce a powerful defense of some aspect of conservatism.  It will perhaps be noted, but then quickly forgotten, while the grand narrative–“conservatives are stupid; they have no ideas, just inherited prejudices”–remains untouched.  The next generation of conservatives begins intellectually from scratch.  We reproduce a small bit of what these earlier generations did, and we think ourselves very clever.  “Wait till I tell the world!”  And I do, and the world replies “conservatives are stupid; they have no ideas, just inherited prejudices”.  Then I finally start to understand.

More on theodicy

From my earlier post Signs of the True Religion:

The true religion should have a problem with theodicy.  It should not be contradicted by the existence of evil, but it should not provide an explanation that makes evil a natural or expected thing.  Evil should be an unexpected anomaly in this religion, because that is what evil is in reality.  It is an anomaly; it should not exist.  A creed that explains evil too easily should be regarded as morally suspect.