More on the meaning of conservatism

I had been hoping to give the critique by Analytic Reactionary the reply it deserves, but I may never find time for that, so I’ll just refer readers to this promising new blog and restate, as I see it, the important issue it raises.

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Eliminating white spaces

George Weigel at First Things sings the praises of Jackie Robinson, who broke the National Baseball League’s “infamous” color line.

Now, I strongly disagree with Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka that there is something iniquitous about separate public schools for separate races.  Races have their own distinct cultures, histories, and identities and rightfully wish to pass these on to their children.  Forcing blacks and whites into the same schools meant that only one people’s collective memory could be taught.  In this case, it was the collective memory of the negroes that was imposed on the whites, as we see from the fact that history and social sciences are taught from a relentlessly anti-white perspective, with no one even bothering to ask what motives other than malice whites might have had for building their distinct societies.  Still, it’s a legitimate concern that blacks will be at a disadvantage when their schools are inferior, and forced integration is one way to deal with this.

Similarly, I see nothing wrong with a golf club or other social organization that caters to only one race or ethnicity.  Spontaneous associations, what some American conservatives call “civil society”, are a good thing, and racial consciousness is not a bad thing.  Still, I have heard the argument that these groups are important places for professional networking, so groups not invited can be at a disadvantage.  This is not a strong enough reason to suppress monoracial clubs, but it is a legitimate concern.

What possible reason, though, could there be to object to whites having a sports club to themselves?  It’s not that blacks didn’t have opportunities to play baseball.  Robinson himself started in a separate negro league.  How does it hurt anyone else if white America wanted to have a sports league for just those of European descent?  How are blacks in any way at a disadvantage in school or in the professions because of this?  Weigel seems entirely incurious about the motives of these “bigots” who objected to yet one more of their spaces being violated.  One suspects that America’s “original sin” that he invokes but does not name is actually the existence of whites as a consciously distinct people.

If anyone wants to play the “Oh, how would you feel…” card, go ahead.  I have zero problem with other races having activities from which outsiders like me are excluded.  I don’t mind even when they’re the majority.  I’ve said before that I agree with Catholics being excluded from the British crown.  I’ve said before that the group of immigrants that included my ancestors were a net negative for America.  If my group were to end up in the position of blacks in 1940s America, some things about that would bother me.  The majority having a sports league to themselves wouldn’t be one of them.

How could the Alt Right have misjudged Trump so badly?

Donald Trump.  What a depressing topic.  For something cheerier, see my meditations on death now on the Orthosphere.

That President Trump is reneging on his campaign promises is itself unremarkable.  Even those who disregarded my advice and voted for him knew that he might.  His Alternative Right advocates always acknowledged that he was an ideologically mixed bag, combining social liberalism and irrational hostility toward Iran with some sensible beliefs.  They just pointed out that someone who says crazy things half of the time is preferable to an establishment that says crazy things all of the time.  Many also acknowledged that he might be unable to deliver on his promises, that he might be obstructed by the permanent government.  I personally suspected that a President Trump might ultimately turn to foreign adventures after being defeated in his domestic agendas, a typical path for a Republican president.  Yet although I argued against voting for Trump, I am close enough to the Alternative Right that like them I did not expect him to impulsively launch hostilities with foreign powers in an irrational emotional fit so early in his presidency.  Who could have predicted such a thing?

Everyone outside of the Alternative Right, actually.  The liberals always said that Trump is temperamentally unfit to be president; the mainstream conservatives also have always said so.  Liberals were always worrying about Trump “pressing the button” because he’s crazy, and I always dismissed this because his campaign message was less bellicose than his rival’s.  We knew that Trump is inarticulate and that he has vast gaps in his knowledge, but did we take sufficient notice of his recklessness, with how easily he is manipulated by appeals to his sentiment and vanity?  Most of the discussion on our side of the Right with Trump’s character had to do with his lack of chastity, which historically has only a very loose correlation with leadership skills.  Even his detractors like me failed to weigh sufficiently his lack of character.

That we did so is understandable.  The media always says that people who disagree with liberals are crazy, hateful, emotionally unhinged, as well as stupid.  No matter how careful we are to be rational and dispassionate in our public engagements, the characterization of the hate-filled lunatic is always applied.  Criticisms of liberal beliefs are always “screeds”.  Dissidents are always “bigots”.  We have learned to discount character attacks coming from establishment sources like the media.  This is a blind spot for us.  There really are nuts and con men out there.

If something happens that no one expected, there’s nothing remarkable in the fact that we didn’t expect it either.  When something happens that everyone except us expected, that should prompt some serious self-evaluation.

On Evola’s “Revolt against the modern world”

Revolt against the Modern World
by Julius Evola

In this book, Evola reconstructs a picture of “traditional” man, contrasts it with modernity, and tells a story of how the latter displaced the former through much of the world.  For most authors, tradition refers to that which is handed down to us from previous generations, but Evola’s “tradition” is something different–essentially timeless, subject to only accidental variations between cultures, found not in our elders but in ancient texts, and even there only in fragmented or esoteric form.  One might call Evola a sort of Protestant traditionalist, seeking to sidestep centuries of corruption to recover the original Tradition of the North just as the Protestant wants to access Apostolic Christianity unmediated by Catholic tradition.  This would be unfair, though, to the Protestants.  Unlike the Arctic Aryan god-men of Evola’s imagination, at least Apostolic Christianity actually existed, and the Protestant imagination is somewhat grounded by an existing ancient text.  For Evola, most recorded traditions represent the original tradition in partially corrupted form, or their true meaning is accessible only to someone of his spiritual discernment, so he has free play to take anything he likes as part of the true, original tradition and to discard whatever he doesn’t like, no matter how well-attested across multiple cultures.

One sees this clearly in his treatment of religion.  Evola claims that the “original” Tradition had little of what we think of as religion:  belief in personal deities and efforts to establish relationship and gain favors from them.  The numinous was rather thought of as impersonal forces to be appropriated and manipulated by these superior men.  Evola’s claim is outlandish but unfalsifiable.  Confront him with pagan petitionary prayers or pagan mythologies detailing the exploits of personal gods, and he can always say that the people in question were already corrupted by an inferior, “lunal” tradition, or else that you are reading the evidence in a crude, exoteric way intended only for the rubes.  Given his view of religion, Evola naturally thinks theistically-oriented mysticism inferior to Buddhist mysticism, which he thinks comes closer to his masculine ideal of detachment and self-sufficiency.  (His feminine ideal is complete self-abnegation, leading him to embrace a warped sexual ethic that endorses oriental abominations such as the keeping of harems.)  In spite of Christianity, he thinks a superior form of mysticism secretly existed among some medieval chivalrous orders, citing confessions of anti-Christian practices among the Knights Templar while failing to mention that these confessions were obtained under torture.  Evola’s use of data when evaluating traditions for their “solar” (good) or “lunar” (bad) qualities seems entirely arbitrary.  Thus, that Christianity has the cult of a woman, Mary, is pronounced significant evidence of its fundamentally feminine, lunar nature; that the Christian God is considered male is pronounced unimportant; that the Germanic pagans Evola admires reversed the sexes of major gods from the normal (a sun goddess and moon god) is deemed unworthy of mention.  One strains to comprehend his enthusiasm for Islam, since a more uncompromisingly theistic and egalitarian religion would be hard to imagine.  One senses that Evola uses the citation of facts (each page does have lots of interesting historical and mythological data) not as a means to rationally convince but rather to intimidate.  Thus, he will cite a number of obscure and tangentially relevant facts before making extremely dubious generalizations about major religions–but who will dare to disagree with the author, when he’s clearly shown that he knows more than the reader?


Religion is only one of Evola’s subjects, but my focus on it is fair because his hatred of Christianity is clearly the organizing theme of the book.  Christianity teaches that God is distinct from his creation, and therefore that humility is a virtue and Evola’s “heroic” type of man is merely stupid in his vanity.  It teaches that kings are not divine, but rule only by delegation from God.  Here we come to what seems to be the real sore point.  Evola’s Northern/Solar tradition is based on the idea that rulers possess some sort of inherent divine quality, and that their authority is grounded in this personal spiritual superiority.  Old feuds live long in Italy, and Evola the Ghibelline will never forgive the popes for their stand against his sacred empire.  It would be a mistake to read this in modern terms and say that Evola is a partisan of “state” over “church”.  Evola is no fan of free cities, modern nation-states, or secularism.  As a partisan of empire with spiritualistic and universalist pretensions, he achieves a genuine and important insight–the connection between the spiritual supremacy of the Church and particularism in the temporal order.  His claim that the Church won its battle for supremacy will sound bizarre to students of early-modern Church-state relationships, but Evola is not interested in what prerogatives the kings of England or France may haver wrested away from the papacy; they are not the same sort of thing as the Holy Roman Emperor.

Evola posits that the solar tradition he extols was originally spread through the world by a particular people originating in the far north.  Naturally, the inferior peoples whom they subjugated were not living in a spiritual vacuum.  They had their own inferior (of course) spirituality opposed to that of the Northern conquerers in nearly every way:  feminine rather than masculine; egalitarian rather than caste-hierarchical; ruled by priests in the name of earth goddesses rather than by warrior kings embodying a sun god; inclined to pantheism or hedonism or theistic religious devotion rather than heroic self-striving.  Evola may seem to be conflating many distinct things that he doesn’t like, but the differences don’t interest him.  Of course, extant cultural artifacts such as Hesiod’s Theogony are already mixtures of the two traditions, so Evola has unlimited freedom to pick and choose as he pleases.

I am disturbed by the influence this man seems to be exercising over many in the reactionary and traditionalist Right.  His construction of Tradition is entirely antithetical to the tradition of the West, the pillars of which include an understanding of the absolute ontological gulf between God and His creation, the need for divine grace as opposed to the pretensions of spiritual “heroism”, the superiority of the Church over the temporal powers, the legitimate particularism of these temporal powers, and the grounding of authority in public role rather than personal qualities.