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John Bruce Leonard

Inertia in Motion: Critical Reflections on Conservatism – Part 1

Series: Inertia in Motion: Critical Reflections on Conservatism

The successes of the left in our day can be understood in large part as the consequence of the inherent weakness of conservatism.

In his final book Recognitions,1 Julius Evola spends several chapters reflecting on the idea of a ‘culture of the Right’ – a culture which, as he notes, is largely wanting in comparison to that of the left. The question naturally emerges as to why this should be so. It goes without saying that, even if the left-right spectrum is a merely historical and historically contingent development, as I have elsewhere proposed, the ‘right’ nonetheless was coeval with the ‘left’, and had every bit as much time to develop its own positive worldview and culture as the left. I have in prior essays noted its extraordinary failure in this regard, and given a cursory account of the same;2 but it would be worth our while to attempt to understand the failure of the ‘right’ at the philosophical level – where it rightly belongs. Such knowledge is essential for the preparation of a legitimate culture of the Right, which is as badly needed in our own day as it was half a century ago, when Evola himself wrote on this problem.

With the passage of time, the growing remoteness of pre-Enlightenment epochs and the growing fragmentation, isolation and inauthenticity of their remnant forms, the opposition which the conservative right was capable of exerting against the left became proportionally feeble and inadequate.

To begin, the ‘right’ of modern times has always and everywhere been conservative.3 It has defined itself, and been defined by its allies and enemies alike, as an attempt to maintain the status quo of the present moment, or that of a very recent past. It has seldom attempted to alter society, save as such change should be retrograde a single lone step, but has rather striven to keep society still and firm upon a fixed point. It has been wedded essentially to love of what is, or nostalgic regard for what was in immediate memory.

In the earliest days of the totally artificial ‘left-right’ divide, which is to say the decades immediately following the ‘liberal’ revolutions of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the conservative looked to a society which had until yesterday been aristocratic or monarchical; the earliest ‘right’ was thus organically associated with these higher regimes, or more to the point, with the failure and overturning of late forms of these regimes. Such a right could offer sound and ready critique of the growing Enlightenment avalanche, by referring to those stable pillars which yet resisted that onslaught, or which still existed with tolerable vividness to human memory. There were still visible traces of a rigorously non-Enlightenment society upon which to found both opposition to the Enlightenment, but also a positive view of what might be used to replace Enlightenment schema. But with the passage of time, the growing remoteness of those epochs and the growing fragmentation, isolation and inauthenticity of their remnant forms, the opposition which the conservative right was capable of exerting became proportionally feeble and inadequate.

But that, while grave, is the lesser part of the problem. More decisive was this: that many if not all of those original men of the ‘right’ took as their primary reference point the last bastion of a failing kingdom. They aimed at reproducing aristocratic and monarchical models which were already on their last leg, which were already falling, already internally compromised if not outright rotten; and this weakness of the last pre-Enlightenment orders was often enough reflected in a certain infirmity within the early ideologues or intellectuals of the ‘right’ – particularly men like Burke or Burckhardt, who made a powerful show of contrariness but were already inwardly men of modernity in any number of essential respects. These men were aiming at a society which had died yesterday; but it had died yesterday precisely because it had for some generations been moribund and bed-ridden, consumed by the disease they wanted to extirpate. They should have flung themselves back into a nobler and healthier past, but they were prohibited in this by their temperament and the temperament of an age, that already-entrenched modernistic apologia which denigrates all epochs before the Renaissance as being antiquated and nescient. Even the terms used by the contemporary historiography – terms like ‘Dark Ages’ or ‘Middle Ages’ – indicate that any pre-modern period is simply not worth taking seriously, with the single partial exception of Roman or Greek Antiquity: but even these were the Ancients as the humanists had interpreted them, and certainly not as men like Averroes, Avicenna, Boethius or Thomas Aquinas had interpreted them. The early thinkers of the ‘right’ thus found themselves often enough inscribed within a kind of cursed circle, which doomed almost all of their acts and works to eventual inadequacy and ineffectuality.

Nonetheless, it might seem to an onlooker – and indeed it has many times been claimed or insinuated in recent years especially – that the men of past generations, the Maistres and Tocquevilles, the Cortéses and even the Burkes, were more ‘of the right’ than their contemporary analogues. But in truth this is not the case: they are every bit as much ‘of the right’, as the ‘right’ has been understood in all of modern times. To be sure, one would like the contemporary ‘men of the right’ to stand a little bit more against the contemporary left, as those older generations still knew how to do; and this can and must be urged particularly against many of our present-day ‘conservative’ politicasters, who have sold their souls for a pittance and will stand to all of posterity, if they still stand at all, as foremost representatives of the society of blackguards and scoundrels to which they made themselves the ignominious lickspittles. Be this as it may, standing against is but the half, and the lesser half, of any war, be it military, political, cultural, or ideological. First and foremost, one must stand for: and as the ‘right’ has never, on the whole, stood for anything at all, how could it be expected to resist its largely unified enemy even an inch? As Evola states in Chapter 37 of Recognitions, ‘A Right which reduces itself to generic nationalism and to the defense of those values proper to a bourgeois society … is naught but a very approximate Right’ (Recognitions, p. 282).

The problem can be formulated in this way. The ‘right’, throughout all of modernity, has been conservative; that means, it has held faith with the local ways, customs, laws and religious traditions most immediately surrounding it. But these ways, customs, laws and traditions are obviously incompatible with any number of other contemporary ways, customs, laws and traditions surrounding them. Thus, the conservative in one part of the world or of Europe, or even in some cases of one and the same nation, finds himself standing in practical opposition to the conservative of another part. The conservative’s resistance, insofar as it is rooted in a positive vision, must make reference to the specific and immediate, the ‘here and now’; and that means he cannot mount any counter-initiative which does not accord with merely local prejudices.

Every man of the ‘right’ has been thrust back on a purely limited and specific tradition, which must defend itself as much from the special traditions of other conservatives, as from the left itself. This has fundamentally weakened him and his cause.

Several simple examples of this dilemma will suffice from out of the plethora that might be called forth. Today, the conservative of Catalonia (which obviously is but a noteworthy exemplar of any number of identifiable linguistically or ethocally distinct regions even now existing in the nations of Europe) stands for the preservation of the Catalan dialect and Catalan customs, for their teaching in schools and their transmission to the new generations, as their special and most characteristic heritage; the conservative of Madrid, however, stands for the continuation of Spain as a common national unit, which demands the unambiguous favouring of a common language and a common and consistent set of customs over and above any local or regional sub-forms. Again: a conservative of Serbia or Holland can still make reference to what remains of the monarchy or aristocracy as the basis for his conservatism; but a conservative of Italy or America can at best make reference to a document, and what is more a republican document, the ‘constitution’. Or again: an American conservative (at least up until the very recent past) would tend to prefer a reduction in the size of the state and a diffusion of central authority over the whole web of American federalism; while conservatives of any number of specific European traditions might well seek precisely the opposite: a centralization of authority, the localization of authority in a single city or even individual. Or to take a final example from the recent past: the conservative of many parts of Germany of yesterday stood for the continuation of the Protestant faith, which was his special heritage; while a conservative of England might have stood for the continuation of the Anglican faith, and a conservative of Spain or Italy, the Catholic faith, and a conservative of France, the faith of liberté, égalité, fraternité4each of which proposes a vision of man and God distinct from and in many ways incompatible with the others.

Thus, while a man of the left has been able, no matter where and in what time he found himself, to point to relatively stable and unchanging principles – and indeed ideals – of the left, every man of the ‘right’ has been thrust back on a purely limited and specific tradition, which must defend itself as much from the special traditions of other conservatives, as from the left itself. This has weakened him, and his cause, in two fundamental respects. First, it has made it impossible to mount any unified front of the ‘right’, any Internationale even remotely similar to that which communism was able to organize during the Cold War. The conservative must rely merely and almost exclusively on whatever local powers, support, finances etc. he is able to raise, which are dwarfed by the hegemonic and leviathan-like monolith of the left.5 Secondly, no intellectual movement has ever been possible for the ‘right’ as it has been for the left; the right has been necessarily and unalterably lacking in a culture, because it lacked even a unified and consistent soil within which such a culture might be cultivated. While the left is able, by a process which is entirely automatic wherever it is not premeditated, to consolidate its efforts and to mount lengthy and insidious campaigns in academics, politics, religion, art etc., the conservative is necessarily limited to sporadic efforts here and there, which, entirely despite whatever value they might possess individually, have no real point of contact with those which arise elsewhere, and  consequently tend to be drowned in the flood of ‘progress’.

Both of these failings have haunted the right. The former has led to insurmountable difficulties in its attempts to install itself politically and socially, even on the local and national level, not to speak of the European or international scale, in which its attempts have been either non-existent or else risible in both form and outcome.6 The latter, on the other hand, has made it impossible for the ‘right’ to entrench itself in academia, literature and art with even a fraction of the same discipline, patience, constancy and consistency as the left, thus leaving the entire wing of a key part of this battleground almost entirely unmanned; and those few individuals who have been talented and brave enough to make some stab into this by now abandoned and hostile landscape have been left to their own devices, and have finished not rarely surrounded by enemy hosts, in financial ruin, social ostracism, insane asylums, prisons and suicide.7

It is evident that the latter problem, the problem of the intellectual and interior deficit of the Right, is actually precedent to the former: so long as the Right lacks in a legitimate and generalized culture of its own, which is nourished by other wells than those the left has tapped – a culture based first and foremost on the cultivation and the self-discipline and the self-mastery of the individual, on spiritual development, on hierarchy within and without, all attempts the Right makes to unify on the political level will be beset by paralyzing setbacks, controversies and infighting.

In recent decades some novel stabs have been made in this direction. We cannot even so much as outline these attempts here in their particular manifestations; suffice it to say that some of them have been more successful than others, and some, more to the point, have been sounder than others. Some have perceived our plight, and the causes thereof, with tolerable clarity, while others have dedicated themselves with astounding resoluteness and blind tenacity to committing precisely the same errors as those made by their fathers and forefathers, which led us, step by implacable step, into the impasse which presently entraps us.

In the second part of this essay, we will limit ourselves to identifying two of the major traps into which nearly all of these movements have fallen, and to diagnosing one of the primary reasons for this error on their part, which will bring us back to the question of the ‘left-right political spectrum’, and the insidious undermining that that idea has performed beneath the development of a true Right.

References

1 Julius Evola, Recognitions (Arktos 2017), Chapters 36–38 in particular.

2See ‘What is the Deep Right?’, comment section of which contains a very capable defence of the conservative attitude by Arktos author Peter King, who also submitted a recent and very compelling essay on the same, ‘Here and Now’. Mr. King’s comments and essay can be taken as a clarion and useful counterpoint to everything herewith offered.

3 The exception of a brief and well-known historical period spanning some several decades of the past century will surely be brought against me as a counter-example here. For the moment, I can only reassert what I have elsewhere argued: namely, that those states of the first half of the 1900s which truly offered an alternative, not just to Communism, but also to Western ‘liberal’ democracy, in point of fact had nothing essential to do with the ‘political right’ as it was understood from the special viewpoint of ‘liberal’ democracy. The represented instead practically the only political, social and practical attempt at offering an alternative to Enlightenment schema; the degree to which they failed in this endeavour, and the extent to which they were actuated by principles which led them to adopt specious, atrocious, self-destructive or enslaving practices and policies, is matter for another essay.

4I proffer this last example, of course, halfway tongue in cheek – but only halfway. For in point of fact, as has already been indicated, one of the fundamental problems of ‘conservatism’ in the contemporary period is its utterly unconscious, not to say unconscionable, adoption of ‘liberal’ principles. The ‘right’, in its defence of the status quo, has often enough been the defender of the earliest forms of ‘liberal’ societies, and has sought to keep these precisely as they were; but this is like to a gardener who goes about constantly seeding flowers and weeds haphazardly, and then spends the rest of his life tearing the weeds out wherever they spring up, and moreover lamenting the fact, until he has grown too tired of his battle to persist in it, concluding at last in his dotage that the weeds, being the hardier growths, surely deserve to thrive.

5Some will argue that I am overstating the unity of the left with this description, and will rise at once to furnish example upon example to demonstrate internal fragmentation and infighting within the left. I will not for a moment call these into question, nor will I suggest that they should not be strongly capitalized upon, by driving wedges wherever we find such cracks in leftist discourse, using precisely these inner conflicts as points of leverage for our own ideas. Nonetheless, these conflicts are incidental, not essential, to the left, and the simplest and at once most elegant proof of this is that the entire world has been drifting ever more rapidly ‘leftward’ practically since the dawn of Modernity, in blissful neglect of any ‘interior fragmentation’ of the left.

6It would seem that the recent rise of populism has made possible a truer nationalistic and internationalistic effort on the part of the Right, and truly it gives ground for some cautious optimism. Nonetheless, as we will later discuss, this populism must not be confounded for a veritable revolution of the Right; it is based on any number of transient and even leftist principles which will out, sooner or later, and which must be addressed if the ‘populist wave’ of these present days is not to subside once more or even produce a powerful undertow in precisely the opposite direction.

7Suffice it to nominate the justly celebrated examples of Ezra Pound, Knut Hamsun and Francis Parker Yockey. Kerry Bolton in his definitive biography of this last figure, Yockey: A Fascist Odyssey (Arktos, 2018) dedicates an entire section to similar scapegoats led to the slaughter on behalf of the contemporary ‘right’, pp. 371–390.

This Post Has 16 Comments
  1. We must conquer both the ‘left’ and the ‘right’. These are two reagents combined in a flask of world events to form the potent poison against our people. This is a poison against any people, really, but I simply must focus on my people because it is the nature of the European that lives in my genetic material. I suspect that we will firmly establish in the laboratory that these commonsense intuitions are true. Unquestionably, I share a commonality with all humans. Fine enough. I would risk to rescue an African, Asian or other non-European from a perilous state of emergency. But let’s not be confused. In terms of building ‘the culture to come’ that is right for the offspring of my race and ethnicity, it is only in a European sense am I competent to work. The African and the Asian must do the same independently in their respective worlds. I cannot help and thus I do not have a duty to help in their respective tasks of ethnic edification. Returning to the European condition and forward direction of singularly of interest to me, we must conquer–even destroy–the pernicious toxins of the modernist and post-modernist ‘left-right’ paradigm. I would add that we need to learn from anyone who has something worthwhile. Thus, I am a (very) selective incorporationist as long as is the lesson completely fits with what is absolutely correct for Europeans. Aquinas was a daring incorporationist, but that is simply one example. Incorporationism presupposes that what is learned from our current opposition has either been stolen from us or has been denied us either as what was originally connatural to us or is common to all men but is maliciously prohibited to us. For example, there is within Europeans, and some Europeans more than others, a capacity for properly balancing individual initiative with group cooperativity. Both are necessary. We have been played and deliberately debilitated with respect to our former powers of exercising these qualities in integrated fashion. I have assumed them back into my possession personally—and our people can do so generality with some guidance and encouragement. This is a topic due more treatment.

  2. I suggest a number of variables could be added: (1) The Right is the actual anti-Establishment, (2) The Left has been at least since the 1905 revolt in Russia, generously endowed by oligarchs; (3) The oligarchy through foundations and NGOs, has sponsored a kulturkampf in education and culture, originally as a Cold War strategy against the USSR and then as to prepare the foundation for an internal shift in the mass thinking leftward (i.e. open borders, multiculturalism), because these are necessary for a global market. Even Goldwater, McCarthy and Taft were regarded as akin to Hitler, and now Trump, the fear being that these could have led to a genuine revolt.

    1. I entirely endorse your points here, Kerry, and willingly defer to your much greater expertise in them. There is no question that the right in the past hundred years particularly would have made off far better had it not confronted these institutional and financial obstructions. It might even have succeeded had the tables been turned, and all that largesse which you reference gone into its pockets, rather than those of the left.

      The pragmatic obstructions to which you point have been effective primarily in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, as the cosmopolitans, globalists, Atlanticists &co in that time have been, if not identical to the Establishment, certainly in much greater mastery of it than their opposition. Part of this is due, naturally, to the outcome of the World Wars, but part of it precedes those outcomes and indeed made those outcomes possible. There thus arises the question as to how the present ‘Establishment’ could ever at first have attained such power and influence. At a time in the not-too-distant past, those who held to some Enlightenment prototype of the globalist vision were in fact but a handful of intellectuals and a rabble of revolutionaries, in many cases engaged in what appeared by all historical standards to be an unwinnable battle against what they viewed as the ‘Establishment’ (that is, the old, to all appearances deeply entrenched hereditary aristocracies). To be sure, they could count on the support of certain persons in power, and widely cultivated these internal traitors; they were also favoured by the fact that the technological revolution had not yet made armed rebellions unfeasible. Nonetheless, they were in a position of considerable financial weakness vis-à-vis the orders they sought to overturn.

      Yet despite their impaired beginnings they have set the world on its head in a comparatively very brief historical period, until their much less idealistic and much more dangerous progeny, the soulless super-affluent globalists of our own epoch, have found themselves in a position to be able to direct the course of politics and socializing by means of the endowments and financial aid to which you rightly draw our attention. Two questions therefore arise: 1.) how were the first Enlightenment revolutionaries able to succeed, and 2.) why was no effective counter-action made against them after they had, especially in the early days, before they had successfully established themselves to such an extent that the kind of financial engineering you indicate became possible?

      The first question would demand a philosophical critique of the Enlightenment and a corresponding historical analysis of the revolutionary period of Modernity. As for the second point, my essay above is a very small contribution toward addressing it.

      As important as the practical side of this issue has been especially in recent decades, I believe for the reasons I have outlined here that the philosophical question precedes it. It is thus all the more important that the ideological weaknesses within the Right – which is, as you so rightly assert, ‘the actual anti-Establishment’ of our day – be brought to light and addressed insofar as they may be. For until we comprehend them and respond to them (supposing this even to be possible), the crippling practical disadvantage of the right which you have clearly sketched will continue to thwart it.

  3. John, this is a really interesting essay, although I’ve yet to tackle the second half. Perhaps not surprisingly, I disagree with you quite fundamentally. However, for now, I just want to make a couple of points.

    First, I am not sure what it is that you are expecting the right to do. Just what should the right be doing? If you are criticising conservatives for not attempting to create the ‘perfect’ society, then this is something that most conservatives would gladly agree with you. What worries me is that you may just be taking the ideas and tactics of the left, crossing out the word ‘left’, replacing it with ‘right’ and suggesting you have come up with something distinctive.

    Second, I would suggest that the enduring strength of conservatism is precisely what you see as its weakness, namely, its specificity. Of course, conservatives in different parts of the world and at different times hold distinct views and could therefore see themselves in conflict. To criticise conservatism, which at its core is the preservation of the familiar, for not being universal is to seriously misunderstand what it is about.

    1. I am indebted to you as always, Peter, for forcing me to clarity in my ideas and for putting up a compelling defence of the conservative position, which I am perhaps too wont to dismiss. I will here respond to both of your questions.

      First, I am not sure what it is that you are expecting the right to do. Just what should the right be doing? If you are criticising conservatives for not attempting to create the ‘perfect’ society, then this is something that most conservatives would gladly agree with you. What worries me is that you may just be taking the ideas and tactics of the left, crossing out the word ‘left’, replacing it with ‘right’ and suggesting you have come up with something distinctive.

      Insofar as a conservative today is wholly satisfied with his conservatism and at peace in his conscience, I am not expecting him to do anything at all; it is evident in such a case that his conservatism still has some meaning on its own terms, and that is the only excuse it requires.

      In the essay above I have indicated a historical problem; that I have not provided a solution to it (which was not within the purview of the present essay) by no means invalidates my observations on the problem itself. But to step a moment beyond the scope of this critique, in response to what you have said:

      I am emphatically not endorsing any desire to produce a ‘perfect society’, which has never been the part of the right, nor of the vast majority of premodern political philosophies, and is inherently a delusion of the left – rather say of modernism – alone. I entirely share your deep scepticism regarding both the possibility and the desirability of any such attempt. Yet I hold that there are other ways of viewing politics than as a dispute between utopian idealists who continually drag society downward on the one hand, and conservatives attempting to stabilize a society whose spirit is dedicated to constant change on the other. It is my view that we must transcend this dichotomy (itself a product of modernism) altogether. I will have more to say on this in a future essay which is dedicated to the question of the constitution of a culture of the Right, but as I am loath to continually redirect you to what I have not yet written, I will make a brief statement here.

      Given that what I have said about the historical practical inadequacy of conservatism is valid, this compels us to reflect deeply on conservatism and the alternatives thereto. This reflection would not force us to accept any alternative; it may be (as I believe you hold, and as I have sometimes acknowledged as a possibility) that there really is nothing better than conservatism available to us. But that possibility cannot be adjudicated from the outset and without due consideration of the matter, and to take it up out of hand when there might be other possibilities seems to me identical to embracing resignation.

      Now, there is a very limited number of ways in which conservatism might be rectified or replaced, and they include: a return to a past view or the creation of a new view. I have yet to see any compelling presentation of the latter; it appears to me to culminate necessarily in nihilism, which already indicates a great deal about human nature and human limitations. It thus seems to me that the way forward is the way backward: we must scour the past, attempt to understand our premodern European traditions for the ways in which they profoundly differ from those of the present. It might be that we will discover something there that we should attempt to reconstitute in modernity; at that point the question opens of how we are to effect such a thing. I call all of this the work of the Deep Right. I strongly encourage any and all criticism of this concept: but it is evident, I hope, that it cannot be reduced merely to ‘taking the ideas and tactics of the left, crossing out the word “left”, replacing it with “right” and suggesting you have come up with something distinctive.’

      Second, I would suggest that the enduring strength of conservatism is precisely what you see as its weakness, namely, its specificity. Of course, conservatives in different parts of the world and at different times hold distinct views and could therefore see themselves in conflict. To criticise conservatism, which at its core is the preservation of the familiar, for not being universal is to seriously misunderstand what it is about.

      Call its specificity the virtue of conservatism, or its quality; there I can agree. But in all honesty I do not see how it can possibly be nominated a strength – unless you dispute the historical overview I have given above? Perhaps you think that modernity has not in fact represented the continual and seemingly inexorable triumph of leftist principles over local ways, the constant trampling over the charms of specificity, the continual overthrow of every traditional form and its ceaseless and deliberate mutation into unrecognizable and often ugly artificial modernisms?

      You say that I misunderstand conservatism in the way that I criticize it. Now, if by ‘criticize’ here you mean ‘censure’, then I protest that I have done no such thing; I have merely pointed out that this quality of conservatism, quite despite its valuable aspects, has proven deeply practically insufficient as a response to the left. I will defer here once again to the course of recent centuries; and if you disagree regarding my view of modern times, I am certain it would be greatly edifying to consider the matter with you in greater depth.

  4. “Thus, while a man of the left has been able, no matter where and in what time he found himself, to point to relatively stable and unchanging principles – and indeed ideals – of the left, every man of the ‘right’ has been thrust back on a purely limited and specific tradition, which must defend itself as much from the special traditions of other conservatives, as from the left itself.”

    This highlights the essential difference between what has enabled the left to ascend to dominance and what has precluded the right from doing the same. Those ‘stable and unchanging principles’ of the left have always been located in the phenomenon of destruction. This is a fairly solid Schelling point and one which, as we have seen, has been incredibly useful in transcending those same difficulties the right has found itself facing in its need to ‘defend itself as much from the special traditions of other conservatives, as from the left itself.’ When destruction of the established dogmas and doctrines is the primary goal of the general left, it becomes much easier to acquiesce to one specific strategy of destruction for various members of this destructive left even if one disagrees with the methods; concerns regarding ‘how much destruction’ take a back seat so long as ‘some amount of destruction’ occurs.

    Contrast this with the right and you can begin to see what I’m talking about. The price of failure is much higher when various factions of creative movements are all working towards the creation, or recreation, of something *even if those various factions are all motivated towards some goal in the same general creative direction*. I think this is one reason why conservatives are so afraid of their own shadow when it comes to wielding power – something a friend of mine mentioned to me and I must agree that conservatives are indeed afraid of even thinking about the use of absolute power. It doesn’t matter for the left what they destroy or how much and how fast; whether one uses a sledgehammer or a screwdriver isn’t as important to them. However, when your spiritual drive is one of creativity, the potentially damaging effects of using a hammer or a sledgehammer are equally terrifying even if the damage is vastly different; the emphasis is on damage and not the amount, although that does factor into considerations.

  5. John, thanks again for taking the trouble to reply in detail. In response I would just like to suggest that the strength of an idea need not be judged on whether it ‘wins’ or not, but on its intellectual coherence and its fits with how we see the world. I’m sure you don’t see your view of the world as weak merely because it is a minority position. Moreover, while we should be wary of dealing with counterfactuals in history, we do not know what state we would be in without the drag of conservative resistance. The approach of great Conservative prime minister, Lord Salisbury is instructive here. We can sum up his view of government as the following:

    1. We should aim to leave the country exactly as we found it

    2. However, we cannot control events

    3. If events are going in the wrong direction, then we should seek to delay the change;

    4. But if we cannot delay any longer then we – the Conservatives – should implement the change rather than leave it to our opponents. In this way we can ensure it is done with the least damage possible

    Salisbury’s view is, of course, deeply pessimistic, but I believe that this is the right side to be on. My fear is that you might be adopting a little too much optimism in your belief that there may be an alternative.

    1. “In response I would just like to suggest that the strength of an idea need not be judged on whether it ‘wins’ or not, but on its intellectual coherence and its fits with how we see the world.”

      This is the kind of rational conservatism which enables establishment conservatives to rationalize their own ineffectual status such that, though they may not weild any actual power or authority, they can and have convinced themselves, on the platonic arena of ideas they stand victorious over their enemies. A laughable and pathetic position for obvious reasons.

      “I’m sure you don’t see your view of the world as weak merely because it is a minority position.”

      This would depend on one’s ability to recognize reality. If we’re honest, our views stand in relative (extreme) weakness with respect to our ability to project authority and power over and against the current system as it is understood and perceived by others. Where the strength of a minority position should be evaluated is its ability to influence and inspire others to cast off what adherents see as degenerative and destructive. But this would require a further commitment to engaging in actual violence (physical or otherwise) in the name of one’s values and vision for a more robust evaluation of potential or actual strength inherent in one’s relative minority positions to occur.

      Here we see the weakness of traditional conservatism. The “at least we still have our constitution” meme springs forth as a compelling example of the justified derision standard conservatism attracts in today’s battlefield. In another epoch, hundreds of bloddy revolts would have occurred given the transgressions of the global left and progressives – yet modern conservatives balk at every turn at even the broaching of violent struggle in defense of one’s traditions and their concomitant “conservative” values.

      1. Thanks for your comment, which I’m afraid I’ve only just seen. In response, all I’d say is that there is no battlefield.

    2. Peter, I greatly appreciate your summation of Lord Salisbury’s approach to political things. To say here what I have said elsewhere in my replies to you, I would cleave to those ideas if I believed we were living in normal times. I am also well willing to accept the possibility that there may be no viable alternative to the ‘conservative disposition’ you have so capably sketched in your replies to this essay: if that is so, however, I believe that ‘pessimism’ is probably too optimistic a term for an attitude which is so clearly doomed to see everything it loves gradually perverted and finally destroyed.

      There may be a point at which pessimism, as you intend the word, transforms into mere resignation; and given the bent of Modernity itself, I believe that resignation is an attitude we should resist with all our power.

  6. Forgive my simple approach. I hope that it is not too much of an beastly intrusion—like a muddy hippopotamus ambling into a black-tie dinner. In a wildlife ecology course, it was impressed on me that the best measure of the health of a population of animals were metrics of how well it reproduced. Perhaps this is the thing, the only thing, upon which we should be focused. While recovering our European, amorous, K-selective activity [I would rather like Peter Sellers to provide a rendition of this line for me as he squirms in a wheelchair], I have little doubt that we will inadvertently launch lots of neat rocket and space gadgets, solve some neurowiring problems in the brain, build a few cathedrals, write great literature, scribble profound mathematical solutions, and invent some clever, new kitchen devices. Please sign me up for the Arktos Repro Team before time runs out! Spring is almost here. (I hope we get cool-looking jackets like we did when I played softball–those symbols really do to turn the heads of the girls.)

    1. On the contrary, you do well to bring us back down to certain essentials which, being essentials, we should never forget. I strongly suspect that the health of human populations cannot be wholly or wholly adequately measured by the same standards as the health of animal populations, but in our present moment it is surely true that we could do with a great deal more ‘animal vigour’ – and a great many more children – than we generally can boast.

      1. Peter, thanks. It may be difficult for eulogizers, biographers and historians to encompass and properly portray the character and work of a great man. But when he is lying on a cart in an emergency room suffering a cardiac arrest, there are a few, simple measures that indicate his condition for the immediate purposes of the moment. In a like fashion, describing the heights of achievement of cultures and civilizations may tax the talents of the best scholars, by when those cultures are under attack or are nearly at the end of their decline, a simple metric like fecundity is precisely what is needed. And fecundity is not a mere byproduct of this cultural disease process, as diagnostically telling secondary and tertiary indicators may be. Reproductive issues as central, even etiological, in the grim malady afflicting European civilization. Further, this measure points us directly towards what must be undone—and done to save our “patient.”.

          1. Peter, perhaps I left too vague of an impression regarding the nature of treatments that I was recommending for the patient. Perhaps there is still an airgap between your position and mind. Specifically, I assert that the genocide and Bureautyranny is already here. I do not know what your situation is, nor am I prying. I can tell you from the trenches that the pitch of the battle is heated and for those with prepared senses, the status is ominous. I most certainly tried to point out that reproduction was key. By this, I mean K-selective and neighborhood- and nation-building reproduction. Station wagons with bad shocks and loaded with playful children furiously waving at the car behind while headed towards the beach as a caravan of cousins, aunts and uncles. That is the kind of reproduction I am talking about. Dialogue was denied us. The destroyers were never interested in conversation. They have for the time being beaten us at reproduction, including foreign-made babies imported. Unless this project of increasing fecundity is not immediately and dramatically escalated, then some of the things that keep you up at night will surely come to pass. The argument will be made for the necessity of more extreme forms of defense. There, that is the challenge and the threat. Are there other things to be done besides reproducing? Absolutely. Particularly as support for the prime objective of multiplying our numbers, but also fending off the intruders at the castle walls. I am not much worried about killing the patient, no. My team of fellow doctors and I are able and experience.

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