Becoming a reactionary makes you more charitable toward Leftists

I’ve expressed admiration before for John C. Wright’s series on saving science fiction from “strong female characters”.  He’s made a lot of people angry for his public displays of sanity on sexual issues, and he may be the only adult man on the Right to share my enthusiasm for Disney Princess movies, so of course I like the guy, even though he’s overall more moderate than I am.  Which means I’m taken aback when I read things like this

It is, namely, the visions of hell, of gulag, of death camps, which make the Leftists salivate like Pavlov’s dogs. The Left are not repelled by the Holocaust, by the purges of Stalin or the genocides (yes, I mean genocide in the plural) of Mao, but erotically stimulated, attracted and allured to it, and they dream night and day how to get enough power over their fellow man to commit such atrocities again. They do not want to make an omelet: their pleasure comes from smashing eggs. If you do not believe me, go into any modern art museum. There you will see concrete visual depictions of their internal emotional and moral nature, the invisible things made visible.

Surely he doesn’t believe this?  In fact, it’s Wright’s very moderation that drives him to such outbursts.  After all, he characterizes the difference between conservatives and progressives as follows:

In truth, so-called Conservatives are revolutionaries who believe in the principles of the American Revolution: that all men are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, including the right to life, liberty and property; that to secure these rights governments are instituted among men; and when any government becomes destructive of those rights, it is the duty of patriots to rise up in arms and overthrow it, and create such institutions anew which will return their native rights to them.

They have faith in God.

The so-called Liberals or Radicals or Progressives or Morlocks or Whateverthefudge they are calling themselves this month are revolutionaries who believe in the principles of the French Revolution: Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.

For those of you who do not speak French: Liberté means all men are slaves of the frenzied mob; Egalité means success is punished and failure rewarded until all outcomes are equal and all efforts are vain; Fraternité means all “comrade citizens” are wards of the Napoleon, the Fuhrer, the Lightworker, or whatever they are calling the Glorious Leader this month.

The problem with this (aside from the fact that we’re left without a word for the people who actually fought the Jacobins and generally did so in the name of throne and altar) is that the liberals/radicals/progressives will also claim to be standing for the principles of the American Revolution.  They will say that deconstructing Christian morality (by government force if necessary) is a precondition to liberty, as is an equalized distribution of resources with which to design one’s life, that socialized health insurance and pacifism are the best guarantees of life, and so on.  They can point out that the American Revolution’s theorists, Paine and Jefferson, approved of the French Revolution and that the Constitution’s official interpreters claim to have found in it the right to abortion.  Of course, Wright doesn’t have to accept these liberal positions, but since he doesn’t he must argue either that the liberals are wrong or dishonest about the nature and genealogy of their own beliefs.  They’re fighting over the same turf, so regardless of disposition he’s often forced onto the attack.  I admire Wright for trying to stuff as much truth into the Founding treason as he can; in a way, it’s the pious and conservative thing to do, but ultimately one starts to wonder if it’s worth the effort.

This is, of course, a phenomenon seen in many conservative writers, with my example chosen from the small set of online writers that I enjoy reading enough to follow.

As a reactionary who rejects the Lockean ideology of the American Revolution, I can be more generous with my enemies.  I think they’ve correctly discovered the logical endpoint of the Anglo-American “moderate” Enlightenment.  (It’s basically the same as the endpoint of the Continental “radical” Enlightenment.)  Their beliefs are surely monstrous:  nihilistic, blasphemous, degrading, dehumanizing.  And yet, they are only reasoning correctly from a set of principles that everybody in the modern world takes to be common sense.  I myself grew up believing them, so I can hardly despise others who still do.  I could therefore never share the hatred moderate conservatives often direct at liberal politicians like Bill or Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.  (Wright himself doesn’t talk much about politicians, probably because he’s so much more extreme than the typical Republican!)  I see in these three Democrats no malicious innovation.  Are they not doing what every professor and editorialist they’ve encountered has told them is the only proper and moral course of action?  The ideology is the enemy; the politicians are just tools.  And yet there is in the heart of the Republican an anxiety that perhaps the Left really does hold the Founders’ mantle, and they respond with invective that can only perplex those resting in the serenity of pure Reaction.

11 Responses

  1. “…and he may be the only adult man on the Right to share my enthusiasm for Disney Princess movies.”

    Depending on how far you might expand the definition of the “Right,” I’ve seen plenty of adult men of a generally conservative bent express sympathy with some of these movies, particularly the recent film Frozen. As a reactionary man, watching that was a guilty pleasure. I mean, a princess goes to great lengths to restore her sister to the throne. No one questions the legitimacy of the Queen in favor of democracy. And the sister’s flirting with someone the family does not approve winds up causing grief. What’s not to love if you’re a traditional Monarchist? A bit silly and childish, perhaps, but what’s wrong with a bit of silliness?

  2. Bonald:

    And yet, they are only reasoning correctly from a set of principles that everybody in the modern world takes to be common sense.

    Yep.

    The ideology is the enemy; the politicians are just tools.

    From far enough away they should be pitied. In That Hideous Strength CS Lewis gives a hint of what the Enemy does to his tools when he finds them no longer useful.

  3. (Screwed up the blockquotes there, mea culpa).

  4. fixed it

  5. It is, namely, the visions of hell, of gulag, of death camps, which make the Leftists salivate like Pavlov’s dogs. The Left are not repelled by the Holocaust, by the purges of Stalin or the genocides (yes, I mean genocide in the plural) of Mao, but erotically stimulated, attracted and allured to it, and they dream night and day how to get enough power over their fellow man to commit such atrocities again. They do not want to make an omelet: their pleasure comes from smashing eggs. If you do not believe me, go into any modern art museum. There you will see concrete visual depictions of their internal emotional and moral nature, the invisible things made visible.

    Surely he doesn’t believe this?

    Read the T shirts.

    Who is on the T shirts? Che Guevera, who liked to shoot chained up pregnant women in the belly, Trotsky, who liked to pry people apart with meat hooks, and Emiliano Zapata, “Agrarian Reformer”, who invented a wide variety of slow torturous methods prominently featuring symbols of Mexico for killing people

    Stalin signed bits of paper that resulted in people being tortured. Trotsky got hands on.

  6. Some years ago I was hanging with a few leftist activists. One of them, a monstrously ugly girl, was on the phone with her friend, making plans for some protests. She was openly talking how she doesn’t care what the protest is about and who are they protesting with, as long as there’s chaos, riot and a lot of noise. Her eyes were shining with joy while she spoke that. Now she runs some NGO magazine and she’s payed by the state to support mass African immigration in Europe.

    It would be unfair to most of left intellectuals to accuse them of the most primitive and violent forms of sadism. Most of them are, in my humble experience, decent people with sick ideas. However, that does not mean we should ignore psychopathy of the leftist activists who are in the front lines of their struggle. There are a lot of true monsters among them.

  7. reakcionar,

    Reminds me of Weston in Perelandra. Perhaps there is a demonic bridge from sick ideas to sick people.

  8. One thing that is a bit shocking to me that while the skeptical, Burkean-Oakeshottian type of conservatism (moderate Enlightenment) tends to chastise Leftists for being overly theoretical (e.g. http://www.fee.org/the_freeman/detail/michael-oakeshott-on-rationalism-in-politics ) instead of being practical and down-to-earth and common-sensical, actually this type of older Catholic tradition you represent, Bonald, is every bit as theoretical, if not more, as the writings of Rousseau (every skeptical conservatives favorite enemy ever) or John Stuart Mill.

    So it seems to me that basically what happened is that first Leftists overthrew Catholic theory, and it must have happened really a long time ago (certainly generations before the French Revolution), and the people who would later on went on to become skep-cons were entirely OK with it.

    However whenever Leftists actually began to put their ideas into practice, skep-cons were torn. They could no longer argue with the ideas intellectually, because by then the Thomist intellectual tradition was largely rejected, but they clearly sensed that in practice they do not work and are loathsome and disgusting. (Burke tried hard not to look like a Thomist, and yet he was nicknamed “The Jesuit” which in contemporary England basically meant “we hate you”.)

    The solution of Burke and other skep-cons was to pretty much reject theories, intellectualism and abstract thinking altogether, or at least treat it with suspicion, and instead praise unthinking practice, habit and custom. Yes, because back then unthinking custom and practice was still pretty much informed by the thinking Medieval tradition.

    It seems to me, then, that this skeptical, anti-intellectual, common-sensical attitude is not a central point of conservatism at all, despite that the pretty much the whole contemporary Anglo-American conservative tradition seems to say so. It is just rather a handy trick that lets you continue a practice that is informed by bits and pieces of Medieval thinking, without actually having to accept these Medieval theories.

    To be honest, it is not always really honest – it seems that there is hardly ever a practice in a world that is not justified with at least some kind of made-up theory. Perhaps some leftists were smart enough to see through this, and it fueled their ire.

  9. Hello Shenpen,

    I think you are right on both counts. Catholic morality was never *actually practiced* very consistently. What made it stable was the fact that nobody expected general compliance. “We’re all sinners. Just go to Confession.” And so forth. The fact that it was psychologically and socially tolerable to be living in sin removed pressure to lower the bar (which could be set whereever theory demanded) at the expense of also lowering the incentive to actually be good.

    I also agree that skepticism toward theory is not really essential to conservatism and not a good tactic against an ernest foe. A few decades ago, people were saying that nevertheless British conservatism has done a better job of holding the line, but today it seems clear that it’s been beaten just as badly as its immoderate French and German counterparts.

  10. Seems to me like “throne & altar, blood & soil” should sum up conservatism if blood is taken to loosely mean a particular people.

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