On being a racist

I’ve argued before that there’s no such thing–that is, no such natural kind–as racism, but as the word is commonly used, I am clearly a racist.  It took me a while to find my peace with this.

It was the babies that first made me aware of it.  I generally find white babies cuter than black babies.  For a long time, I was ashamed of this.  Oh, I knew the reason for it.  I grew up in a nearly all-white region of the midwest, so it’s natural that I would grow accustomed to this racial look. But I was still ashamed.  The poor, innocent babies!  Don’t they all deserve to be found equally adorable?  Shouldn’t I make an equal fuss over each of them?  Actually, I’ve never been around any black babies, so my biased responses haven’t affected them one way or another.  But still…

I also as a general rule find white women more attractive than black women, but I don’t recall feeling guilty about that.  Probably because I was always given the impression that women find our desire for them insulting.  If I thought I owed anyone an apology, it would have been attractive white women.  Besides, everyone knows that there’s no fairness in sexual attraction.

What should our attitude be toward visceral preferences of this sort?

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The future of amateur reactionaries in the Orthosphere

My impression is that the anti-liberal blogging community has changed dramatically in the past five years.  When I started Throne and Altar in 2009, it felt like I was adding a unique perspective just by explicitly adopting an authoritarian, continental counter-revolutionary position and trying to elaborate it systematically.  No doubt this was an illusion borne of my lack of knowledge of the others laboring in this field–although I really did try to seek them out.  However, even Mark Richardson, who has followed these things much longer than I have, said several times at Oz Conservative that there is a much larger online community (please excuse my using the phrase) willing to question liberalism at a fundamental level than there used to be.  Also, the two most important antiliberal online movements today, Neoreation and Integralist Catholicism, are both self-consciously young.  These two movements have profoundly affected the environment in which the Orthosphere works.

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Never appease the Left: the example of the ralliement of Leo XIII

I hate to criticize the mistakes of a basically good pope, but now that Roberto de Mattei has done the unpleasant work for me, I can recommend his essay and endorse his conclusion.

The Third Republic was conducting a violent campaign of de-Christianization, particularly in the scholastic field. For Leo XIII, the responsibility of  this anticlericalism lay with the monarchists who were fighting the Republic in the name of their Catholic faith. In this way they were provoking the hate of the republicans against Catholicism. In order to disarm the republicans, it was necessary to convince them that the Church was not adverse to the Republic, but only to secularism. And to convince them, he retained that there was no other way than to support the republican institutions.

In reality, the Third Republic was not an abstract republic, but the centralized Jacobin daughter of the French Revolution. Its program of secularization in France was not an accessory element, but the reason itself for the existence of the republican regime. The republicans were what they were because they were anti-Catholic. They hated the Church in the Monarchy, in the same way that the monarchists were anti-republican because they were Catholics who loved the Church in the Monarchy.

The encyclical Au milieu des solicitudes of 1891, through which Leo XIII launched the ralliement did not ask Catholics to become republicans, but the instructions from the Holy See to nuncios and bishops, coming from the Pontiff himself, interpreted his encyclical in this sense.

I’ve read in several books that Leo’s hope was that Catholics would working through republican forms vote the monarchy back in, but I’m not sure what this is based on.

As de Mattei shows, appeasing the Left had the same effect for the French Church that appeasing the Left always has.

Despite Leo XIII  and his Secretary of State Mariano Rampolla’s endeavor, this policy of dialogue was a sensational failure and unable to obtain the objectives it proposed. The Anti-Christian behavior  of the Third Republic increased in violence, until culminating in Loi concernant la Séparation des Eglises et de l’Etat on December 9th 1905, known as “the Combes law” which suppressed all financing and public recognition of the Church;  it considered religion merely in the private dimension and not in the social one;  it established that ecclesiastical goods be confiscated by the State, while buildings of worship were given over gratuitously to associations cultuelles” elected by the faithful, without Church approval.

de Mattei then speculates that it was the rise of a more combative pope that prevented the most draconian aspects of the separation from being fully implemented.  He concludes

The spirit of ralliement with the modern world has been around for more than a century, and the great temptation to which the Church is exposed to, is still [with us]. In this regard, a Pope of great doctrine such as Leo XIII made a grave error in pastoral strategy. The prophetic strength of St. Pius X is the opposite, in the intimate coherence of his pontificate between evangelical Truth and the life  of the Church in the modern world, between theory and praxis, between doctrine and pastoral care, with no yielding to the lures of modernity.

It’s always a mistake to think the Church should stand above arguments over whether the civilization she founded should be destroyed or preserved, i.e. that she should avoid being Left or Right.  The Church is a Rightist organization, obviously, because preserving the Christian principles of hierarchy and duty is the definition of the Right.  The Left never, ever reciprocates gestures of conciliation.  When it senses weakness, it strikes.  It’s painful to admit it, but this really should have been obvious even in 1891.

You can get some use out of that humanities/critical studies degree after all!

Via Radix:

In move that could be considered a STIHIE if it wasn’t so Onion-worthy and likely to backfire, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz (guess his ethnicity!) now wants his baristas to discuss race relations with customers.

Starbucks published a full page ad in the New York Times on Sunday — a stark, black, page with a tiny caption “Shall We Overcome?” in the middle, and the words “RaceTogether” with the company logo, on the bottom right. The ad, along with a similar one on Monday in USA Today, is part of an initiative launched this week by the coffee store chain to stimulate conversation and debate about the race in America by getting employees to engage with customers about the perennially hot button subject.

Beginning on Monday, Starbucks baristas will have the option as they serve customers to hand cups on which they’ve handwritten the words “Race Together” and start a discussion about race. This Friday, each copy of USA Today — which has a daily print circulation of almost 2 million and is a partner of Starbucks in this initiative — will have the first of a series of insert with information about race relations, including a variety of perspectives on race. Starbucks coffee shops will also stock the insert.

If you think this is a terrible business move and will only further alienate non-lefty Whites from his coffee brand, Schultz dismisses those concerns as nonsense.

Lots of people joke that people who study gender theory, race theory, and whatnot in college end up working as baristas while saddled with huge student debts.  This should be phrased more positively.  A degree in racial grievance prepares one to work at Starbucks!  Schultz has the most highly trained group of race hecklers he could want, an enormous untapped resource.  I am strangely but genuinely pleased that these hard-working baristas will finally get a chance to do a little bit of what they really love.  It will be awkward, though, for Starbucks employees who didn’t go to college or who got more practical degrees.  They don’t have the same training in demonizing whites, didn’t know it was going to be one of the expectations of the job, and are bound to feel a little inadequate.  Fortunately, I don’t think there are many such people with practical degrees or training working at Starbucks.

Why harass a large group of one’s customers?

  1. I suppose it’s barely possible that it makes business sense.  Perhaps it pleases the non-white and white Leftist customers enough for this to offset the lost business from whites who don’t want a lecture with their coffee.  Perhaps it makes employment at Starbucks more attractive, giving them an edge in hiring.  This sounds like a silly thing to worry about–there are lots of unemployed people who would be happy to work at Starbucks without the social justice enticement.  Then again, maybe there’s more competition for particular classes of service employees–attractive women in their early twenties, for instance.  Maybe there are lots of fellows who would like an opportunity to strike up a conversation with a cute waitress, and if the topic has to be race in America, that’s a price they’re willing to pay.  I doubt it, though.
  2. Shultz is a true believer, willing to sacrifice profit for ideology or animus.
  3. When you’re as rich as the CEO of a big company, pure selfishness leads you to care less about bigger profits than about social status, and you’re happy to pay for the second with the first (which comes out of the pockets of the shareholders anyway).  This is what I think most likely.  As soon as an individual or business reaches a modest level of success, further increases of profit bring less utility to decision-makers than enhanced social status from ostentatious displays of fidelity to progressivism.

The achievement of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm

It’s been two hundred years since the Grimm brothers published the first edition of their fairy tale collection, and Arts and Letters Daily has linked to a nice essay at Humanities by Jack Zipes on the topic.

Originally, the collection was not intended for children, but was a Herderian effort to capture the voice of the German Volk.

What compelled the Grimms to concentrate on old German epics, tales, and literature was a belief that the most natural and pure forms of culture—those which held the community together—were linguistic and based in history. According to them, modern literature, even though it might be remarkably rich, was artificial and thus could not express the genuine essence of Volk culture that emanated naturally from experience and bound the people together. Therefore, all their efforts went toward uncovering stories from the past.

In their preface, the Grimms explained their interest in the culture of the common people, and their intention in recording their tales: “It was perhaps just the right time to record these tales since those people who should be preserving them are becoming more and more scarce. . . . Wherever the tales still exist, they continue to live in such a way that nobody ponders whether they are good or bad, poetic or crude. People know them and love them because they have simply absorbed them in a habitual way. And they take pleasure in them without having any reason. This is exactly why the custom of storytelling is so marvelous.” In short, the Grimms’ first collection was shaped as an archaeological excavation and as a book for adults and for scholars. Their tales were not to be classified as children’s stories, not even today.

Later, they did realize their potential as childrens’ stories, and younger brother Wilhelm did much work in later editions to make them more appropriate.

In contrast to the final 1857 edition, most of the tales in the first edition are shorter and sparser. They have a rawness that was later to be refined. For example, “Rapunzel” is embellished a great deal in the final edition:

First Edition

Once upon a time there lived a husband and wife who had been wishing for a child for many years, but it had all been in vain. Finally, the woman became pregnant.

Now, in the back of their house the couple had a small window that overlooked a fairy’s garden filled with all kinds of flowers and herbs. But nobody ever dared to enter it.

Seventh Edition

Once upon a time there was a husband and wife who for quite some time had been wishing in vain for a child. Finally, the dear Lord gave the wife a sign of hope that their wish would be fulfilled. Now, in the back of their house the couple had a small window that overlooked a splendid garden filled with the most beautiful flowers and herbs. The garden, however, was surrounded by a high wall, and nobody dared enter it because it belonged to a sorceress, who was very powerful and feared by all.

Aside from adding a Christian motif and substituting a sorceress for a fairy, Wilhelm Grimm also concealed a later scene in the first edition when Rapunzel reveals that she apparently had sex with the prince and was impregnated by him. Other differences in the editions show: In the first, Snow White’s mother, not her stepmother, wants to kill the beautiful girl out of envy.

A first round of Disney-fication, one might call it.  By the way, from Rapunzel:

The prince climbed up, but above, instead of his beloved Rapunzel, he found the sorceress, who peered at him with poisonous and evil looks.

“Aha!” she cried scornfully. “You have come for your Mistress Darling, but that beautiful bird is no longer sitting in her nest, nor is she singing any more. The cat got her, and will scratch your eyes out as well. You have lost Rapunzel. You will never see her again.”

The prince was overcome with grief, and in his despair he threw himself from the tower. He escaped with his life, but the thorns into which he fell poked out his eyes. Blind, he wandered about in the forest, eating nothing but grass and roots, and doing nothing but weeping and wailing over the loss of his beloved wife. Thus he wandered about miserably for some years, finally happening into the wilderness where Rapunzel lived miserably with the twins that she had given birth to.

Given the twins, the implication of sex isn’t less clear than in the first edition to those who know the facts of life.  Referring to Rapunzel as the prince’s “wife” is a more effective bit of moral scrubbing.

The fairy tales the Grimms collected were not medieval children’s tales.  There’s a fun chapter in Nicholas Orme’s Medieval Children on medieval children’s literature, some of which has survived, and in spirit would not be out of place among the books for children written today.  The folk tales, on the other hand, were, as Zipes’ article puts it, “brusque, blunt, absurd, comical, and tragic, and are not, strictly speaking, ‘fairy tales.'”  That they are the work of an anonymous process of verbal transmission in itself doesn’t make them more than the rural equivalent of urban legends.  In fact, I suspect that the process of adjusting adult stories for a young audience has something to do with giving fairy tales their distinct quality.  The sex and cruelty are (mostly) put offstage, but the story still revolves around them, so that the stories seem both serious and ethereal–not of the world of childhood but of the adult world seen through a childlike lens.

The postmodern creed

There are many conflicting metanarratives, but only the metanarrative of oppression is the full and absolute truth, not only about history, but about science, art, and philosophy.  All other metanarratives are falsehood, illusion, prejudice, illusions to benefit the oppressor, not truths about things but claims imposed on them by violent ideologues; the metanarrative of oppression, and it alone, reveals the ding an sich.  The perspectives of oppressors and oppressed who do not acknowledge their oppression have no truth in them.  Such views are to be discredited and suppressed.  The purpose of education is to bring all men into the light of faith in the metanarrative of oppression.  Only thus enlightened is the soul free of false consciousness, that the holy spirit of critical thinking may dwell therein.

That anomalous moment: America in the counter-revolution and Vatican II

“The Fifties” (really 1945-1964) are remembered as a conservative time.  They weren’t, but there is something to the impression.  For most of its history, the United States has understood itself to be a liberal nation, a beacon of enlightenment and freedom surrounded by the “Old World” of ancient tyranny and superstition.  In 1945, America found her faced with a rival that was much more obviously revolutionary, one that had made an even more thorough repudiation of Europe’s Christian, monarchical past.  Quite against her preferences, America came to occupy what was effectively the counter-revolutionary position.  All the world’s progressive forces looked to the Soviet Union as their natural leader, while the remnants of hierarchy and religion had no choice but to embrace American protection, or at least American-allied Christian Democratic parties.

Such a novel situation required a rethinking of American identity, and “the Fifties” were, in terms of America’s self-conceptualization, the most intellectually creative time of the twentieth century.  From this era, we see many foundational works of the New Left, according to which the capitalist, America-led West was conceived as reactionary and oppressive, and also of what was then called the New Right, which re-imagined the Anglo-American world as heirs of Edmund Burke and the European counter-revolution.

America’s reactionary moment was an anomaly.  By the Reagan administration, the Republican half of America had chosen to present the country as the true revolutionary power, fighting for liberalism against Soviet tyranny.  The Democratic half of America didn’t buy this, of course, but now, deep into the Obama administration, they have largely reconciled themselves to seeing America as a force for good in a world of villainous European nativists and Russian homophobes.  Like in the Soviet Union before us, there no doubt remain reactionary elements that will have to be terrorized into submission, but it would take fantastic mental contortions to deny that the regime is pushing along the revolution.

Times have returned to the post-French Revolutionary normal.  Stuff written in 1850 seems more sensible to us than stuff written in 1950.  Only one institution has failed to return to type:  the Catholic Church.  At the Second Vatican Council, she locked itself into mid-century illusions about a pro-Christian version of liberalism, and she now finds herself controlled by a cadre of men who built their careers off of promoting those illusions and marginalizing those who weren’t taken in.

The more I think about it, the stronger the case seems for the hypothesis that Vatican II caused “the Sixties” (1964-1975).  Apologists continue to make excuses for the Council’s manifest failures, saying that everything would have worked out fine but for a hostile cultural upheaval that by complete coincidence overtook the Western world right as the Council began to be implemented.  Is it true that the Left mutated around 1965 into a much more virulent form?  I don’t see any evidence of that.  “The Fifties” were, I think, a more innovative time for the Left.  No doubt some of these innovations would take time to affect the masses, but most of them I’d say tended to make the Left’s appeal to normal people weaker.  Anti-Americanism and loss of interest in the working class especially were hardly winning moves.  No, what was really different about “the Sixties”, if you think about it, was that the Left was no longer getting any resistance.  By 1950, a large part of the resistance to the Left in the West was coming from the Catholic Church and Catholic lay groups.  I don’t think my Protestant readers will be offended if I say that it had to have been at least around half.  What happens when two armies are equally matched and half of the troops from one side desert is not a slight shift of power, but a rout.  The Left might have been weaker than in the Truman years, but the Right was far weaker than in the Pius XII years, because Catholics had now been told that they should be open to the world rather than loyal to the Truth.

Explanations of the Vatican II collapse often fail by denying what they are trying to explain.  They assume that any institution that collapsed so quickly couldn’t really have been strong before.  However, the evidence for Catholic strength–in Mass attendance, vocations, lay associations, missionary work, and a crop of martyrs that bear comparison to ancient Rome–is overwhelming.  Thus, criticisms of the pre-conciliar Church focus on unmeasurable assertions about peoples’ interior states.  For example, people were just “going through the motions”.  But how can the conciliar debacle be explained without at least a modernist conspiracy comprising the majority of the Council Fathers?  If we think our way back into that anomalous time, the mystery disappears.  American anti-communism.  Christian democracy.  Catholics, Protestants, and classical liberals as brothers in arms fighting the Red Menace.  In those days, liberal slogans like “democracy” sounded good to Catholic ears, because when we heard them, we registered them as “not communism”.  Surely, a bit of theological flexibility is warranted to cement such a beneficial alliance?  I know the Council documents don’t directly even mention communism, but it clearly framed the way those who voted on it understood all the things it does mention.

Was this a mistake?  Certainly.  We can now see plainly that America carries the same core of godlessness as the Soviet Union.  On the other hand, we needn’t impute ill will to the majority of the Fathers.  Remember, if it weren’t for the United States’ nuclear arsenal, there wouldn’t be any Christians in the world today.


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