Precondition for a meaningful democracy

Democracy is never a smart system of government, but it’s not always a meaningless formality.  The elite always rule, but if there are two rival elites, the populace can be asked to choose between them.  If there is one elite, meaning they are all agreed on wanting policy X, the populace may vote in a referendum for not X (~X), but the one elite will be in charge of implementing it, and one can be sure that they will do so in a way that makes ~X indistinguishable from X.  If even this formal obedience is too wounding to their pride, they can keep repeating the vote until they get the answer they want.  We have all noticed that Leftist victories are definitive while Rightist victories are never more than provisional.

See details.

Again, nobody’s saying that giving the masses a real choice is in general a good idea.  Just that you’re also really screwed with rule by an evil elite.

The ancien regime: here comes everybody

More virtuous and religious monarchists may be scandalized, but I’m actually pleased with the fact that the old order was able to hold the allegiance of some very colorful public sinners.  Consider Giacomo Casanova:

If any one person was responsible for defaming Casanova, it was Laforgue, a revolutionary sympathizer, atheist and fundamentalist bigot. He didn’t just correct Casanova’s French but removed passages he disapproved of, softened Casanova’s conservative political stance and toned down what he regarded as obscenity while spicing up passages that he thought dull. The result was published in twelve volumes between 1826 and 1838. And so Casanova, bowdlerized, buttoned into a garish suit that did not fit him, faced his public…

He emerges as a man of many contradictions: a freethinker and staunch Catholic, a sceptical rationalist and a practising necromancer, a free spirit and establishment boot-licker, a man of principle and an opportunist, a scoundrel, a snob, both coward and hero, at ease with persons of every class, generous, mean, clever and stupid, a cheat who was gullible, a con man who was easily fooled…

He never developed a philosophy of his own, but was quick to see the flaws in the philosophies of others. He told Voltaire to his face that his war on superstition was wrong-headed: teach a man to believe in nothing and he will, as Chesterton would later observe, believe in anything. Rare among his contemporaries, he saw that Rousseau was a masochist who planned a world tailored to suit his failings. Politically, he loved kings, but conceded that whatever the regime the common people invariably suffer. He loathed the French Revolution, which destroyed his world, and hated the violent terrorist Robes­pierre whom he regarded as the fundamentalist spawn of the disturbed “visionary”, Rousseau.

But kings were not, of course, the only people he loved. About 10 per cent of his autobiography is taken up by his service to Eros…

The nostalgia charge

Factions on the Right are often accused of being motivated by nostalgia, by an unintelligent devotion to past arrangements merely for being familiar or associated with happy memories, rather than for their objective value.  Were we not so blinded by sentimentality, we would see that all that is past is irrevocably gone, this acknowledgement being the precondition for serious thought on the modern world.  At the same time, our memories are faulty, our ideas of the past we wish to recreate hopelessly idealized.

I have trouble understanding the accusation.  It seems that its pieces contradict each other.  If we have idealized the past, then we’re not just mindlessly trying to ape some past state of affairs.  By definition, we are guided by ideals of some sort.  One might still try to fault us for historical ignorance, except that we never claimed to be trying to build a historically accurate theme park–that’s the accusation the progressive is making against us.

Conservatives sometimes hurl the nostalgia accusation at each other.  I don’t think it is a fair criticism of any branch of the Right, including those to which I do not belong:  classical liberals, neoconservatives, “mainstream” conservatives, Latin-Mass Catholics.  The first three of the above are motivated by principles (I would say flawed ones), the last by both principles and a living social and sacramental reality.  (Only a Novus Ordo Catholic can be nostalgic for the Latin Mass.)

In his great work The True and Only Heaven, Christopher Lasch devotes a chapter to nostalgia.  He points out that, although it is a favorite charge that progressives hurl at their critics, nostalgia is really just another side of faith in progress, not its opposite.  The nostalgic person looks upon the past as an irretrievably lost time of stasis and childlike innocence.  The modern man looking back wistfully on the past like this is in fact slyly congratulating himself on his present worldly-wise state.  As Lasch put it, nostalgia recalls the past only to bury it alive.  Nostalgia gives us false, unrealistic images of childhood, Native Americans, frontiersmen, small town life, and whatever else it forces into its “lost innocence of childhood” template.

I’m actually more sympathetic than Lasch to the emotion in question, but his description does make it clear that nostalgia is very different from conservatism.

Quite often, conservatives are told that we are nostalgic for the fifties, or rather an idealized fifties.  (Even the most ardent fifties-loving Republican doesn’t want a reprise of the Korean War, as even liberals must recognize.)  The accusation doesn’t hold, for the reasons I’ve given.  The funny thing about it, though, is that nostalgia for the fifties is actually widespread outside the political sphere.  We’ve all been in self-consciously fifties style diners, where they always take pains to have 50’s-early 60’s music, celebrity pictures, etc.  I’ve been told that there was a TV show–called Mad Men, I believe–that was very popular with many people just because they liked watching actors and actresses dressed smartly in 50’s-60’s style.  Then there are those “Oldies” radio stations like my dad likes to listen to.  (Me too, if truth be told.)

Now, we can tell this is nostalgia precisely because people want these things locked in their moment in the past, not as living traditions.  Let’s take oldies music.  Either the musical tradition of fifties-to-seventies rock was carried on in the eighties and nineties, or the latter is a break, the start of something new.  If later rock was the legitimate development of oldies rock, then separating out the older stuff and only listening to it is making the music of one’s childhood an object of nostalgia rather than a living tradition.  Suppose instead that what came after was something different, or maybe it was the same but not as good, a degeneration.  Well then, there’s no reason one couldn’t take up the tradition again.  If it’s better than what it replaced, there is every reason to do so.  In fact, it has been done!  I remember a decade or so ago, there was a movie about a sixties one-hit-wonder band–That Thing You Do, I think it was called; I didn’t see it–and to tell the story, the moviemakers got someone to write a very passable new sixties song, if you know what I mean.  With clothing styles it’s even more clear.  Progressives will give you plenty of plausible reasons why we can’t restore social or economic relations of the past, but there’s obviously no reason we can’t dress like people in the fifties, or people in the twenties, or people from any other decade in the last century–if not earlier.

Once one drops the Progressive dogma that the past is gone forever, it is shocking, exhilarating to realize the magnitude of the American people’s unused cultural freedom.  Inventing a style is admittedly difficult, but once it is invented it is no more difficult to take up a year, a decade, or five decades later.  If we want to start dressing nicely again like the people we see in old movies, there’s no reason we couldn’t all start doing that today.  When we make new music, we can continue the current styles or pick up bits from the thirties or the sixties or the eighties–whatever best fits the musician’s artistic vision.  We are locked in this present only by the lack of will for anything else, and we are are held back from wanting to use the past precisely by nostalgia, which demands that the past remain past and dead.

That’s just cultural ephemera.  As Alexander Dugin emphasizes, when one drops the dogma of Progress, everything is back on table.  It doesn’t matter whether it’s from the Middle Ages, the fifties, or the current year; it’s progressives, not conservatives, who care about that.  What matters is what is right, what is good, what works best.

Christian Nations and the Terrifying Righteousness of the Jews, a dialogue: Part II

Let us now discuss Christianity, the faith of our ancestors.  For the love of them, I have always tried to believe, but the gift of faith has not been given to me.  Still, the desire is genuine, and that at least I can try to justify.

You yourself provide my first argument.  It is no small virtue that Christianity short circuits the dualistic spirituality you were just describing.  Christianity reconciles paganism and Judaism, because it is in fact paganized Judaism.  The transcendent One ratifies our love of the little and particular.  For when God humbled Himself to commune with us, He did it not by drawing us out of the world of humanity but by entering into it, making Himself a particular human person to be related to as such.

That’s all well and good, but already we see the reason you cannot be more than a theoretical Christian.  You want to be a Christian because you love your ancestors, but they were Christians because they loved Christ.  What you have given is a reason to love the idea of loving Christ, because relating to God in a certain way validates that way of relating in general, but not any indication that you yourself find Jesus Christ lovable, probably because you do not.  If you’re like most people, you can’t help but hate Him.


Nothing breeds resentment more than a sense that one is indebted to someone else.  Men always hate their creditors, especially when the debt is waived, and thus transferred to the plane of moral superiority!  And is this not the one thing we have been drilled to believe about Jesus, that we are in His debt, eternally in His debt, that there is no way we can even hope to rectify this degrading condition?  That even our own moral improvement only makes us owe Him more?  Were they honest, I’m sure more than 9 people out of 10 find this idea Bad News rather than Good News.

But this brings me to the second argument for Christianity–that in it one must forever give up the hope of enjoying “righteousness”, as you call it, or “self-righteousness” as I would call it.  One must forever make do with borrowed righteousness, with never being better than others, but at most more gifted.

If it were true that Christianity could cause men to renounce righteousness, that would be a remarkable feat indeed, for men covet this pleasure above all others.  To stand before the reprobate, the “racist” or the “sexist”, glaring with bulging eyes, accusatory finger outstretched, to say “how dare you!”, it’s the best thing in life.  The euphoria induced by certain drugs is the only experience to which it could be compared, and righteousness is more intense and addictive than any drug.  When a man has tasted sweet righteousness, he will do anything to experience it again.

If what you say is true, then this craving for moral superiority and indignation must be countered.  What would a society be like where everyone was locked in a race with everyone else, each person trying to position himself to condemn all his neighbors?  It would be a nightmare.  Fortunately, people will renounce this pleasure.  The fact that there was once a Christendom proves it.

History in fact tells us something different, that Christian civilization is uniquely susceptible to the pharisaical arms race.  Having to live for so long without the assured intrinsic righteousness other peoples take for granted, when Christians were granted the slightest taste, they completely lost their heads, like non-drinkers with no tolerance for alcohol.

Why do people call WWII “the good war”?  We bombed civilians, incarcerated citizens, atomized cities of defenseless civilians in an already prostrate foe, made the outrageous insistence of surrender without terms, all so that Joseph Stalin could be lord of Eurasia.  Yet we look back to this time with pride and relish, because for a short moment in time, our Jewish cultural masters shared with us their precious righteousness.  For once, we were not ignorant bigots but righteous men on a holy crusade against Hitler.  Is it a coincidence that the West rejected Christianity so soon after WWII?  Having had the slightest taste of sweet righteousness, they were hooked, would do anything for another hit.  The next generation, consumed with jealousy of their fathers, rushed to Jew-approved Social Justice movements.  What was the Civil Rights movement but an exercise in Nazi-hunting, a craving for that glow of moralistic certainty they think their fathers must have enjoyed while incinerating the women and children of Dresden?   The point was never to help blacks, but to hunt down racists, people who could be identified, shrieked at, and destroyed in an orgy of sweet, sweet righteousness.  And so it goes on today, with Social Justice making more and more outrageous demands.  Often the Nazi enemy retreats so fast he must be pursued, and escalation must proceed beyond all reason (mentally ill men in the women’s restroom?) just to get the slightest pushback, and with it that delicious frisson of righteousness.

I don’t deny that this is a danger for Christian peoples.  Hedonism offers the pleasure of indulgence.  Pharisaism offers the pleasure of self-righteousness.  Christianity offers neither.  Leftism offers both.  It’s no wonder so many have traded Christianity for Social Justice.  But there is at least this to be said for Christianity, that it won’t coexist, at least not for long, with Social Justice Pharisaism.  Having embraced the latter, Westerners find it impossible to hold onto the former.

That’s small comfort, but I grant it.  Christianity is certainly a finer thing than anything that can coexist comfortably with Social Justice.  Like you, I wish I could be a Christian; I know my ancestors would have wanted it.  Only some are given faith, but even the desire for faith is a great gift, one that I will guard and cling to.

Christian Nations and the Terrifying Righteousness of the Jews, a dialogue: Part I

So you are a racist then?

I suppose so.  I have a preference for my own kind, but this doesn’t mean that I think my race is objectively superior or that I have any hostility to members of other races.  It’s just like any other form of love or loyalty.  It’s fundamentally a positive thing–an affirmation of one group, not a repudiation of others.  That’s where we differ, I think, from the race liberals, who think antagonism of outsiders is the essence of group identity, that e.g. Christianity is constituted, brought into being, by the hatred of Jews.  Christians and whites have been perhaps overly quick to concede fault in our relations with others, thinking that we were only renouncing something accidental and not, as the race liberals understood it, acknowledging the evil of our group’s essence.

Yet it must be admitted that certain facts give the liberal account its plausibility.  Even if rejecting outsiders is not the essence of a group, it does necessarily follow from that essence, as the will to repel foreign bodies subsists in any organism, and confrontation with outsiders will make a given identity more central to its holders’ consciousness.  And while one may love one’s people without thinking them superior, thinking one’s people superior is very common.  It is only we whites who have been taught to be ashamed of our ancestors.  Are you sure you are above all presumption of superiority?  Do you acknowledge any other peoples as superior to your own?

Of course.  It is completely evident that white Christians are inferior to the Jews.  Although they are a tiny minority, they have not only defeated us on the fields of law, culture and business, but by every measure deserved to defeat us.  They outclassed us in intelligence, creativity, determination, and courage.  I am embarrassed by my people’s poor showing–not having the wit to answer the Jews’ criticism or even the manliness to endure it–but they are still my people.

Do you think they are the Chosen People?

I want to, because a Christian must, and I wish I could be a Christian, but it is hard to believe God would choose as his own a people so objectively superior.  It would be more fitting for Him to choose a people with no objective merits, so that their elevation would be a greater glory to Him alone.

The Jews’ Chosen-ness has become easier for me to believe since I stopped trying to be a Christian.  You haven’t yet mentioned the Jews’ most striking quality:  their righteousness.  Watch them amongst their Gentile hosts.  I wouldn’t have imagined such righteousness was possible in mere humans!  Pitiless and incurious, without sin and eager to cast stones.  No ancestors to defend (for they were all innocent, oppressed victims), no responsibility for the existing order, seized with the vision of Social Justice, in the light of which every natural, human arrangement is impure, obscene, wicked.  Terrifying it is to be under their gaze, these beings who seem not to share our smallness and frailty.

When you say “righteousness”, do you perhaps mean “self-righteousness”?  This is a vice, not a virtue, and hardly as unique to the Jews as you seem to imagine.  In fact, the hatred the Jews bear toward white Christian civilization is in no way exceptional.  Talk to a Hindu, a Muslim, or a South American, and you will hear the same sort of things:  that we are racist and selfish and responsible for all the world’s evil.  It’s just that Indians, Arabs, Persians, Indonesians, and Hispanics don’t dominate our media.  I think we, not the Jews, are the ones who are unique–unique in our ability to inspire moral condemnation.

No, I mean “righteous”, not “self-righteous”.  A self-righteous man without power is merely comical, but there is nothing comical about being condemned by the Social Justice of the Jews.  I am convinced their Social Justice really has a more than human origin.  One must admit that it is at least inhuman.  Paganism was man-made religion, and it built an ethics around what makes us happy:  families and exclusive groups–for you must admit that at its heart paganism is the love of small things–the drama of ritual and age roles and sex roles.  None can withstand the harsh light of Social Justice–all are unfair!  And yet, although it destroys these things we love, these things that make human flourishing possible, when confronted with Social Justice, we feel its moral force.  When confronted by a Jew saying “how dare you!” for clinging to some cherished little exclusion that brought happiness and functionality to generations, we feel not just fear, but shame.  Surely this is the encounter with a transcendent standard.  It doesn’t matter, for example, if taking women away from their children and putting them in offices in pants makes everyone miserable; Social Justice has a compelling force even when it offers nothing but itself.  Beyond the little things of paganism, there is some Big Thing that the Jews have discovered.  Why imagine It is benign, rather than hostile to the Gentile peoples, as the Jews themselves have tended to believe?  What terrifying Medusan Thing did Moses encounter, that to look It in the face is death?  The Jews found It holy, and so It is.  And later they did look it in the face, the face of Social Justice, and their frail humanity died, leaving a holy hatred for the small, warm, imperfect world of men.

I do hate to interrupt you when your Muse possesses you like this, but what you’re saying is absurd, the stuff of an H. P. Lovecraft short story and not a real metaphysical possibility.  You say that God is a malevolent deity called “Social Justice”, but it is impossible that God should hate humanity, not only our sins but our very nature.  If He exists at all, then we are His creations.  We must be, and be known by Him to be, essentially good.  Men have always believed nature, the given structures of the world and of ourselves, to be a sort of message from Him.  Even the Torah is largely concerned with defending social structures like marriage, private property, and the public cult.  Nor are all Jews as you describe, but only the most visible and obnoxious ones.  Most of them live ordinary lives with ordinary concerns, and the Orthodox among them would find your speculations blasphemous.

You assume many Theist claims here.  Do you remember what the Dualists of imperial Rome used to believe–that the world was created not by God but by a wicked demiurge, and that the goal of men is to spiritually commune with the good God and reject the profane material world?  I’m not saying I know that’s true, but doesn’t it fit our modern spiritual experience:  an earthly god of reality and reason (what the neo-reactionaries call “Gnon”) and a transcendent normative god whom we recognize as “Social Justice”?  We take the Christian belief that there’s just one Principle behind the world, and we don’t understand why our spiritual ideal of Social Justice seems to destroy all actually existing goods.  But if the Dualists were right, then it’s perfectly possible that Social Justice could be so holy that it hates all beings, hates the very principles of existence itself.   Of course, my way of speaking is unfamiliar.  Unlike the pagans, I have seen It, but only from the back, like Elijah, not face to face as the Jews now do.

It would be much easier to believe that Social Justice is not divine at all, but just a destructive ideology the Jews and many others have latched onto, that there is one God, Who is both Creator and Just Judge.  Anyway, whatever the nature of transcendent Being–whether It regards us with love or loathing–we don’t have the option of turning away from It.  Our people has always had an orientation to the transcendent at its heart (as have, to tell the truth, most peoples).  For our culture to turn inwards would be for it to repudiate itself.  If God really were to hate our civilization as much as liberal Jews–and liberal Christians–believe He does, how wretched we would be!


Cartesian meditations on racial identity

I’ve been suspected of being a Cartesian, and at least regarding the social sciences, I certainly am.  Clever people like to prove their cleverness by contesting Descartes’ observations that I have privileged access to my own mental states and can be certain of my own substantial existence, but I don’t doubt these truths.  As a social Cartesian, I privilege the insider perspective on any cultural phenomenon.  The participant, not the hostile outsider, has the true perspective on a social practice.

This seems particularly true to me on questions of identity.  Historians and sociologists are always hard at work debunking racial or national identities.  The goal is to convince people that they are wrong to identify as they do.  Historians like to point out that the sortings that seem most salient now were not most salient in the past.  E.g. if people now identify by nation, throw it in their face that centuries ago they identified more by region, language, religion, or tribe.  Historians will point out group boundaries themselves have changed.  E.g. “the Irish didn’t use to be white.”   They’ll point out that the emergence of today’s groupings (“imagined communities”) involved concerted effort by political, religious, and commercial elites operating from imperfectly altruistic motives.  Meanwhile, anthropologists love to criticize racial classifications, showing them to be as much social constructions as biological fixities, as if that somehow made them illegitimate.

To me, all of this is irrelevant.  My identification as “white American” is a directly apprehended social fact.  It is no more possible for people to be incorrect in their identification as white than it is possible for someone to be mistaken about being in pain.  The experience is itself the thing referenced; the usage of racial terms dictates their correct definitions.  If race were a biological category, people could be wrong about it, but it’s the critics themselves who insist that race is a social category, so “what race are you?” just means “what race do you and others think you are?”

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