ARTICLES & SHORT-ESSAYS
As of late, discussion of cosmopolitanism has been… quite cosmopolitan. Hardly a day has passed in the media without a mention. This is understandable, given that Covid-induced border closures have left many of us with a less vibrant (the euphemism most commonly employed to describe cosmopolitanism) and more parochial public square than we’ve been accustomed. Comparing the cosmopolitanism that has come to describe much of what is now the status quo with the homogeneity that defined our more distant past is now desirable, perhaps even inevitable. Yet it’s far from clear how cosmopolitanism will (nor it ever could) emerge victoriously.
As Aris Roussinos and Rob Henderson allude in their respective essays, liberal cosmopolitanism — an outlook that venerates the exotic and the different over the local and the common (a view in line with its Greek etymology) — has come to be the regnant ideology of most of the West. It’s the viewpoint favored and promoted by the upper tiers of society — often narrowly and exclusively for their own benefit — hence becoming the currently fashionable effect that has percolated down through society, emulated by large parts of the middle reaches as a means for their own social advancement.
Such is the situation Henderson illustrates; the dilemmas that confront many (Asian) immigrants as they navigate and ape many of the pieties of upper-class Western progressives in their push for social advancement and material progress. Whilst for Roussinos, Western cosmopolitanism may now be the reigning viewpoint, but its duration appears limited. It is a modish and shallow doctrine, prevailing mainly as a consequence of the US hegemony that enforces it, not due to any innate beneficence of its own. As he states, an alternative hegemon, e.g. China, would undoubtedly create their own — presumably non-cosmopolitan — doctrine, hierarchy and patronage.
Cosmopolitanism, after all, has not only become descriptive (we are, in demography and culture more diverse than ever) but prescriptive: ‘this is how things ought to be’, and anyone questioning the dogma deserving of the vituperation and ostracism that we see meted out to our current-day heretics on an almost daily basis.
The parlous state we found ourselves in is very much the same American historian and social critic Christopher Lasch predicted in the early 1990s, whereby the common and the local is denigrated, and the high and the foreign elevated. For Lasch, the citizenry of ‘Middle America’ is unfairly derided by the elites as “politically reactionary, repressive in its sexual morality, middlebrow in its tastes, smug and complacent, dull and dowdy” — whilst the cosmopolitanism partaken in by the upper classes is obviously lauded, “conjuring up the agreeable image of a global bazaar in which exotic cuisines, exotic styles of dress, exotic dress, [and] exotic tribal customs” can, and should, be experienced. This “tourist’s view of the world” has become boringly mainstream.
But that such a putatively benign doctrine is unable to exist without (the threat of) abuse and ostracism, is itself a rather large concern, drawing attention to its ultimate viability. What must be drawn enough attention to is the failure of cosmopolitanism as an ideology per se.
As another tragic event in France has confirmed, our deluded emphasis on liberal cosmopolitanism is the direct cause of most of the maladies that currently confront us. (And, has there been a more tragic case than France? — the nation that most strongly believed that secular ideology and citizenship could trump natural rights and norms?) No cosmopolitanism-no problem is far too simplistic. But it’s hard to argue that without it we’d still have most of the issues roiling us today.
For one, the nations that are currently busying themselves in toppling their own statues and icons, tearing at their own social compact and themselves apart, tend also to be the ones that are most broadly liberal cosmopolitan. Whilst there has always been tension and conflict in countries – be it largely religious (e.g. Ireland’s Catholics and Protestants), colonial (e.g. the US revolution) or class-based (e.g. the French revolution) — it’s clear that this year’s ‘events’ have been either directly caused, or at minimum intensified by, its societies’ increasingly cosmopolitan nature.
If we compare the liberal and diverse nations of the West and the more traditional and homogenous nations of the East we arrive at the same conclusion. On a deeper level, this exposes the often-proffered lie that we all live in universally turbulent and fractured times. This isn’t true. Yes, the liberal cosmopolitan West lives in fractured times, but most of Asia, and many parts of the rest of the world, carry on as per normal — mostly maintaining its (relative) degree of harmony.
This is what allows leaders of the non-cosmopolitan parts of the West to fire back at their Western confreres in our, possibly undeclared, internecine tensions. The most prominent of these critics is probably Hungary’s leader Victor Orban — himself a relative model of permanence in our ostensibly unstable times. His piercing and damning critiques of Western liberal cosmopolitanism render further criticism as largely futile. For Orban, Western cosmopolitanism is a destructive and failed ideology, imported across the world and imposed on peoples against their will and interests. As he states:
“Liberal imperialism reigns in Western Europe, and they [the liberal political and commercial establishment] are trying to force their worldview on countries that think differently. A position that nations wishing to retain their sovereignty should well resist. If not, then a situation akin to the one currently confronting the nations of liberal and cosmopolitan Western Europe awaits — that is, one where [a] wave of violence is sweeping through these countries, [with] statues… being toppled, and gang wars being fought in the streets of the beautiful small towns.”
Orban’s reaction to such events, whereby our putative superiors lecture us as they throw more and more stones from within their own glasshouses, is one now echoed by us all:
“I take a look at the countries which keep sending us messages about how to live our lives correctly, and how to govern and to operate a democracy well,” he says, “and I don’t know whether I should laugh or cry.”
Moving further East, cosmopolitanism is neither more prevalent nor venerated. In fact, the opposite is largely the case. The lengths that Henderson mentions some Asian immigrants are willing to go to in order to ingratiate themselves with Western cosmopolitan norms are amusing, given how anathema and non-reciprocal such a stance is in Asia itself. For one, the idea that East Asian universities would open their tertiary programs (especially high-tech programs of potential national import) to large numbers of foreign students — à la the West — is absurd. Western cosmopolitanism is undoubtedly flawed, but at least a veneer of its possible success remains evident (see Rishi Sunak in the UK, for example). Yet the doctrine of cosmopolitanism is so rare in Asia as to be essentially a chimera. Even to raise such a prospect would be met with howls of laughter, if not outright contempt.
Consider this: the safe and prosperous nations of Japan and South Korea — home to some of the best-educated and longest-living peoples in the world — are still some of the most ethnically homogenous and exclusive nations on the planet. But contra the cosmopolitans is largely the reason for their stability and success; not an achievement that occurred in spite of it. In China, at the same time — a much larger country — any attempt to amplify the natural cosmopolitanism and difference that must occur across a land of such a size is either discouraged (to put it mildly) or violently quashed, as we are now seeing with the treatment of the Muslim Uighurs in Xin Jiang province in the West of China, and (to a lesser extent) with their Tibetan and Mongolian minorities.
In Asia, the veneration of diversity as a value holds little weight. Such a thing is more readily seen as the destabilizing phenomenon that it often is. It’s an incoherent pose inconsistent with the far more important values of social cohesion, and assimilation into the broader cultural norms. This is itself a reflection of the differences between the Eastern approach to life — which values harmony and group solidarity — over the Western one, which deifies liberty and elevates individualism. Such often leads to a state of unbridled licentiousness that is frequently indistinguishable from disorder and chaos. Orban isn’t the only leader to look at the fractured state of the West and don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
In Asia, the only real liberal cosmopolitan success story, Singapore, is such precisely because it’s not that ‘liberal’ — nor entirely cosmopolitan. The tempering of both was seen as a necessity for social harmony and success by its founder, Lee Kwan Yew. Lee was well aware of the natural tendency for fracture in cosmopolitan communities and thus set about using the power of the state to overcome this. Largely-benevolent diktats were introduced as a means to ensure the cohesion necessary for the country’s further economic and educational success: housing quotas were used as a means to override natural ethnocentrism (the presence of slums or enclaves was deemed too great); whilst a rigorous education system and strict laws were enacted — like the famous chewing gum prohibition, or the exorbitant anti-littering fines, or the treatment meted out for drug offenses. Lee was also far from sanguine about any presumed natural equality between people and peoples, nor for lauding such differences per se: difference isn’t to be celebrated, excellence is. And, in spite of the easy praise of Singapore as a ‘cosmopolitan paradise’, the island is still largely dominated by the Chinese majority, and the current long-serving prime minister is none other than Lee’s son, Lee Hsien Loong.
Henderson further refers to data from the American writer Amy Chua in her book World on Fire, regarding the disproportionate success of a small demographic minority of Korean-Americans in their ownership of a majority of supermarkets and produce stands in New York City. Yet, its main function and other similar examples in Chua’s book are like a cautionary tale. The book’s purpose is to explain the fragile state that ‘market-dominant’ ethnic and religious minorities find themselves in as they become greatly despised, shunned, and often violently persecuted by the ethnic and religious majorities; a situation experienced by Chua herself with the murder of her wealthy ethnically-Chinese aunt by one of her native Filipino employees. World on Fire‘s key theme is the utter failure of capitalist cosmopolitanism in protecting minorities from the wrath and envy of majorities. In such situations, capitalist cosmopolitanism is largely incapable of ameliorating or overcoming natural tensions and hatreds, although it can often heighten and hasten them.
From a literary and philosophical perspective, cosmopolitanism is hardly afforded any more esteem. Two works of Shakespeare himself have as one of their major themes the problems inherent in cosmopolitanism. His plays Othello and The Merchant of Venice are, inter alia, nothing more than an explicit rejection of cosmopolitanism. They show what we’re experiencing: that despite the lure and promise of universal prosperity and brotherhood promoted in that great cosmopolitan commercial republic of the time, Venice, the financial gain is no match for two of the other great forces in men’s souls: race and religion.
The tragic lesson in Othello is that — despite the possession of a local wife, Desdemona, and of military valor and success for his adopted city — Othello’s foreignness (he is a Moorish general) remains as the unassailable obstacle that precludes him from obtaining ultimate respect and stability within the Venetian community. A lesson that we are meant to take as one not only applicable to Venice, but one that endures in all times and places. The Merchant of Venice, essentially, teaches the same lesson of ultimate rejection, yet on the religious plane. Shylock, the Jewish moneylender, can’t ultimately be harmoniously integrated into the political community because of the unbridgeable metaphysical differences between him and the people of Christian Venice. He can’t possibly bring himself to believe what the city believes, and vice-versa. Thus, Shylock’s appeal away from religion and culture to one based on our common humanity, famously manifests in his ‘hath not a Jew eyes’ speech.
Both these works show us the problems inherent in the cosmopolitan project as such — as well understood by the American philosopher Allan Bloom in his book Shakespeare’s Politics where, echoing Bard’s pessimism on this issue, he states:
“Men can only be men together when they mutually recognize their sameness; otherwise they are like beings of different species to each other… neither can regard the other as a human being in any significant sense because in all that is human they differ.”
The reason for the failure of cosmopolitanism is deeply profound, grounded in our ultimately ethnocentric and tribal natures (a point also noted by Chua in her book, Political Tribes). This is how Bloom, in The Closing of the American Mind, is able to say that a very great narrowness is not incompatible with the health of an individual or a people. As contrarily — as our current situation confirms — that a great openness brings about a circumstance where it’s hard to avoid decomposition.
Bloom’s view was no doubt informed by his famous teacher, Leo Strauss, who had similar anti-globalist sentiments. For Strauss, as he says: “the society by nature is the closed society.” A position advanced in direct contrast to the post-war zeitgeist, and that of another famous, 20th Century German-speaking émigré philosopher, Karl Popper. The latter’s most famous work, The Open Society and Its Enemies has both lent its name to one of the most famous and maligned proponents of cosmopolitanism now operating, George Soros, and his Open Society; and encapsulated the prevailing spirit of our own time too — i.e. cosmopolitan openness.
Cosmopolitanism fails elsewhere. As the recent Covid crisis has illuminated, the presence in certain countries and climes of large numbers of peoples more naturally suited to other — hotter, more tropical — ones is an obvious and evident failure, such as in countries like Sweden where it has taken a toll on immigrant communities. But it’s a narrative that runs counter to our current cosmopolitan obsession, and so it must be ignored, obfuscated, or rendered verboten. It’s easier to just avoid such difficult questions, and relegate the blame to other factors — such as social and economic circumstances.
Our current indulgence of cosmopolitanism can’t endure. It’s ultimately a facile and feel-good doctrine employed by the elites in direct contradistinction to the wishes of the majority. It’s a point of view and state of mind that contains too many inconsistencies, and that causes too much damage. Ultimately, it’s anti-natural. It can’t endure: what can’t go on, won’t go on. And cosmopolitanism won’t. What we must work towards is a program that peacefully moves us away from this failed doctrine. Only this can ultimately return us to a healthy cosmos of distinct polities — the only real cosmopolitanism worth applauding.
Ryan Anderson is a teacher, traveler, and essayist based in Melbourne, Australia. Follow him on, Twitter.
IM—1776 is a new online magazine of philosophy, cultural, and sociopolitical analysis. Learn more about our mission, here. If you find what we do valuable, please consider making a donation.
Ever since Hillary Clinton invoked the specter of a “hardline, right-wing nationalist… racist ideology… known as the alt-right” in a speech in Reno in 2016 on her way to defeat in the US election, the global Left has never ceased warning about a terrifying global resurgence of Nazism, as evidenced by Trump in particular, Brexit, nationalist conservative governments in Eastern Europe and Brazil, a London contemporary art gallery, various terrorist incidents (but not others) and the continued existence of transgressively non-leftist content on platforms like 4chan and Twitter.
To be sure, in noted contrast to the dramatically narrowing range of acceptable discourse and expression in academia, the media and art schools, in the badlands of cyberspace, one can still find very easily, in forums and message boards populated by anonymous users, outrageous assertions and abominable credos long since expelled from polite society: unabashed racism, sexism, antisemitism, etc.
On balance, not much of this is particularly shocking; not to anyone who has spent some time speaking to people from outside the global liberal metropoles, or unconnected to the king rat of the Left. But whether cynically, or helplessly, humiliated by Brexit and Trump’s 2016 victory, and marching to an intensifying corporate media drumbeat of violently unbalanced and extremist anti-fascist rhetoric, the last four years has consisted of a virtual crusade against this material and anybody even glancingly connected to it, on the basis of the assumption that hyperbolic statements on anonymous message boards must be treated as unambiguous declarations of extremist allegiance, and oblivious to the complexity of rhetorical posturing, pathos, and irony inherent in the logic of a medium that, for all its everyday ubiquity, still remains extremely poorly understood.
And a similar point could also be made with respect to the contemporary virtual culture of ‘Anti-fascist’ identity, and other forms of extreme left identification. To be sure, the virtual far left is now heavily promoted by the corporate media, mainstream politicians and big tech companies, as well as international foundations — whereas the virtual far-right is systematically repressed. Yet in another sense, these two polarities are not distinct but feed upon each other.
Whatever dimension of ‘Nazism’ (or ‘Communism’) exists on the internet, it has no self-evident political relationship to the mass movements which took power in Germany in the 1930s, or in Russia fifteen years earlier. As with any reenactment, what is being referred to in the first place are historical symbols, rather than historical events. Nor is it obvious that anybody deploying Nazi or Soviet symbols necessarily has much interest in or knowledge of the historical originals. The identification occurs instead after the end of history — if not yet after the orgy, which still continues to joylessly grind on, through identification with symbols and the shocking and transgressive values attached to them.
Hitler, of course, is today a secular version of the Devil; Che Guevara is a kind of Cherubic psycho; Lenin a version of Saint Paul. From this perspective, one can arguably identify a clearer link here to the Satanic panic which spread across the United States and to the wider world in the ’90s than to the political violence and destruction which produced the death camps, and Soviet mass murder across Russia and Ukraine. Hence the usefulness of the modifier ‘anime’ to acknowledge both the use of anime avatars by aspects of the online anonymous far-right and to recognize the crystal lake of distance separating the signifier of online Nazism from the historical referent.
As should be evident to everyone, there is no dangerous neo-Nazi mass movement active in any region of the world (with the partial exception, perhaps, of some parts of Ukraine). What may exist, are terror groups inspired by the iconography of some form of Nazism. But the connection between iconography and terror is not a simple matter. Narratives and symbols are not sigils, and don’t activate mass shooters like remote-controlled assassins. What drove Connor Betts, for instance, to commit a mass shooting at a Trump-supporting bar in Dayton in 2019 was not just the violent Antifascist propaganda, but the psychological condition which led him to addictively consume it in the first place. The spirit behind the ideology is paramount, and from the perspective of this spirit, the specific content of the symbols probably doesn’t matter all that much, as historically evidenced, for example, by the Reds and Browns who fought each in the streets of 1930’s Germany, whose many members rotated back and forth between the rival sides. What mattered was not the ideology, but the opportunity for violence.
A contemporary political dynamic of ‘radicalization’ driven purely by narratives or symbols, as opposed to a growing consciousness of the effects of real phenomena, also remains improbable. Behind Renaud Camus’ “great replacement” idea, for instance, are real demographic trends and their respective effects, such as the “battle of the eyes” described by Christophe Guilluy and now fought in the lobbies of French apartment buildings every day, whereas Christopher Caldwell puts it, “one person or the other—the ethnic Frenchman or the immigrant’s son — will drop his gaze to the floor first.” The idea that a mass shooting could be triggered by the theories of a writer (who has never called for violence) rather than a deranged reaction to the actual social situation is highly questionable.
Similarly, it is hard to believe a contemporary rise in consciousness of ‘white’ identity has no connection to the ascendancy of an ‘anti-racist’ movement vocally insisting that all white people are racist monopolizers of illegitimate white privilege, but is rather the ex nihilo creation of resentment-fueled white racists. Individuals who would otherwise have not identified themselves as white are pushed into accepting this identity by a hostile external gaze, now normalized within a legal and political environment in which anodyne statements “It’s Okay To Be White” or “All Lives Matter” are designated forms of hate speech and anyone repeating them are subjected to real persecution.
Echoing the creation of a “black” race from the identities of different African tribes by the seventeenth century Code Noir, if not also the crystallization of a new Jewish identity as a consequence of Nazi antisemitism in the thirties against a previously divided population (as Arendt eerily points out, the immediate reaction was one of disaffiliation as different groups of German Jews attempted to distance themselves from their Jewish identity, while for their part European Jews distanced themselves from their German cousins) a new white identity is now being formed through the increasing institutional promotion and enforcement of a mode of racialist thinking sanctioning discrimination, and, on the other hand, through the logic of its disavowal — creating cognitive dissonance, confusion, humiliation and guilt.
This situation generates both a feeling of impotence and one of inchoate hatred, with these feelings now channeled into fantasies of power and transgression on the safe space of the internet. This rebellion takes place on the level of the signifier, and follows similar gestures in the sixties with the RAF in Germany adopting the name of the enemy air power which had firebombed German cities, the use of swastikas in late seventies British punk by Sid Vicious and Siouxsie Sioux and others, and the swirling Nazi iconography in the dissident counterculture in the last days of the USSR, where the anti-establishment underground appropriated Nazi signifiers to signify dissent.
Today, given the existence of a multitude of far-left extra-judicial secret police organizations, these images are genuinely dangerous, and on this basis offer a transgression frisson on a level that has nothing to do with Nazism exactly, except to the extent that Nazism means something rebellious today, and signifies rejection of a liberal establishment virtually. Naturally one can deplore this historical indifference to the brutality of the National Socialist regime. But condemnation is not understanding and solves nothing.
The willing imaginary embrace of pariah status corresponds to an existing feeling of alienation. What is primarily being expressed is the reality of a post-modern situation in which all symbols have been flattened and turned into the more or less empty signifiers of competitive identity, in strange and uncertain relationship to one another. In this nihilistic vortex, individuals cut loose from meaningful existential projects, now find themselves searching for identity and meaning in the shape of powerful symbols. The same dynamic is mirrored on the rival side of the political equation, offering the self-flattering and dramatic role of ‘fighting Nazis’. Hence one encounters a kind of co-production between Anime Nazis and Anime Nazi hunters, reenacting a conflict in virtual space which has no real relation to anything, yet which is nonetheless having real effects: namely an increasing atmosphere of stifling intellectual conformity, unreality, and paranoia.
Both the virtual far-right and far-left share the same desire to leverage Nazi signifiers to establish a connection to a ‘real’ history that now, after the End of History and its apotheosis, is a myth — if not a secular religion. For the Anime Nazis, drawn in general from the downwardly mobile lower-middle-class — the major losers of neoliberal globalization — the imagery of the Third Reich, combined with its transgressive status, appears to embody a virile and unapologetic white identity, despite the reality of German failure, in stark contrast with the humiliated contemporary version. For the Nazi hunters, the virtual Nazi presence supplies the fantasy of nobility in defending an increasingly corrupt and villainous contemporary political regime, in the form of surrogate revenge on the murderous Nazi regime, as experienced through movies, as well as a repetition of the disastrous Communist solution to the post-traditional question of secular Jewish identity.
Here as well the frequent recurrence of the oscillation between Jewish and white identity, whereby some social media account self-righteously proposes to lecture ‘fellow white people’ on their various transgressions at one moment, and in the next breath exonerate themselves from criticism on the grounds that they are themselves Jewish, a habit which enrages the Anime Nazis as indicating deception or hypocrisy, could be more charitably interpreted as testifying to a real crisis of identity, between these confused and overlapping categories of racial and so-called cultural identity, as well as an instinctive but indistinct recognition of the terrible power of the accelerating scapegoat mechanism, today centered on whites, and which some whites would wish to shift back onto the Jews — like Tiresias and Oedipus arguing in plague-struck Thebes at the beginning of Oedipus Rex.
Revenge, and specifically, imaginary revenge, is a motive on both sides of this complex and intersected structure. On the one hand, the post-modern implosion of meaning in general, and on the other, the phenomenon of a besieged, scapegoated identity seeking compensatory support from a transgressive identity tied-up in the limits of the current secular religiosity and therefore at the same time serving as the horizon of its principle of reality. This is not simply a social game, but a real block on contemporary political imagination. What is happening on social media represents a symptomatic expression of a shattered metaphysical faculty tied to an unstable, unraveling, post-war religiosity.
The tighter that the screw is screwed, the more the screw is also stripped. The extreme social consequences increasingly associated in our culture with the actions of anonymous low-status internet users reproducing politically transgressive speech are not because anybody seriously believes that anon message board users are truly close to political power, but due to an intuition of the degree to which events in general now are escaping from understanding and control. Cyberspace, fantastically imagined as a wild zone of speech, symbolizes and exemplifies a loss of power and simultaneously encourages a flailing desire to reassert control by means of superstitious rituals directed from and towards familiar symbols.
From the perspective of the professional-managerial Left, It is easier to punch a Nazi or scapegoat incels — these inhuman voodoo dolls of social action, than to seriously reflect on the structural causes of American (and European) economic and political decline, a thought that implicates the entire governing class, including everyone’s immediate superior. Nor is there even still language available for staging this kind of critique, as one confronts poverty of discourse for addressing them, thanks to the constraints and distortions which have increasingly come to define the acceptable limits of speech, and more deeply, to the historical collapse in the general levels of symbolic literacy whose causes now stretch back at least a century — if not even longer.
Until both these issues are decisively confronted, social and political reality will continue to degrade. Our problems cannot be solved by repression, but only with the reconstruction of the principles of historical, critical, political, and intellectual thought — beginning with a more realistic and less superstitious conception of the legacy of the twentieth century. So long as a general understanding of the scapegoat mechanism remains buried underneath the bodies of one of the greatest crimes in history, society runs a real risk of repeating a version of this crime.
Daniel Miller is a writer and Surrealist. In 2017 he protested against the Antifa outside the London gallery LD50. He’s the author of “Dracula Rules the World and Mark Zuckerberg is His Son”.
IM—1776 is a new online magazine of philosophy, cultural, and sociopolitical analysis. Learn more about our mission, here. If you find what we do valuable, please consider making a donation.
This is part of a multi-part series on “Governance in a Time Between Worlds”. Read: part I, part II.
Part III: Redrawing the Divisions of Governance
Today we stand in a “time between worlds.” We had once thought that the path toward liberation was to be blazed in liberation from governance. And yet the values which we have called ‘liberal’ no longer move our soul. No doubt, we have inherited an infrastructure in which each man is judged equal to another — each subordinate before the law. Yet, the economy of governance-as-law is an economy of violence. Legislation, patrol, surveillance, and punishment. This is an economy of the domestication of the human-animal. Today, standing here in this moment of our journey we have been made painfully aware of the deficiency. The state is a function devoid of inspiration; hope; communion. The state cannot produce a people who are able to move beyond the law, into freedom. The state is not invested toward the ideal of a nation.
No doubt, this moment has been provoked, in part, by the liberal economic policy of the late second millennium. Through a liberation of an ‘open market’ the state had become a mere auxiliary to the market. The state had devolved further “from a protective function to a function of destruction of its own civil society.” A destruction “not in the ‘totalitarian’ form, but in the ‘utilitarian’ form, which is hardly less violent.” And although these passages have been reproduced here by way of Etienne Balibar’s essay Our European Incapacity, it is no less true for the US state subjected to federal structure in service to market demands. Having been delivered over to the value creation of the market, one which has equally become weaponized in the economy of violence, there can be no doubt that governance-as-law can no longer satisfy the creative human spirit. We should not be surprised to find that a spirit for economic conservation has manifested on both sides of liberalism’s left/right political divide. Whether it be found in Donald Trump’s ‘protectionism’ or Bernie Sander’s ‘socialism’, across the board the future of conservatism belongs to a nationalization of human economy. And yet having announced ‘nationalization’ we feel a movement of the soul. An atomic resonance. The liminal ‘today’ of our moment is marked by the presence of a vision. This vision promises a reunion of that which was separated very early in the story of liberal governance — a separation of church and state — or more precisely, between belief and action. This vision promises a redemption of that primordial harmony with nature. A reunion by way of a marriage between the civic and state spheres. With this promise we turn toward a perhaps unlikely source for such a reunion within the United States.
Roughly ten years ago southern Europe gave rise to several grassroots urban-based civic projects defined by a returning socialist ideology from the nineteenth century, ‘municipalism’. By way of urban renewal projects, the municipalist movements manifested something of a prefigurative approach to politics — an approach that is not ‘pre’ in the developmental sense, but which is a constant pre-configuration. As the ‘figuration’ which it takes is secondary. The promise of a prefigurative approach is a political activity beyond liberalism’s ‘battle of selfishness’. Such a prefigurative politics is a stage for the self-authoring creative human spirit from out of the ruins of liberalism’s epistemological warfare—beyond the weaponizing of identity. The liberals vs the conservatives. Feminists. BLM. In an interview from 2016, Luigi De Magistris, Mayor of Naples had remarked that these new municipalist movements offer, “an absolute novelty in the institutional and political panorama: that between civil society, social movements and local institutions there exists a relation under construction”. This ‘relation under construction’ proved these municipalist movements beyond the civic sphere. They came to successfully contested local elections. However, activists within these movements realized that local elections do not have to be a way to seize an escalating power (such as we read throughout the story of modernization) but instead, can be used for establishing foundation for a new type of human economy. Municipalism offers, “the possibility of constructing a new kind of power in society which is precisely in the hands of ordinary people.” A “local governance, which allows for proximity” and “allows us to project our experience on another scale” — passages repeated here by way of an anonymous representative of Argentina’s Ciudad Futura.
Of course, we can also be critical of such a program for political action. While municipalism offers a novel venue beyond state and federal infrastructure, we should also be critical to a continued celebration of the city as a flagship venue of human economy. Such a celebration harbors residue from unipolarity, namely, a spirit of commerce and cosmopolitanism — from New York, to London, Paris, and Tokyo. A spirit that has exacerbated the contention between the city and rural provincial communities. No doubt, this contention is at odds with the promise of municipalism as a prefigurative political activity. If we return to British economist E. F. Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful we recall the announcement of a “becoming existence” — one which is characterized by a work which “gives a man a chance to utilise and develop his faculties” and “enables man to overcome his egocentredness by joining with other people in a common task.” Schumacher himself acknowledged that for such a prefigurative economy “there is need for a ‘cultural structure’ just as there is need for an ‘economic structure’.” “Each region, ideally speaking, requires some sort of inner cohesion” with a capital city serving as a center. His program for a nationalization of economy was equally a regionalization — one in which the metropolitan center did not function as a canvas for the global ‘international’ identity. Instead, this center represented the cultural-economic region. If something resembling municipalist political activity could bring anything novel to the United States, then it would climax in a regionalization which would overcome the contention between ‘the blue states’ and ‘the red states’.
Today, the icons of twentieth-century giantism have come into question. The very icons of patriotism are an embodiment of totalitarianism, imperialism. The Stars and the Stripes. The very shape of our country — from the north western Washington border to the Florida peninsula. Even the Capitol Building; the White House. These icons call towards the wars of liberalism. Of course, pictures of a fractured United States are often painted with strokes of fear, anger, or exhaustion — from out of moments of forfeit. These pictures are not only used to pander to the spirit of conservatism, but equally those resonating with left narratives. However, what is strikingly absent from either is an ownership of such fracturing. What is lacking is a map for future governance beyond liberalism’s battlefield. Following Schumacher, we can imagine an investment into civil engineering programs which are themselves an embodiment of ‘national’ cultivation. These formations would not merely construct the material infrastructure—the bridges, the streets, or power plants—but also manifests the aesthetic expression of this cultivation. That which we find in art, literature, and philosophy. We imagine these civil engineering formations not estranged from the people, but themselves “we, the people.”
Presented with such a fantasy, we conclude this series with a platform directed to the highest administration in the country. Of course, presenting this platform should not be considered a self-subjection to the slavish and democratically weaker outlet for the conservative spirit — authoritarianism. Such a platform can be taken up by the self-authoring individual as a guide for democratic activity beyond the mere ballot. This platform involves a regionalization of governance, including a transition within the executive branch of federal governance, from military to regional civil works. In fact, we have inherited a structure for such transition. The United States Army Corp of Engineers offers a regionalized infrastructure for flexing military to civil resources. No doubt, a map is a guide. Through such a guide we encounter a temporal-spatial manifold. The manifold presents a landscape. And within this landscape, we discover a realm of possible activity. The mechanical and social hierarchy of the world announces itself. We are pulled through the possibilities within. A map is not merely for those traversing geological terrain. A map captures — captivates us. A map moves the human soul. The Corp of Engineers maps offers such an exercise for the human soul. We should not be afraid of subjecting ourselves to such power.
To compliment such a transition of federal governance, our platform should equally champion for block grants in order to build-up local infrastructure, with a longer horizon to nationalize public services under local administration. In short, this platform seeks a de-federalization of the legislative and judicial power and a transformation of the executive branch. It should be noted that the executive branch of federal governance is the only branch which preserves that primordial communion between belief and action. It is the only branch that preserves an investment toward the ideal of a nation. We should not be too quick to forfeit this function.
Today, we’re standing here in this “time between worlds.” Behind us we find a succession of time, and ahead of us an unimaginable amount. Here at this moment, we stand beside the vision of a reunion of state and civil society. The vision calls after those who are humbled before it — in order to understand its promises. We can only hope that in this moment of our journey we stand beside social reformers who understand the promises of this vision. Those who can embody those promises — those who have the capacity for such embodiment. That we ourselves may be those social reformers.
Justin Carmien is a lecturer on philosophy at Spinderihallerne, Vejle, Denmark. He teaches philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, metaphysics, and political metamodernism. Check out his portfolio, here.
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“Meanwhile go on dancing, drunker and drunker.
‘Shagadam magadam – Darkmotherscream.’
Don’t forget – Rome fell
not having grasped the phrase: Darkmotherscream.”
— Andrei Voznesensky
#MeToo & the Significance of ‘Medusa with the Head of Perseus’
In modern fairytales, it seems that the monster gets to finally sleep with the princess. And while a story like Beauty and the Beast may quickly flash by the reader’s mind, let us remind him that in its French original of 1740, the Beast was actually a prince, transformed into a hideous monster by a jealous witch, and finally rescued by his Beauty, the courageous hero of this romantic tale. But in recent years, monsters are given the chance to follow some ‘new-Age’ advice, and just “be themselves!” Shrek, the giant green ogre whose toxic gas emissions are enough to kill swamp-fish inside his little mud-pond (which he then proceeds to eat) appears to have this ‘certain something,’ enough for a princess to fall in love, while her ‘prince’ is presented as an obnoxious, power-hungry midget-pretender to the throne. But the biggest surprise in this animated film comes at the very end, as instead of the monster being turned into a man, it’s the princess who is given back her ‘true form’ in the shape of an ogre: a monster that, according to the story, she always was. In yet another and more recent example, Guillermo del Toro’s live-action film The Shape of Water, monster-love is taken to another level of realism, while, following the erotic scene of the protagonist with her barely-human amphibian lover, we are finally presented a closing that is all-revealing about the true nature of this strange phenomenon: the emergence of a new god, one who’s been suppressed for thousands of years since the male-oriented warrior culture of the Indo-Europeans conquered the Continent.
But nothing perhaps is more telling than a new statue now placed across the street from the Manhattan Supreme Court. Much like the films cited above, the sculpture is based on the inversion of classical myth, as the snake-tressed gorgon, Medusa, is presented holding the severed head of Perseus, the male hero who in Greek legend had killed her. The artwork, an obvious reference to Benvenuto Cellini’s masterpiece — where the original version of the myth was retained — was created by Argentine-Italian sculptor Luciano Garbati, whose imagination never ventured further than naming it: Medusa With The Head of Perseus. Following the obvious nature of its title, the site where this new sculpture is placed leaves no room for metaphor either. Because this marble tribute to gender violence — that was originally created back in 2008, and slowly gained momentum online in the wake of the #MeToo movement — was erected across the Court where none other than Harvey Weinstein stood for trial. Taken by itself, the artwork is nothing but a statement of victory, and just a victory at that. But seen together with films like the Shape of Water, and like the minor tremors that signify a coming earth-quake, changes like these cannot but signify some major shifts in our collective unconscious. With the erection of this statue, the reference to an emerging god (that was only implied in del Toro’s Oscar-winning film) becomes explicit, as Medusa, an actual daemon from ancient Greek mythology, is now made victorious against the male (Apolonian) hero, Perseus.
But who was Medusa, and what does she has to do with modern culture?
For starters, Medusa was not alone but a part of a much larger set of chthonic symbols found scattered across Greek mythology — symbols that betray a certain syncretism that happened just when classical Greece was coming to life, and out of two distinct cultures: the Indo-European warrior culture that came forth out of the Eurasian steps around the 2nd millennium BC, and another, more ancient, centered around the rites of the cultivated earth, standing in contra-distinction to the ascending ‘solar’ ways of these nomad warriors. A world of a Great Mother Goddess that represented the eternal fertility of the earth, whose sacred animals were Bull and Snake, while the blood of a young sacrificial (male) victim flowed downwards in great yearly festivals to renew the earth’s fertility. In Greece, such a culture was represented by the Minoans of Crete, unearthed during the summer of 1900 by one Sir Arthur Evans, who quickly saw in his new discovery a peaceful world of feminine mystique, one that had flourished almost 2,000 years before the Parthenon was built on the hills of Athens. Finding no weapons, Evans concluded that his Minoans waged no physical wars: their dominance achieved through a complex of peace treaties that spread their influence as far as modern Spain. Yet, the Greeks who succeeded them at the dawn of their history told a different story: that of a subterranean monster, the Minotaur, half-bull and half-man, who devoured young men sent as tribute from Athens, a vassal state to the ruthless kingdom of Crete.
Through and through, Greek mythology is filled with the fragments of snake-affiliated women and bull-monsters, that most scholars of myth now believe to have been parts of earlier mythology that stood in sharp contrast to the war epics of the classical Greeks. The Minotaur, for example — a true product of ‘monster-love,’ as he was born out of the lustful union of Pasiphaë, queen of Crete, and a divine bull sent by the sea-god Poseidon — is thought to be a distant echo of archaic fertility rites performed in Crete, where a temple priestess was symbolically ‘wedded’ to a sacred bull, the animal whose strength renews the earth’s fertility through plowing. But in the Greek imaginary, this feminine ‘lunar’ aspect of divinity was quickly demonized, and the sacred bull was changed into the monstrous Minotaur, while a male (‘solar’) hero, Theseus, had to be sent to redeem the kingdom of Crete by killing the mighty beast and rescue the princess. In yet another case of Aryo-Minoan syncretism, a young maiden, Medusa, raped by Poseidon — the same sea-god who had sent the sacred bull to Crete — was cursed to become a hideous monster, a Gorgon, with poisonous snakes instead of tresses and the power to turn men into stone with her gaze. Luckily for the Greeks, the hero Perseus came to the rescue, and advised by the goddess Athena to look away from the monster, he used his shield to catch Medusa’s reflection just before the attack, surprising the daemon with a quick slash of his scimitar as perfectly depicted in Cellini’s original sculpture.
Following these clues, we can see how stories like these work on many different levels at once. Apart from reinforcing the controlling values of Indo-European culture — such as fierceness in battle, self-sacrifice, and the importance of marriage — they offer a glimpse into the world that these nomadic warriors conquered, pouring their poetic imagination over pre-Hellenic deities; ‘demoting’ great goddesses into water nymphs; temple priestesses into lustful, monster-mating maniacs. On the level of collective psychology, therefore, the world of Minoan Greece together with its bullfights and snake-dancers sunk into lower significance, where the official culture of Classical Greece remained Indo-European in aspect while through its cracks, the old, ‘Minoan layer’ stuck its ugly head, once beautiful, but deformed through the male-dominant gaze of Aryan Greeks. When heroes like Jason and Odysseus take to the seas seeking adventure they are often depicted as entering a strange world of feminine powers, where powerful witches like Circe, Calypso and Medea appear as if in a deep (and very Greek) dream. And just like in the Odyssey, the new shapes that spring ‘out of the waters’ of our modern imagination — like in del Toro’s aquatic romance (to quote the movie’s ending) — “truly are gods”, ones of an order that had remained unseen in the West for millennia.
It’s from these psychic layers that our Goddess, as presented in the statue of Medusa, might be making her triumphant return. For those with eyes un-blinded by scientism, everywhere around us appear signs of change. It’s no secret that #MeToo (the movement the statue celebrates) and the Green New Deal appeal to the same Left-leaning, social justice types. It’s been a trope of the Right to judge the Green movement as socialist, even Marxist… but that is only a surface phenomenon. Because while it’s true that, for the immense construction plans that are being proposed by these movements an equally massive government intervention is needed, their actual ideology is far from ‘Marxist’. According to Marx, Man is the pinnacle of existence — the measure of everything. In his works, Mankind takes center stage while nature is virtually absent. But in the new Green movements — now increasingly pushed by various power structures through the (unrelated) pretext of Covid — it’s the industrial revolution itself, hailed by Marx as the pinnacle of human progress, that is the actual problem responsible for the destruction of our planet. If the fact that man-emitted CO2 is the problem, then Man is the problem, and he must be dealt with — perhaps even sacrificed to the Great Mother Goddess.
Michael Michailidis is a Greek author of fiction and cultural theory. He is the writer, presenter, and co-producer of “Ancient Greece Revisited”, a series that, in Straussian perspective, is trying to show that the ancient alternative is still a valid alternative.
“Estoy a favor de quitarle la calle a todo el mundo, me da igual que sean de izquierdas o de derechas, exijo que las calles no tengan nombre oficial y que cada uno las llame como quiera.”
“THE MADNESS OF CROWDS”: A REVIEW
The greatest libertine pleasure for the liberal-conservative is to submerge himself in decadence and then to feel like a dirty, soiled thing. One pictures him slumped in his plum-coloured armchair in his white cotton shirt, a glass of Condrieu in one hand and a smartphone in the other. One imagines his face, illuminated by the glow of his screen, wrinkling with every filthy little item which drops into his feed, his slightly muscular frame, in turn, squirming from an obscure (but not unwelcome) frisson. One imagines Spectator columnist Douglas Murray.
At other times, one imagines him in a situation which he outlined in one of his Spectator columns, and which I think captures the tragic ideological crossroads at which he sits. (In this crossroad metaphor, he is sat sternly at the wheel of a yellow Nissan Figaro, wearing driving gloves, and gripping the wheel firmly while Classical FM plays indifferently from the radio, though this information is not indispensable.) A member of the Church of England, Murray is asked taciturnly by his vicar during a private chat if certain rumours that he has heard about Murray and his relation to the faith are true. Murray responds in the positive. “Yes,” he says. “I am not a believer.” The vicar responds with an awkward “Oh!” and without putting up any sort of fight assures Murray that this is perfectly alright, that even he himself isn’t all that sure about the business.
In 2017, as a young man who had already begun to think regularly about Murray, I went into my local library to order a copy of his then-latest book, The Strange Death of Europe. I lived then in a London neighbourhood with one of the highest muslim populations, and in taking out Murray’s polemical work I feared for my life. After a couple of days of attempting to obscure the cover of the book from the largely muslim and immigrant population with which I rode the bus, I realised that none of them really cared what I was reading. As national and as urgent as the debate on Islam seemed, it was really only being whipped up by left-leaning, Guardian-reading liberals and right-leaning liberals who read the Spectator. I realised, too, that very few of my fellow-passengers could read English anyway.
That book treated what Murray considered to be a general decline in the cultural and political life in Europe, the disappearance of what one might call a European culture, and the supposed role that Islam had played in this change. In it, I detected a longing for the return of Christianity and the often-cited but loosely defined Judeo-Christian values which it promised to bring. Two years previous to the publication of Murray’s book, the French author Houellebecq had published the novel Soumission, in which an academic, hungry for salvation in a now-absent Christianity, submits instead to Islam. I suspected then that Murray, who has read the book — I know, I have seen sat upon his bookshelf — had returned to the Christian faith, not as a little child, but as a regretful liberal seeking some ballast for his political convictions.
The great puzzle for Murray then, as it is now, was how to synthesise one’s liberal values of tolerance and freedom of expression with the culture of intolerance and censorship which it inevitably invites. In The Madness of Crowds, the question of the paradox of liberalism is much the same, but now Murray turns his sights on more fashionable targets. Muslims, after all, are démodé; one hardly sees them in the news anymore. The book is neatly divided into four sections entitled: GAY, WOMEN, RACE, and TRANS with three interludes: The Marxist Foundations, The Impact of Tech, and On Forgiveness. The general thrust of Murray’s book is explained by the Saint George in Retirement metaphor of liberalism, pinched from Australian conservative Kenneth Minogue. The story goes like this: Saint George, long retired after having defeated the dragon, gets bored and decides to get back in the game. Donning his rusty armour and mounting his old nag in the stable, he scours the land looking for a fight. Finding very little in the way of dragons, but still very much in a dragon-slaying mood, he refuses to stop, slashing now at smaller and smaller foes, eventually fighting the wind.
This is all a rather convoluted way of saying that liberalism has gone a little bit too far for Murray’s liking, and the analysis of those four principal topics which make up the chapter headings doesn’t get any more profound. Instead, we are invited onto the plum-coloured armchair, and given an item-by-item list of every event in mainstream discourse over the past five years which Murray has found objectionable. The average reader will already know about many of these events, and will hardly be enriched by learning about those that they are ignorant of. I was unaware, for example, that an actress from a show named The Big Bang Theory had gotten her breasts out on live television until I read Murray’s book, but neither did I need to know that information. It’s not the sort of thing that invites invite any significant analysis, and indeed Murray gives them none; he just holds them up as exemplary of what has gone wrong with feminism, or gay rights, or women.
Liberalism in itself as a political philosophy is, predictably, never identified as a culprit for these cultural shifts, nor considered as untenable. To do so would force Murray to admit that the progressivism, which has already given him what he wanted, has always carried the kernel of the horrors that it is now producing. Liberalism, he says instead, has gone off its natural course, hijacked by Marxism. Michel Foucault (a thinker who should be as indispensable to the right as it is to the left) is identified as one of the culprits for having framed human relations by their relation to power rather than, say, love. Baudrillard, in his criticism of Foucault, explains beautifully the operation of his target’s linguistic power game:
“These procedures of truth are of no importance, for Foucault’s discourse is no truer than any other. No, its strength and its seduction are in the analysis which unwinds the subtle meanderings of its object, describing it with a tactile and tactical exactness, where seduction feeds analytical force and where language itself gives birth to the operation of new powers. Such also is the operation of myth.”
As Murray notes, many of the cultural shifts which he finds distasteful are taking place on the linguistic plane. Novel terms are introduced, met with some resistance, and then eventually accepted into everyday discourse, at which point their function — to normalise what was once a perversity, or to turn a desire into a ‘human right’ — is realised. The nature of our reality is changed by their introduction into the discourse. Murray, for example, is willing enough to accept that gay and straight are ontological realities, but remains skeptical when it comes to bisexuality or transsexuality, not because of a lack of evidence, but because these terms are still wiggling their way into accepted nomenclature. Liberalism, both that of Murray and of his opponents, functions by taking the millennium of human experience, orchestrating it with precision, and then stamping it with precise, practical terms. As Baudrillard says:
“In a certain way, psychoanalysis puts an end to the unconscious and desire, just as Marxism puts an end to the class struggle, because it hypostatizes them and buries them in their theoretical project.”
Both left and conservative liberals are engaged in this reality-altering word game, only that the former advances new realities, while the latter refines them through challenging them. But both the so-called social justice warriors and those who dedicate entire books to writing about them are essential to the process. Life is whittled down and brought into increasingly tedious realities by the bickering of liberal and conservative columnists.
In Cervantes’ El Quijote, a dispute takes place over the exact nature or name of an object. Don Quijote insists that it is the helmet of the mythical Moorish king Mambrino, while the barber claims that it is a simple basin. Sancho Panza, wishing to keep the peace, settles the question by naming it a basinelmet. While the characters argue, a pronouncement from the author on the exact nature of the object is absent. The work lacks an absolute truth, and there are as many truths as there are points of view. For Cervantes as his reader, the object exists as both a basin and the helmet of Mambrino. Don Quijote’s various conditions — idealist, madman — run parallel throughout the novel, and it is the reader who has the privilege of experiencing every reality without settling upon one.
A failure to accept this is perhaps Murray’s problem. These interlocking power games, he says, “do not all lock neatly together, but grind hideously and noisily both against each other and within themselves. They produce friction rather than diminish it, and increase tensions and crowd madnesses more than they produce peace of mind.” But this is the very vitality of life and politics, and Murray ought to get his own hands dirty. He is a mere spectator to the madness who refuses to advance his own folly.
William Guppy is a writer from London. His book “Ha, Ha, Ha. Delightful“, is now available. You can find him on Twitter at, @w_guppy.
Every 6-months, according to the standard way of reckoning time on earth, a particular order of beneficent beings hold their regular convocations. These are not convocations in the normal sense. These beings do not have bodies, so are not bound by the limits of space. Yet while they do not need to assemble in a particular place, they can and do attune what Thomas Aquinas called their angelic powers to commune with each other at specific times. This is how such a convocation should be understood. The nine orders of beneficent beings are divided into three triads, with the third triad being those closest to the affairs of earth, and most deeply involved in human proceedings. This order are termed by tradition, Principalities. Different groups of Principalities have jurisdiction over different things. The convocations being discussed here are for the Principalities that have jurisdiction over particular places.
These beings do not need to belong to any place, yet each of them chooses to let their powers reside in a particular place, the place for which they take responsibility. As beneficent creatures, they accept this limitation on their potential in service to the Highest Good, purely because it is right and just to do so. They crop-up frequently in folklore and mythology, although their forms then vary according to cultural influences. They are usually recognisable as the guardian spirits of certain localities. In attuning their power to a place, they cooperate with the affairs of that place, to ensure that what occurs there proceeds, as far as possible, in the closest approximation to the will of the Highest Good. This is only one outworking of the role of the order of Principalities. These heavenly spirits inspire art and science: participating and co-operating in human endeavours to bring those endeavours to their highest fulfillment.
During their convocations, some spirits make a stronger impression than others. This is because those spirits carry with them a sense of grandeur coming from an age long past. One of these once-formidable spirits guards a network of fields to the west of the City of London. Here, human beings worked in a symbiotic relationship with the natural landscape for many centuries; overseeing it, facilitating it, cultivating it. In Neolithic times a significant settlement was established here, and its Principality gently nudged and prompted those early inhabitants in the construction of the flint tools, arrowheads, and artifacts of pottery which are to this day still discovered beneath the soil. Many years later, this same patch of land included an Anglo Saxon village where agriculture thrived and the little populace worked together to till the soil and reap the fruits thereof. The Normans then settled on the land, bringing more sophisticated methods of farming. Through all this, the Principality of this place was quietly working away in the background, inspiring inventive solutions to practical problems, fostering community, and helping the people to keep the forces of chaos and darkness at bay. The place was to make its first appearance in written records in the 14th Century, with a name that bears the mark of its Norman inhabitants: La Hetherewe.
That the guardian spirit of this place did great work is well-recognized by the other Principalities. There have been notable achievements. In the first place, this Principality invoked some inspirations of science which led to this place being used for the first trigonometrical survey reaching across the English Channel to France. The site was well-suited for this, being flat and a good distance from the place where the first universal means of reckoning time was developed to aid naval navigation in the 15th Century, which happened at Greenwich. The spirit of Greenwich had therefore also been established as a significant being, especially when GMT was adopted universally at Washington DC in 1884, enabling the delineation of the globe into today’s 24 time-zones. The spirit of Greenwich and the spirit of La Hetherewe had both been amongst the highest grades of this group of Principalities until relatively recently, when the spirit of La Hetherewe’s star began to wane.
The waning did not happen overnight. Right up until the early 20th Century this spirit was in very good standing, not least because it had assisted the people of that place in maintaining their settled way of life when the surrounding environs were rapidly developed for housing and light-industry. On maps from the turn of the century, a little group of farms can be seen, holding their own against the new developments encroaching on all sides. The paddock hedgerows and the network of ancient draining channels bespeak a small community where generations lived in the stability of traditional networks of kinship, not disrupted by the force of the industrialized markets. The spirits of the neighbouring places had begun to wane more quickly than the spirit of La Hetherewe. To understand how this came to pass, we need to turn our attention to what causes one of the beneficent beings to undergo a loss of radiance. To do this, our minds will need to turn to the forces of chaos and darkness.
Focusing on those forces necessitates an examination of matters oftentimes neglected by those who discuss the Principalities and their convocations. In truth, it is deliberately passed over by souls less reckless than this one. But if it is to described, it must be done quickly and clinically, as one would wipe a malignant bedsore beset with rancid pus. Let us hope the stench is eradicated as if by the clinician’s vapours of iodine and disinfectant. Because for every convocation that occurs, an upside-down convocation is also called together. It is an inversion, of sorts, happening in a murky realm populated by the orders of maleficent beings that ceaselessly yearn to disrupt and destroy that which works in service of the Highest Good. Now, it is important to state that the convocation of the beneficent beings cannot in and of itself be subverted by its inverted malevolents. It is something intrinsically immune from their brooding and angry schemes. Nonetheless, the beneficents freely choose to allow their schemes to be disrupted by them, solely because it is the will of the Highest Good.
On the basis of a decree which went out from the chief of the Principalities just over 2,000 years ago, the beneficents are restrained from taking regular action directly against the malevolents. The chief of the Principalities guards a hill which was then on the outskirts of the City of Jerusalem. In the fullness of time, it was decided to allow the malevolents to pursue their evil scheming until the end of this age. This was to proceed by allowing them to have one element of the cosmos, and one element only, which they could directly influence. This element is the same element which the beneficent beings influence when prompting and cultivating the good in people: free will. The malevolents, however, prompt only evil.
But be clear about the fact there is no power to match the Highest Good, no demiurge of anywhere near equal standing. Rather, the beneficent beings magnanimously stand aside and allow the shadowy, inverted beings of the upside-down to do their worst to inspire evil. The malevolents are incapable of discerning the truth of anything anyway, so letting them count their continuance as victory was no hard task for the beneficents. They did this for the same reason they do anything. Because it will be put to work for the Good. That is, they instinctively knew that this decree formed part of a greater scheme. They were right; for it will allow those human beings who win battle with the temptations of the malevolents eventually to glimpse the land of eternal blessedness to which the beneficent beings themselves belong. The benevolents are good at accepting such decrees. After all, it was precisely their willingness to accept a much earlier decree that separated them from those who refused to do the same at the dawn of time. Those who refused are those we now call the malevolents.
The spirit of La Hetherewe’s star had shone brightest in the early 1930s. Its radiance swelled with maximum luminosity then due to a particular triumph of human ingenuity developing in that place, when an airfield was established on 71 acres there in 1929. But when human ingenuity reaches lofty peaks, the malevolents swirl and brood yet more ferociously, decanting their foulsome brew of poisonous temptations even more nefariously than before. So the spirit of La Hetherewe knew the volatility and the risk which would attend the new possibilities of travel being explored from its territory, while still urging the many who used the airfield to use their new capacities in service of the Highest Good. Within a few years, however, the inverted malevolent below had sucked the radiance of that spirit dry. The fact this inverted spirit won the day is made clear enough when one considers the name this place now has in the modern vernacular: Heathrow.
The battle over that place included some of the most toilsome and traumatic scenes witnessed at any of the angelic convocations. Huge numbers of human beings were to succumb to the temptations of that place’s malevolent spirit. Moreover, similar battles were raging between the spirits of many of other places over those same decades, and the malevolents seemed able to coordinate their attacks on humanity with a breadth and range that had never been possible before. The exercise of human free will was operating under conditions different from those it had done previously. A fall in one place was quickly repeated in other places across the world, dragging more and more mortals down with execrable force. The malevolents of patches of land around Chicago, Paris, New York, Berlin, Rome, and countless other places, found themselves gaining ground and forging a powerful new alliance with a diverse range of fallen mortals.
The level of malevolent organization witnessed to here, meant that something approaching what mortals would term an ‘ideology’ was even beginning to emerge. As a malevolent construction, it needed no particular figurehead, no base-text manifesto, very little in the way of the propositional, philosophical analysis which usually attends other developments in human civilization. Rather, it was to be an insidious and inexorable force, its texture and its dominion functioning like an inversion of the mysterious quality of livingness imparted to all creatures by the very breath of the Highest Good himself. But this was not a life-force, of course, but quite the opposite.
The malevolents of once-obscure areas of land near big cities were thus hugely emboldened by a particular, concrete collection of edifices – but unlike a village, city or even a nomadic encampment – they inverted the conditions of being settled and worked only to unsettle and despoil the base configurations of human life. These inverted settlements are like temples to the death force of the malevolents’ power. Perhaps they should best understood as something like the tumours which beset a mortal’s body during extreme sickness. The working principle of a malevolent is always to make evil appear as good, so these temples are signified by a word which conjures images of freedom, recreation, and limitless possibilities in the minds of those who visit them: airports.
Air travel enabled the malevolents to realize that they had a chance to strike directly at a primordial condition of constructive life which had until that point been entirely out of their range of influence. This aspect is acutely important for mortal life, because human life is by definition embodied. We are dealing here with the conditions of space. The malevolents discerned that if they give the impression to mortals that they are no longer intrinsically bound to the place where they reside, they need no longer take any responsibility for it. Of course this has begun in the previous century with rail travel, but air travel took things so much further: wingéd flight is the preserve of angels and demons, and because the distances involved meant mortals could be tempted to see themselves as citizens of the Kingdom of this World, and not a particular kingdom within in. Mortals need no longer consider the places they reside as constitutive for their identity, so they underwent a primal estrangement. If mortals could choose wherever they wished to go, and move from one place to another with astonishing rapidity, the destabilization of collective responsibility and the permanent disequilibrium to communities would throw the will of the Highest Good almost permanently out of kilter.
So it was to be, to such a degree that disequilibrium became the default mortal setting, and the genuine equilibrium of the beneficents increasingly appears to mortals as offensive, even sickening. The ensuing battles reached a particular intensity when the malevolents’ work was consolidated into an exceptionally deleterious contrivance. This was to plant the idea in the human mind, that the globe could become a borderless, unlimited domain for all – a space not limited by the conditions of space. Ripples of glee went out across the caverns under the earth as this contrivance was worked upon, night after night. For were it to be successful, individual mortals would never need to bear responsibility for each other ever again, unless it was on the basis of immediate self-interest. The malevolents knew well that only despair could result from this. Each mortal would be thrust into a compulsive, perpetually addicted state of trying to establish roots and stability for himself by whatever cheap dopamine fix came readily to hand, eye, nose, or mouth. At last, it seemed, the malevolents would approach their overarching objective, to reduce mortals to level of mere beasts.
The contrivance was to begin in the airports themselves. It required a source, a centre; some kind of place where the idea of a borderless space would derive from. After much deliberation, the malevolents decided to treat their new temples – airports – like the beneficents had once treated the ultimate Temple of the Most High: the ancient Temple of Jerusalem. They needed an inverted Holy of Holies, like that around which the ancient Temple is constructed. The inversion was to be exact. The original Holy of Holies is where this one place is unique and exclusively proximate to the Most High. Inverting it meant establishing in airports a central chamber called the ‘transit zone’, which belongs to no-place, a dimension of sheer liminality, if you will. This would be a new magnitude, seeking to exist outside the 3-dimensions by which mortal life is conditioned. In the ‘transit zone’, there could be no duty to the networks of responsibility which must invariably govern a particular place. They needed to make mortals feel like ‘citizens of anywhere’, knowing this would mean they were in truth subjects of the Kingdom of this World, and therefore subjected to the Prince of this World. It was a powerful temptation, because it provoked the mortals into something which mirrored the original querulousness that led to the malevolents’ original fall: refusal to accept the limits and rules of the conditions of existence, the perfect expression of the will of the Highest Good. Those ancient words, ‘You will be like unto God’, were thus transposed into a powerfully seductive new form for those who fell for the ersatz omnipresence of the transit zone.
It is rare for internecine strife between the heavenly host and their expelled inversions to reach the human sphere explicitly, but this nearly happened when the concept of a transit zone came under discussion in the case of Edward Snowden. Snowden took flight from the US government and found himself stranded in the transit zone of Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow. Suddenly, then, the notion of a borderless domain belonging equally to all places (and therefore to no places), came under direct scrutiny in the popular mind. The Russian authorities argued that the transit area of an airport is not part of Russia’s sovereign territory, that it was like unto ungoverned airspace. This revealed the malevolents scheme; that the territories of earth can be as the heavens above, and their subjects be like unto God. Once this notion was established in the airports, they schemed, it would spread until the entire globe becomes a mere transit area, just as the Holy of Holies was said to be the inner-fulcrum from whence the rivers of holiness gushed forth to all the nations. A battle was won on this front, and it was very satisfying indeed for the benelovents. International lawyers argued that transit zones are governed as any other part of sovereign territory is in the country they stand, and they won the day.
The victory described above is but one small chapter in the greater cosmic battle taking place around airports. Another front on which it proceeds arose with different foulsome scheme which is no less noxious in character. This scheme arose from a desire to construct an Inner Court in every airport, like that which enclosed the Holy of Holies in the Ancient Temple as the temple court penultimate and most proximate to it. The scheme had been brewed for many years, but came into its fullness on 9/11. The malevolents feed on death and destruction, they feast most gleefully on the spoils of war. Yes, mortals will always enter into armed conflict with other mortals, but it is not so much armed conflict which is at issue. The malevolents want to ensure that the boundaries of what mortals called ‘just war’ could not be heeded-to. Even more arrogantly, they seek to make war the default condition of human civilization. This was best achieved by making human beings unaware that they live in wartime, to make the various accouterments of being permanently under siege an entirely expected and unquestioned reality. This scheme took shape by establishing an inverted veil of the Temple, around the inner court in the centre of which was the inverted Holy of Holies or transit zone.
The idea was for the inner court of an airport to be governed by a battlefield level of security clearance. Mortals would need to queue and wait in line like cavalry, or rather cattle, and be mercilessly examined, poked, and prodded to see if they carried concealed weapons or explosives disguised as everyday items. This possibility was to become so expected, so widespread, that no mortal would even question why it is their society lives under the threat that bottles of drinking water, shoes, and laptops might be thought to contain the high-powered ammunition of the battlefield. ‘Passing through security’ was their euphemism for entering the front line of the trenches, where mortals now entered – blissfully unware – into the ‘transit area’ of no-mans-land which governed the realm between the trenches. In fact, not only unaware, but delighted and blissful at the promise of travel and limitless possibilities. Thus it was to be that the ‘in-between’ or the upside-down was to usurp settled and stable living. There was to be a permanency of total war over against the consciously punctuated episodes of battle of moments when a just war is sadly inevitable.
But let us not assume this diabolical tale ends here. Let not it seem that the malevolents only hold sway over the inverted holy of holies at the center of the transit zone and the inverted veil of the Inner Court on its perimeter. For between the veil and the central sanctum is the inner court itself, and here the malevolents could work on that which they had always sought to bring to a rotten and putrid fruition. This is the ‘departure lounge’. The departure here was to be a departure from the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. Assailing each of these, the malevolents knew, involved assailing the means by which mortals approximate their lives toward these three: culture. What needed to be established therefore was a realm in which a profound inversion of decent and proper human culture held sway. An ‘anticulture’, if you will. The concept of an inverted culture masquerading as true culture has recently been articulated, within a mortal framework, by Patrick Deneen. Deneen argues in Why Liberalism Failed that true culture cultivates the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, and is intrinsically bound to particular localities with their distinct histories and customs. Liberal culture is therefore antagonistic to true culture, promising that mortals can transcend place and transcend nature. The job, as ever, for the malevolents, is to make the evil appear as the good, the atrophy of culture had to appear a dazzling array of human possibilities.
And so entering the departure lounge had to involve a full-fronted assault on the senses. Through smell, first, making people pass through synthetic perfumes and toiletries made of bizarrely artificial concoctions. Then through sound, with the most debased, vacuous and empty forms of music always playing away in the background. Then through sight, with the faux-regal and peacock clothing of the courtiers of the Prince of this World, the dress of the citizens of anywhere, the clothes in one continent being indistinguishable from the clothes of another.
The story so far is rather troubling, to say the least, and if any mortals in whom a glimmer of the good can still be glimpsed are reading, it might well lead to feelings of despair. In these cosmic battles, nonetheless, all cannot be lost, as stated earlier. The malevolents have established new footholds with airports, but the story does not end here. There are movements afoot suggesting the tide might be turning. The biggest fear of malevolents is that mortals might become aware of their operations, and even worse, those of their enemies, the Principalities. A promise of systems of collective human decision making infused with an awareness of angels and demons terrify the malevolents like little else. This is why the malevolents always ensure their appearance in popular discourse seems utterly toxic and completely absurd, like Kenneth Copeland trying to blow coronavirus away on live TV, or Paula White invoking angels against Leviathan on behalf of Donald Trump. But there are signs that the metaphysical realm of causation behind this world is beginning to make its presence felt without the malevolents controlling the way it is received. Every time the bare possibility of there being angels and demons participating in human affairs, a little glimmer of light is returned to La Hetherewe’s radiance. Any mortal reading this tale can choose to do the same, or choose to let their scoffs be added to the raucous cacophonies of laughter which are ever echoing in the caverns beneath this world.
Jacob Phillips is an academic living in London. He tweets at @counteredlogos.
What is the nature of the contemporary Leftist movement currently advancing across the United States and its empire under a bewildering variety of names including ‘Progressivism’, ‘Social Justice’, ‘Anti-Fascism’, ‘Anti-Racism’, ‘Black Lives Matter’, ‘Critical Race Theory’, and ‘Wokeness’ among others — while receiving logistical, financial and political support from almost the entire corporate media, the Democratic Party, the global education system, Silicon Valley, the Fortune 500, the global cultural sector and parts of the legal system?
In a recent essay, the Israeli political thinker and activist Yoram Hazony made the case for conceiving “the movement presently seeking to overthrow liberalism” as “an updated version of Marxism,” arguing that its politics recapitulate Marx’s political theory in four crucial ways: the central polemical dyad of oppressor/oppressed, a doctrine of false consciousness obscuring this dyad, a revolutionary program of the ruthless reconstitution of society, and a utopian vision of a post-revolutionary disappearance of class antagonism. The new version has “moved beyond the technical jargon that was devised by 19th-century Communists” but the essential framework has remained the same. Today, “racialist categories such as whites and people of color” are used to designate “the oppressors and the oppressed in our day,” but the political drive continues to depend “entirely on Marx’s general framework for its critique of liberalism and for its plan of action against the liberal political order. It is simply an updated Marxism.”
Hazony’s analysis follows previous theories of ‘cultural Marxism’ where the post-war adoption of Gramscian strategies of a ‘long march through the institutions’ is held to conceal a political continuity with Bolshevism. Perhaps conscious of activists’ efforts to deflect this critique by associating the term with antisemitism, Hazony has eliminated the prefix, while rehearsing the main lines of the argument. But how plausible is it?
Notwithstanding the protests of those who wish to read Marx as a humble philosopher, or understand the true Left as a working-class movement and the contemporary version as a neoliberal corruption, the reality of some relationship between the contemporary Left and historical Marxism is undeniable. Besides for Hazony’s own claims, key features of the contemporary movement recapitulate classical Party devices, including the term Antifascism (the invention of the Stalinist Comintern, which organized ‘Antifascist’ militias through the German Communist Party, against the ‘social fascists’ of the Weimar-era SPD) as well as the idea of racism, popularized by Leon Trotsky in The History of the Russian Revolution, and deployed aggressively in America by the USSR in the Cold War as part of a strategy to intensify social divisions. This tactic, too, is now being replayed, but this time by a political, military, and corporate elite who in the last several years have channeled hundreds of millions of dollars towards BLM militants and the production of racially divisive propaganda.
Nonetheless, stripped of contemporary reference points, both of these strategies are older than Marxism. The history of ruling elites working with mercenary criminals to attack middle-class interests, for example, extends to Akhenaten’s Egypt. Aristotle observes that slave owners divide their teams into men of different races in order to prevent them from uniting. These same tactics are today employed by Amazon, a vocal supporter of BLM. In June, Jeff Bezos declared he was “happy to lose” a customer who objected to the tech giant’s support for the movement; two months earlier, a leaked internal report had revealed that increasing workforce diversity lowers the risk of their Whole Foods stores unionizing.
A general pattern repeats itself: Marxism participates in the strategies Hazony delineates. But it does not invent them.
Although Marxism constituted, to some extent, a revolutionary moment in political philosophy with its turn away from interpretation to action, and its endorsement of violence over political speech (an endorsement reiterated by the current generation of militants, who similarly refuse the possibility of the classical idea of persuasion) its main principles emerge from a religious tradition.
The vision of a revolutionary program of the reconstitution of society corresponds to a Messianic logic of the suspension of the Law while the utopian vision of a post-revolutionary disappearance of class antagonism is originally a Millenarian vision. The idea of a polarized central antagonism derives from Manichaean cosmology, and recurs across the history of Millenarian movements, which rigorously separate their adherents from outsiders, and violently police the barrier. The doctrine of false consciousness obscuring divinity can be found in forms of Gnosticism, hence Eric Voegelin’s famed analysis that totalitarian movements are fundamentally gnostic in nature.
Marx is not the ‘demon’s name’ but only the most familiar form of a complex of older and deeper tendencies that precede it — and express themselves through it. In the context of this history, Marxism constituted an incredible development but not an original invention. Transforming something very ancient to the circumstances and the concepts of its time, and in a different way to ours, it was able to express in a new language old demands.
As a religious man himself, on some level, Hazony is no doubt aware of this; as such the thrust of his argument is perhaps best understood tactically, as an attempt to revive the old, anti-Communist Cold War alliance between liberals and conservatives, a goal which in fact he explicitly states. Yet in his forgivable eagerness to fight on a familiar terrain, he is also falling into a trap. It is noteworthy that BLM explicitly advertises their allegiance to Marxism, but as Mike Whitney points out, they do not employ Marxist terms or pursue a Marxist strategy. “Have you ever heard them talk about ‘historical materialism’, ‘social relations’, ‘capitalist accumulation’, or any of the other concepts that are central to Marxist ideology? No,” argues Whitney. Yet these were the only features that really distinguish Marxism as a unique set of ideas. Antifa not only avoids saying anything about contemporary economics but targets for repression those who do, in defiance of Horkheimer’s famous useful aphorism: “He who does not wish to speak of capitalism should be silent about fascism.” An equivalent point can be made with respect to the concept of ‘cultural Marxism’: is it really so plausible to imagine an intellectual sympathy between figures like Adorno and Gramsci, and Judith Butler and Ibram X. Kendi?
The suspicion arises that the new movement advertises their own questionable Marxism for the same reason Hazony opposes it, that is: to appeal to the romance of the same revolutionary mythologies that Hazony rejects but which the American Left splash around in. Not only that, but that the same reasons which have enabled what Hazony calls Marxism to successfully adapt to new circumstances, and shrug-off a century of a hundred-million murders as easily as an intersectional college student slips off her dress for a webcam, also prevents his analysis from succeeding strategically. Although repulsive to Hazony, Marxism does not and cannot evoke the same horror beyond the already convinced anti-totalitarian camp, insofar as it is also, paradoxically, repulsion which attracts the rebellious to ‘Marxism’ in the first place: this in fact is the source of its power.
Hazony’s approach advances upon, but also corresponds to recent liberal attempts by James Lindsay and Helen Pluckrose in particular to identify the roots of the new Woke ideology in post-modernism. But what is post-modernism but a kind of radicalized hyper-liberalism? In both cases, what needs to be recognized is the extent to which ideological dogmatism presents a semi-conscious expression of a form of critique, just like a hammer is not really understood properly by staring intently at it but by grasping it.
In this respect, Marxism can be seen as a kind of coping mechanism, or a paranoid structure, which as Freud reminds us, is itself the expression of a recovery from a breakdown, as opposed to the agency of the breakdown itself. At the heart of this issue, and what our analysis needs to trace itself back to, is a spiritual shortfall, as opposed to a purely political enemy: what we are dealing with are symptoms, when we need is to address the cause. “To hold the thinkers of the modern age, especially the nineteenth-century rebels against tradition, responsible for the structure and conditions of the twentieth century is even more dangerous than it is unjust,” remarks Arendt. “The implications apparent in the actual event of totalitarian domination go far beyond the most radical or most adventurous ideas of any of these thinkers. Their greatness lay in the fact that they perceived their world as one invaded by new problems and perplexities which our tradition of thought was unable to cope with.” To this end, it is necessary, not exactly to forget about Marxism — but rather to paradoxically recognize it as more of a friend than an enemy, despite its past barbarities.
For reasons related to our own historical horizon, the drama of the Cold War, our nostalgia for the secular theology of MAD, and the horror of own specific problem as it comes to face the limitations of our critical imagination, Marxism retains a grip on our analytical faculties. But in the tightness of this grip, something else eludes our grasp. Ultimately, Marxism is only one expression in the broader history of communism — one whose greatest historian remains Norman Cohn. What is this violently murderous structure of power, identity, and rage, whose elements can be identified everywhere, from the European witch trials to revolutionary Paris, to the Moscow trials and the Maoist cultural revolution?
When writing about Ur-Fascism, Umberto Eco drastically misjudged his target. Far from constituting a historical invariant, Fascism, developed originally by Italian Marxist Mussolini, and unknown before or since, was never anything more than a micro-variation of Communism, similar to Stalinism, or Trotskyism, or (to apply an older vocabulary) Anabaptism or Calvinism — hence the intense mimetic rivalry between the Bolsheviks and the Axis powers. Italian fascism in particular was never anything more than a specific historical moment in interwar industrial Europe, as a demobilized veterans combined with the contradictions of the Risorgimento and liberal political weakness to attempt a modernist somersault — but ‘Ur-Communism’, this perpetual gravitation to the power of a nihilistic secularizing drive, has a longer, deeper history. Marx attributed its cause to capitalism, or alternately liberalism — while Hitler said that it was Semitism, and now, we find it categorized as “whiteness,” but it travels under many different names and always to the same effect: a cyclical or progressive liquidation of traditions and organic customs, “all that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned” racing towards the generation of a synthetic pagan religion, culminating in the ecstasy of mass extermination.
Passing through nihilism in pre-revolutionary Imperial Russia, or post-modernism in late imperial America, naked humanity returns to Communism, the eternal answer to a question no-one asked, or else forgot to ask: unmet religious craving. This is why, John Maynard Keynes, on visiting the USSR in the 1930s, is able to recognize its simultaneous economic illiteracy and its religious dimension, manifested now in the materialization of the Cheka, playing Dostoevsky’s Demons. “Perhaps we really are Assyrians,” Osep Mandelstam was already wondering by 1922. “Is this why we can look on with such indifference at mass reprisals against slaves, captives, hostages, and heretics?”
Daniel Miller is a writer and Surrealist. In 2017 he protested against the Antifa outside the London gallery LD50. He’s the author of “Dracula Rules the World and Mark Zuckerberg is His Son”.
“Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future”: A Review
Have you noticed that religion is practically absent from science fiction? Father Seraphim Rose sure has. In his book Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future, a collection of essays from three different authors, this hieromonk of the Russian Orthodox church takes a stab at the rising heresies of the mid-20th century — heresies that have since become so integral to our society that many of us are living under their spell without even knowing. In fact, the spiritual landscape of late modernity reminds one of another defender of Christianity: G. K. Chesterton, who famously said that, “when a man stops believing in God, he doesn’t then believe in nothing, he believes anything.” Because from Tarot readings to Zodiac signs, and from neo-Shamanism and the so-called ‘Psychedelics Renaissance’, it seems that, as of late, witchcraft has once again become a respectable profession.
Seen from an Orthodox perspective, Seraphim Rose’s book sets some much-needed limits to the ‘everything goes’ spiritual culture of the modern West. Because if God is to be understood as the Trinity of ‘Father, Son and Holy Ghost’ — then, any religion, and from Islam to Zen, that doesn’t accept the coming of Christ as the True Incarnation is simply not worshiping the same God. But even for the non-believers, the book is refreshing in its directness and honesty. Because at no point do the authors behind these collected essays deny the effectiveness of the occult. In one of these episodes, the narrator, then a captain of a ship sailing to Ceylon — modern-day Sri Lanka — relates an adventure where he and his crew were introduced, with much enthusiasm, to a ‘fakir’ living in a small wooden hut at the edge of the lush jungle that enveiled the island. To his amazement, the fakir affected the entire group with a transformation of consciousness akin to a psychedelic trip, only to be interrupted when the captain — who would later become a Christian monk — began to pray to God for salvation. The story ends with the narrator walking away from the hut together with his group, turning at the last moment to look at the old man whose magic was interrupted by his prayer, only to see the venomous hate in the fakir’s wild pagan gaze.
But perhaps the most interesting chapter of the book, authored by Seraphim Rose himself, relates not to ancient, but modern witchcraft, and to the rising phenomenon of UFO encounters, followed by a growing body of science fiction novels that expand on them in the realm of literature. What is surprising, however, is that contrary to the myriad of fans, Seraphim Rose finds in this new genre—nothing really new, and with a clear eye, he uncovers its one great theme: the future evolution of Mankind into a higher form of existence through the use of advanced technology. But for all their futurism, the powers that are bestowed upon Man in these novels through science “correspond quite remarkably to the everyday reality of occult and overtly demonic experience throughout the ages”; the illusions of virtual reality, the power of flight, telepathy. In certain of these stories, a superior race of aliens visits the earth to help its residents transition to a New Age of Enlightenment, as in a dark echo of what in the Christian Church has been prophesied for millennia. And while God is never mentioned by name, the fantastic promises of science and technology as portrayed in these stories are nothing if not a reference to His absence. In short, “men have abandoned Christianity and look for ‘saviors’ from outer space.”
Just like in the story of the fakir, the UFO phenomena are not rejected as fantasy but given their merit as legitimate experiences of the individuals reporting them. If anything, this chapter provides a comprehensive list of historical sightings along with the semi-scientific literature that catalogs them in six different groups, ranging from ‘lights in the sky’ to ‘close encounters’ of the 1rst, 2nd, and 3rd. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a component of ‘altered states of consciousness’ was later added to these encounters, narrowing the gap between ‘sightings’ and the occult even further. And so it seems to the author that from the ‘flying saucers’ of the 1950s through to the more ‘psychedelic’ variety of later decades, the experiences that are reported match suspiciously with the ‘spirit of their times’. Taking these considerations seriously — the author concludes — encounters of ‘the third type’ are nothing-if-not encounters with demonic beings, while the reason they appear in spacecrafts instead of horseback is precisely because they fit so well with the narrative of modernity: the narrative of salvation through technological progress. The reason why science-fiction authors place no God in their universe is because there is already one there, implicitly: the god of modernity, of Progress, and through material rather than spiritual means.
It has been prophesied that during the end of days there shall be many prophets of the Lord God as also those who serve Satan. And that during the last of these days those who serve God will recede in hiding and perform no miracles. Hence it’s been interpreted by way of this book that all those new ‘miracles’, from spontaneous visions to UFO landings are nothing but signs of those last days. Whether one takes these signs for what the author suggests, is a deeply personal matter. But it’s worth noting that if one truly believes in the objective reality of the experiences mentioned above, one cannot naïvly assume they come from forces that are always benevolent. Ironically, in the midst of the COVID crisis — a crisis of misinformation at least as much as one of medical emergency — many are those who believe in a ‘global awakening’, expedited, so they claim, by exactly the type of experiences that Seraphim Rose considered demonic in his writings. It’s also ironic how it’s exactly those who claim to have surpassed their ‘ego-consciousness’ who also feel they can dismiss two thousand years of Christian teachings in the name of knowledge received through a single acid trip. In a world that is thirsting for ‘signs’, we who consider ourselves to be spiritual, must become more vigilant to the fact that — having mostly dismissed Christianity — we may have lost the ability to discern the forces that lie behind them.
Michael Michailidis is a Greek author of fiction and cultural theory. He is the writer, presenter, and co-producer of “Ancient Greece Revisited”, a series that, in true Straussian perspective, is trying to show that the ancient alternative, is still a valid alternative.
This is part of a multi-part series on “Governance in a Time Between Worlds”. Read part I, here.
Part II: A reunion of State with Civil Society
Today we ask ourselves for forgiveness. We had once thought that the path toward liberation was to be blazed in liberation from governance. And yet today, we stand here at this moment. The values which we have called ‘liberal’ no longer move our soul. We stand here with a succession of time behind us. We stand with an unimaginable amount ahead of us. Here, at this moment of our journey, we find ourselves in a “time between worlds” — a time characterized by this very confession. In this moment we find the presence of a fresh logical articulation — one which has brought the phenomena of our experience into accord once again. The forgiveness which we ask for is only possible on account of the demand for this vision. The vision pulls us forward. We repent and we forgive ourselves.
It has been said that the world is constituted by the language which we take up in talking about it; and that this world is the total collection of objects talked about; and furthermore, that those objects themselves are nothing other than what we are able to say about them. Even in talking of the ‘mysterious’, we say something about the constitution of that which is mysterious — we know it, as part of its very constitution, as a mystery. This is an epistemological and ‘constitutive’ understanding of the world. Another argument suggests that language is a tool. Much like the hammer drives the nail, language disturbs the molecular composition of the air in order to affect another material object — a human ear, a human brain, a human body. However, we must also acknowledge that prior to such language-as-material-tool there exists a ground for the possibility of language. That is, we must acknowledge the primordial condition from which language is possible. Following the work of Martin Heidegger, we take talk of this primordial condition as ‘discourse’.
Discourse is that which is a condition for language. It is prior to language, pre-linguistic. As such, it is likely best expressed figuratively. Perhaps we could talk of discourse as something of a ‘harmony with nature’. And only on account of this rhythmic harmony can the world come to be articulated as the world that it is. In this sense, we think of language (whether body, verbal or written) as a mere refinement — a further articulated form of discourse. For those who are more economically attuned, we might express this discourse as something of a pre-intellectual (or pre-cognitive, to use the scientific word) ‘wheeling and dealing’ with nature. A ‘dealing’ which takes place not only between people but with the entirety of phenomena in experience. British economist E. F. Schumacher captured our dependency on the pre-intellectual through its economic expression. In Small is Beautiful he writes of a work which, “brings forth a becoming existence”. Existence becomes — that is, existence is ‘intellectually refreshed’ in each moment of articulation. At this moment the mechanical and social hierarchy of the world is presenced. Equally, a history is presenced. And through such a presencing we find ourselves animated — pulled toward — that casual chain of events. Such a feedback loop with nature has been characterized psychologically as a ‘flow’ — a process of challenge and resolve.
In as much, we must admit that the understanding of the epistemologist’s Tabula Rasa — John Locke’s ‘white paper’ — feels like a quite appalling interpretation of our human condition. Such an alienation of man from the mechanics of nature has produced ‘episteme’ — that unquenchable desire to reunite with an alienated world by way of rationalism and empiricism. From the Roman Empire to the Catholic Inquisition and the industrialized sciences, the language of Latin has carried with it the monotheistic residue of imperial economy—that economy which seeks a quantified and totaled ‘uni-verse’. This economy today manifests through market economy and growth economics — facilitated by way of industrialization, mercantilism, and a capitalist infrastructure. And while the critiques to industrialized economy have long been trivialized, the romanticized picture of the polytheistic agricultural civilizations proves itself time-and-time again. Of course, we could never forgo the expediency which industrial manufacturing has provided to the production of food, housing, transportation, and other goods and services. Yet, we find it all-too-easy to picture ourselves out of this technological luxury. We imagine every action, from the tiling of the land to the collection of the harvest, as a communication (a communion) with the most supreme being — actions which satisfy our God, who proves himself through each encounter with the material substrate of labor.
Of course, there is a contrary understanding, popularly held by the progenitors of industrialization — one which is accepted by both employer and employee — that labor is ultimately something which is to be reduced and preferably obliterated. ‘Labor is expensive’, says the employer — and for the employee, labor takes time away from pleasure. Man is made to believe he is something of a hedonist — that the natural condition of human existence is pure sensual satisfaction. The hourly worker is paid for his time from such satisfaction. Such understanding gives cause for a prophecy — that one day an automatized manufacturing will relieve man from his fetters. This day will constitute some kind of holy day for humanity, and then we can all go on holiday. And yet, standing here in this very moment, in this “time between worlds”, we understand the folly of this understanding.
Today, we stand present with a vision. This vision promises a reunion of that which was separated very early in the story of liberal governance — a separation of church and state — or more precisely, between belief and action. This vision calls for “a political approach to community that mobilizes the resources of locality” — a political approach which “involves citizens in governing through participation” a governance which “blurs the line between state and civil society —passages we repeat here by way of Margaret Kohen’s Radical Space, Building the House of the People. A reunion of state and civic engagement promises redemption of that primordial harmony with nature — between belief and action. This reunion promises a re-communion with our idols, such that they may once again bless us with their presence.
Of course, we must also admit that ‘civic engagement’ carries with it residue from the period of neoliberal policy. During this period civic engagement was characterized by a discomforting elitism and privileged volunteer work — a work which was for the sake of ‘humanity’ or ‘the global’ — or whatever other alienating abstractions that decadence could provide. This was a civic engagement which had “primarily leveraged human needs for connection, sharing and belonging” constituted by a “needs-based action” which “tends to be re-active, not pro-active, functional, or creative” — passages we repeat by way of generalist intellectual Bonnitta Roy. And yet, there can be no doubt that this ‘belonging’ activity, birthed from industrialization’s alienation and estrangement, “is inadequate to the 21st-century imagination fostering thrivability and flourishing”.
Presented with the promise of state and civil society we feel an atomic resonance. A movement of the soul. There can be no doubt that the spirit of conservatism, having once been satisfied with liberal economic policy — now positioned against the weaponizing of the free market, including the information industry’s capital surveillance, in itself including the dangers promised by the accelerationist — will find new manifestation. There can be no doubt that the conservative spirit will manifest in a people who sustain the ideal of civic engagement toward ‘nation’ — one which fosters the “thrivability and flourishing” of that cultural-geological region. One which is characterized by a work which, as Schumacher puts it, “…gives a man a chance to utilize and develop his faculties” and “enables man to overcome his egocentredness by joining with other people in a common task”. The conservative spirit will find satisfaction in a ‘nationalization’ of human economy. This economy will deliver us from modernization’s epistemology. It will likewise deliver us from the postmodern appropriation of episteme. A realization of this economy will manifest the vision which accompanies us—that which has been called metamodernity.
Having now announced civic engagement and a nationalization of human economy as a solution to liberalism’s failures, we require one further article. Undoubtedly, we would benefit from a few examples of urban and geo-regional civic projects. Examples that can be used as prototypes for political activity beyond the kind of patriotism and militarization which is often associated with 20th-century nationalism. And yet, before we close this chapter, one final thought teases us. Having felt the atomic tremble of conservatism, each for ourselves, we must also admit to an unexpected confession. We should not be surprised that platforms like Bernie Sanders ‘socialism’ and Donald Trump’s ‘protectionism’ both lean towards a ‘nationalization’ of human economy. Of course, this parring of opposite character-types under the same banner might be quite jarring. And yet, there should be no doubt that the self-authoring creative human spirit pines after such nationalization on both sides of liberalism’s left/right political divide. Across the board, the future belongs to a civic national governance-economy by way of conservatism. The perverse extrapolation here is, of course, we can no longer expect that socialism will realize by way of a progressive liberal spirit. And if we could ever one day enjoy the utopia promised of Marx’s communist revolution, then it will be by way of the conservative spirit arising from the ruins of liberalism’s global free market.
Justin Carmien is a lecturer on philosophy at Spinderihallerne, Vejle, Denmark. He teaches philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, metaphysics, and political metamodernism. Check out his portfolio, here.
Many of those opposed to the accelerating corrosion of Western civilization see it as a battle between ‘liberalism’ and ‘illiberalism’. Illiberalism seems to be rearing its monstrous head again in a demonic whack-a-mole game, from the ominous ‘democracies’ in places like Turkey and Hungary, to the stifling environment of cultural revolution in Western universities. Freedom of speech, freedom of association, the seemingly fundamental right to walk down the street — in this time of the great plague — have been summarily suspended, and don’t seem to be making a full return soon.
But we hear that liberalism, correctly applied, is here to solve these problems, and we have just the right people to implement the solution. The centrists, the moderates, the people who are privy to the knowledge of the true goldilocks zone of both market and social freedoms are here to guide us. They will use both their keen intuitions and the latest tools of political science to nudge, regulate, and liberate. If only we could get back to true liberalism, they could do their jobs.
Liberalism, like ‘democracy’, has a certain ring to it. It is a mythical value with the gleam of an unalloyed good. It’s the virtuous opposite of illiberalism — a darkness synonymous with constraint and oppression. Suppose we take liberalism at its word. In that case, it stands to reason that the long arc of history is a journey from a sterile illiberal past toward a luminous liberal future. We’re on rails to the promised land, and we just need to liberate a bit harder to get there. But the record of liberalism, in both its market and social variants, is spotty. If we persist in misdiagnosing the problem, our solutions will remain ineffective and may even be destructive.
Liberalism is the water we swim in. It’s permeated the nature of the West so profoundly that it’s become almost undetectable. Liberalism is the idea and the ideal that power both conservative and liberal parties, albeit at different speeds and with varying areas of interest.
The philosophical groundwork for our liberation was prepared a long time ago. In John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, we discover that the individual’s independence from the artificial constraints of custom is necessary for progress. Mill asserted that freedom lies in elevating choice and leaving aside burdensome custom, that the only way to be truly free is to unshackle yourself from the bonds of social mores, into ever freer choice. As he writes:
“The human faculties of perception, judgment, discriminative feeling, mental activity, and even moral preference, are exercised only in making a choice. He who does anything because it is the custom makes no choice.”
Only in this way, unconstrained by the crusty baggage of social custom and opinion, can the virtuous — the smart and industrious and Mill’s “persons of genius” — rise to the top and assume their role as de facto overlords. The fact that this is what happened in reality, is a testament to Mill’s keen talent as both a philosopher and a prophet. Today, we live in an age where Mill’s righteous meritocracy has taken over the world, drained the brains of the global periphery, and has created a class of overworked and under-reproducing urban royalty. With this trick, we’ll have whittled down this self-selected caste of high intelligence ‘knowledge workers’ in a few generations of barren striving to ‘make partner’. You couldn’t design a better way to annihilate human capital, but yet, freedom finds a way.
Conservatives are nominally congealed in the amber of 1950s social norms – though not really, as they’re typically trailing only a few years behind on the latest facilitation of social freedom favored by the opposition. The freedoms conservatives like even more than those they have to regularly concede are market freedoms. And who can blame them? The market works, and it has been nothing short of miraculous. But it has also led to the despoiling of the planet, the destruction of local communities, and boom and bust cycles of ever-increasing intensity. The technology it birthed is the stuff of both amazement and nightmare, as a good fraction of culture is now a dedicated release valve for our most dystopian fears: Black Mirror, Westworld, The Matrix… One thing is made clear: there is no way back, and the Singularity is almost certainly malignant.
On the Liberal end of liberalism, freedom is just as salient. It’s simply directed at a more intimate area, the body. The Liberal wants to free the individual from the more immediate constraints of life, to move him into an unshackled, transhumanist state. The body itself needs liberation. Its unrealistic proportions and symmetries and ratios become an offense to liberty. Customary constraints on managing its hairs, its dimensions, its surfaces, its color schemes, and even its odors become arbitrary, stifling.
Inhibition becomes another grave societal constraint. Criminality is now a complex socioeconomic problem, passing judgment on it and its ever more permanent denizens — the real crime. To not indulge in any desire that floats into consciousness, be it food, sex, drugs, or mindless consumption, makes you a sucker. You’re judging yourself with the mind of the oppressor.
Women melt into inert puddles of deconstructed identity, only to be recomposed later by capital, in derriere hugging pantsuits, or in the camouflaging moo-moos of the permanently unhappy, harmonizing in a choral whine about representation in Fortune 500 companies.
Sex — then Gender — spiral out into fractals of ever more nuanced and thin-skinned identities. From the shattered cage of heteronormativity emerge a dazzling kaleidoscope of sexual options and identity-worthy kinks, so plentiful that they start to evade classification. Speaking of which, the act of classification itself becomes ‘problematic’, as do many more things that try to tie the individual down to the prosaic. The Liberal conception of freedom is to be let loose, on yourself, on others, on damned society itself.
Where do these developments leave the enlightened centrist, the meter out of liberalism, the stalwart straddler of ‘the extremes’?
He is always on the front lines of ever-shifting moderation but somehow knows that his current position on things like injecting pre-teens with sex hormones, the age of consent, and heck, let’s throw incest in there — is the right one. He reasons from first principles like: “It’s none of my damned business,” and the insights naturally follow.
On an issue like abortion, he presides over Schroedinger’s baby, a creature simultaneously alive and dead, and like the modern-day Solomon he is, cuts more and more to the left with every passing year. Because the point of incision lies with his ever-shifting centrism, every 10-or-so years, the centrist emerges reborn with new, more liberal, and thus good, energies, and reevaluates his previous heresies.
On guidance on how one should run this ten year Phoenix cycle, one can look to the patron saint of the supposed center-left: Barack Obama. He himself recoils at his heresies on things like same-sex marriage now, but he has repented and found himself where he left himself — in the center.
Therefore, to become the mighty individual, liberty means we have to make ourselves free to inhabit the ‘state of nature’. This process involves molting — getting rid of the heavy shackles of the flesh suit, ridding ourselves of our culture’s constraints, our obligations to kin, our community, and our place of origin. It involves freeing ourselves from the paternalistic obligations of moderation, chastity, and other passé virtues that reek of mothballs and the cardinal sin of judgment.
The liberated individual man or woman is a creature free from the constraints of nature, unchained, scrubbed clean, and ready to enjoy freedom in all its forms, to consume — to eat, drink and screw itself into ever truer liberation through ever freer choice.
Cover by: Yuri Zalevski
Alex Kaschuta is a writer and essayist from Romania. She writes on: sortalexout.com. Follow her on Twitter at, @kaschuta.
Among contemporary conservative politics and philosophy, there is a clear lack of consensus on what is and should be the main concern of conservatism: is it to preserve liberty, as Frank Meyer said, or should it be to preserve a certain order and way of life, as Gabriel Kolko proposed?
The truth is that the primary object of those who wish to restore society, to paraphrase Richard M. Weaver, is the “demassing of the masses”. Here, the role of aesthetics is paramount. We like to say the right of beauty is ‘metaphysical’ because it does not depend on any test of social usefulness. This is because aesthetics isn’t like other areas of philosophy, hence often being, indeed, one of the most overlooked. And yet uniforms, paintings, architecture, symbols, flags, colors… they can be used as a powerful driving force for politics — as beauty, explicitly or implicitly shown, is always part of the perception of the reality and dynamics of power. And the quest to achieve power is one the conservative-right, today, admittedly, is losing. Could it be because it isn’t making proper use of aesthetics?
Among the genuine conservative and other analogous schools of thought on the right, few thinkers have been as intense in their study of aesthetics as Sir Roger Scruton was, whose work very often delved into the idea of conservatism as an aesthetic experience of the self and of the world, and on how politics should be used to preserve the beauty of ages past. In a sense, however, Scruton’s approach was not meant to be applied, but to be observed as a rule of good government with an ethical obligation to be inspired by Tradition to maintain the beauty of long-lasting institutions proven functional by history.
Yet, despite the great man’s contribution, aesthetics has not been the strongest suit of modern-day conservatives, who in a world focused on the destruction of material beauty as their representation of spiritual decay, are (arguably) nothing but delayed progressives.
The brown scare has been deeply influential in the contemporary Right’s disconnect from the arts and their political meaning. It was by assimilating a particular aesthetic idea promoted by the national variants of Fascism in the ’30s into a representation of all of the symbolic elements of a wider rightist movement, that conservatives surrendered both the study and the practice of aesthetics to the disperse left, which then used them to promote the cultural changes that sparked the identity conflicts we are suffering today. Ideally, philosophers focused on matters of ethics and aesthetics would be the ones ruling our civilization, but since the processes of secularization have separated all spiritual things from politics, a wave of materialistic rationalism and constructivism has taken over and built a society with little to no educated perspective on the political meaning of beauty.
But aesthetics still has a place in secular politics, as it guides the remnants of the Western Christian political theology into higher ends (at least symbolically). As Curtis Yarvin observes in a relatively recent essay for American Mind where he mentions the deep relation art has with revolutionary movements, from artistic ones and schools, to the very metapolitics exposed by the aesthetic adopted by a political party, the symbols and banners it flies, and the monuments it builds once it gets to power — one can observe how art shaped politics. Romanticism promoted the ideas of classical liberalism and the Enlightenment, realism promoted those of revolutionary socialism, futurism those of Fascism. The origins of comic books during World War II, or caricatures to ridicule political leaders both in the years leading to the uprisings of 1848, used the arts for propaganda purposes.
Since the 17th century, the arts have been used as a means to convince both leaders and the masses of adopting and then implementing views of society. A modern example would be the way artistic schools present the current world and its social issues, who are later then taken as truths by political actors and then framed as policies to be promoted.
Liberalism, in fact, transformed aesthetic needs into consumer products by commodification; socialism then transformed those needs into luxuries by scarcity, and fascism then reinvented them into government programs by making the State use them as propaganda. This shows that, in modernity, arts first are economic goods then sold to be used as political tools. They’re never meant for what they should be: which is beauty and transcendence.
This metapolitical understanding of aesthetics was the practical basis of various movements (none of which were liberal nor conservative). The most known of them all, was Antonio Gramsci’s attempt at promoting Marxism as a cultural movement instead of a political one, so institutions could be captured from the inside. Gramsci understood that the Marxist subversion of the culture was meant to twist the aesthetic perception of both individuals and communities so they couldn’t realize the power dialectics of class conflict. If there was no organic promotion of beauty, then collectivized beauty could be easily taken as a cause by revolutionary Marxists.
Then, of course, there’s Fascism: from the Roman Imperial undertones in Mussolini’s speeches to the use of the grandiose Altare della Patria in Rome, or that of the yoke and arrows as a distinguishable, standardized symbol by the Spanish Phalanx, all the way to the universally hated swastika, stolen from Hindu traditional art by the German Nazis, wrapped under military-style uniforms and paramilitary formations… the Fascist wave was masterful in the metapolitical use of aesthetics. Far from a simple revolutionary set of movements, they were aiming at symbolizing the living image of an imperial, traditional, glorious revival of the victories of ages past. If this was a deliberate attempt at creating their own symbolism, or just another lesson learned and adapted from the artistic takes made from conservative movements during the Belle Époque, it sure worked for them, going as far as being recognized as part of a Fascist aesthetic even if the elements, in fact, belonged to a traditional imperial European fashion.
The third movement — and perhaps the most successful at rightly understanding and using aesthetics for a conservative political goal — are the ones spawned from Plinio Correa de Oliveira’s work and activism. These two groups, one that formally belongs to the Catholic Church and the other that works as an association of traditionalist laymen, were highly inspired by one of their founder’s books, The Universe as a Cathedral, to create their movement’s aesthetics based on the idea of pulchrum (a term meaning a higher beauty) and using a brighter image of the Middle Ages, from their own churches and headquarters to their very clothing that looks like the robes of crusader soldier-monks. This can be seen a somewhat extreme, but it creates a pattern to be followed by all conservatives, which can be summarized as the adoption of a distinguishable fashion and set of colors and shapes meant to create a particular sensation in the bystander.
The current conservative-right, however, does not really know what to do with aesthetics. For this reason, analogous movements, elsewhere, have created fashions for themselves. Among such, the controversial adoption of vaporwave as part of their identity stands out.
At first sight, vaporwave would have nothing to do with conservatism, neo-reaction, nor traditionalism. But the continued use of ’80s style neon aesthetics, with classical art and synth music by groups who shared a mutual dislike of consumer society and meaninglessness, made the transition from a post-modern critique of itself to a decentralized uniform and distinguishable standard of beauty for the disperse Right to easily adopt and replicate.
It is now fairly common to see in right-wing and social media posts the use of stereotypic and neon distorted colors; some classical art as part of the scenery; low fidelity synth melodies in the background. Some said this aesthetic creates a sense of nostalgia for the ’80s that could be easily capitalized by ideologues and militant movements. Some believed it to be just another internet meme, one that will disappear after a few months of overuse. Yet, by now, the latter is hardly going to be the case, since such uses of vaporwave by neo-reactionaries and other right-wingers have been ongoing for years: the most well-known of all being the vaporwave-inspired hats of 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang (which enjoyed quite the popularity among young right-wingers), and the use of vaporwave intros and background music for NRx YouTubers such as TrueDilTom and Keith Woods.
Given its capacity to gain popularity by the mere nostalgia it evokes, this particular perception of beauty should be adopted universally by all non-conformist conservatives, and maybe even promoted as a visible political banner for future campaigns. It is true that such an aesthetic can be seen as populist. This is understandable, as part of it is. But its capacity to resonate with people rests on the fact that vaporwave represent all that modern traditional conservatives are fighting for: the return to a simpler, nicer, and more prosperous era; the inspiration and admiration by classical political and cultural artifacts, not to mention a good critique of post-modernity, along with desacralization it carries along.
It is disquieting to realize that, in beauty, survives the last battle Conservatism of any kind can fight. The moral solution, after all, is the distribution of small doses of beauty. They can take the form of catchy melodies; memorable images of bright colors and distinguishable shapes where individual perception gives significance to nostalgia over interpretation. Such perception provides a range of elements through which one can send the full message. And it is precisely the abridgment of this perception, for which conservatives must condemn modernity along with progressivism, and restore the Great Tradition to serve its proper function: that of preserving beauty and transcendence.
Ugo Stornaiolo S. is an Italian-Ecuadorian law student, journalist and policy analyst. He is the head researcher at Resistencia Metapolitica, and the Latin America correspondent for Navarra Confidencial.
Welcome to the end of modernity. After a century of warnings from various conservatives, reactionaries, and other enemies of Progress, the apostles of Progress themselves are now declaring a civilizational crisis. Now that all the authoritative institutions are in the hands of liberals who believe only in Progress, instead of triumph there is catastrophe.
The liberal redefinition of politics has recently been followed by the redefinition of babies, men, women, marriage, and faith. The sure knowledge of our own mortality has been taken from us in the process. Progress indeed promised to redefine our very existence and bring about the End of History. The police power of the therapeutic state as much as the influence of commercial fantasies that delude our children and the technologies that underpin it all encourage an endless quest for meaning, identities, and a solution to the only liberal mystery, choice. And yet the avant-garde of the liberal revolutionary army, the Progressive activists, far from being the happiest people in this new world, are the most miserable and shameless.
The self-destructive character of Progress, now obvious everywhere and to everyone, is a terrible political crisis and a moment of great danger in our ongoing spiritual warfare. We critics of Progress cannot become slaves of Progress. But the man who has no ideas but the Progressive ideas he rejects and no activity but a slavish fixation on Progressive histrionics that drive him mad cannot claim any dignity.
We are critics of Progress only accidentally, because of the influence Progress still has on education and public opinion. We are primarily dedicated to the proposition that politics is essentially education, the education for civilization, or for the combination of political freedom and scientific study that is our unique possession. We have seen the freedom of savages in primeval forests. We see now the sophistication of tyrants and slaves who wield terrible technological powers. We prefer civilization to these alternatives and we will offer you the necessary education for civilization — conversation, friendship, and insight.
It is possible now to tell the ugly truth, since we have a counter-poison to the sickness of soul of our times — an inability to believe in, be moved by, and accomplish the works of human greatness. It is also necessary to tell the ugly truth, because our times are defined by political decadence, an inability to do the required public deeds, and by philistinism, since culture has decayed into worthless fashions, and we are too baffled to admit that it has become impossible to attract talent to the domains of the muses. Every name that once astonished — philosopher, poet, artist — has been debased by flatterers and opportunists.
Thus, it becomes obvious what it means to be conservative. It is not to be a slave to liberals, but to know and thus to love the greatest things accomplished in our history, and to preserve everything that can be good to us now. Conservatism has been liberated from its ideology, if admittedly by complete political defeat. It is possible to return it to its original meaning.
The political crisis we are in teaches us that neither enthusiasm for Progress nor a slavish opposition to it achieves anything good. A new way of thinking about politics is required, a return to prudence, a willingness to see our situation as it is rather than as we wish it to be, and therefore to pursue those things that can now be done. We will do what all journals of opinion should do: offer the knowledge and encourage others to do the practical work required for political health. And we will remind everyone of the need for piety, since even atheists have to learn how limited our powers are, lest more mad attempts at overcoming nature lead us into further catastrophes.
We will also aim to offer an example of moderation. Elegance is our guide in writing — not enthusiasm, rancor, or populism. We will encourage sobriety rather than arrogance or madness. We will encourage friendship among our writers and readers, a conspiracy of decency in a very indecent situation. Love of nobility and love of wisdom will be our answers to these trying times. You’re invited to come along for the ride.
IM—1776 Founding Editor
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A special thanks to the generous Mr. Techera, whose wisdom and experience were essential for the crafting of this statement.
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