An abused dog never feels at home. Even many years after being rescued, some dogs will suddenly remember the owner whose blows and kicks they endured as a puppy at the sound of a car door slamming. You can see it in the way they shiver, or dash out of the room, looking for somewhere to hide.
Modern culture has treated right-wingers no better. They have endured so much gas-lighting, so many struggle sessions, hours of harangues and empty propaganda; they have, in the end, become so inured to rhetorical sleight-of-hand, to doublethink and to empty moral posturing, that many simply lose hope. They never expect to be able to breathe free. It has become a reflex for the abused reactionary to fear the fist lurking behind any intriguing, inspiring or powerful concept. Spiritually, they can no longer feel at home in their own civilization.
Natives and Nationalism was written a very long time ago, so it had no “peg” to current events or to any of our ongoing debates. I didn’t expect it to spark as many discussions as it did. I was especially surprised that these discussions revolved around the thesis that nations are in some sense historically arbitrary or “socially constructed,” and that several readers even found support for that thesis in my post! This skittishness, I suspect, is a symptom of abuse.
I will address the substance of nations and national loyalty in a future post. But first I wanted to discuss more fundamental issues of conceptual strategy, and the ultimate end at which any conceptual strategy aims.
The Conceptual Arsenal of the Left
One theme that keeps recurring in debates on the Right is whether or not we should reject concepts X because X is a leftist or progressive concept. This is a healthy instinct. The traditional cuckservative approach to deranged leftist concepts goes something like this:
- Leftists want to destroy the family, the church, and private property
- Leftists invent a word-salad concept like transexual reification and argue that only the destruction of the family, the church, and private property could possibly achieve this urgent goal.
- Cuckservatives boldly hypothesize that the magic of the free market will make labioplasties cheap and convenient, and that good old-fashioned family values are what a newly-snipped tranny really needs for support during transitioning difficulties, so actually when you think about it, if you’re worried about the transexual reification crisis, conservative social institutions are you best solution anyway!
- From here, the cucks progress very naturally to: “Free markets aren’t just more productive and less coercive, we need free markets to bring an end to transexual reification, the moral issue of our time!”
- And finally: “Ending transexual reification has always been a core principle for conservatives!”
At the end of this cycle, the cuckservatives may think they have won, for lo and behold, the finally passed that bill to give trannies vouchers to buy labioplasties on the private market! Much better than socialist state-mandated labioplasties, my dude.
But actually, they’ve lost – in more ways than they know. Not because subsidizing elective castration isn’t a very conservative outcome (remember, the cucks will claim to the bitter end that George Washington signed the Emancipation Proclamation for no other reason than that we, his posterity, might someday end transexual reification) but because they have given the Left yet another conceptual superweapon.
Once the cucks had established that the Left’s platform, “Bolshevik anarcho-tyranny will bring an end to transexual reification,” was not just undesirable but instrumentally irrational, the political logic of building and expanding an coalition pushes them to consider – maybe just as a devil’s advocate at first – more and more earnest endorsements of general position that someone who is concerned about transexual reification will vote for a conservative party. Over time, the cuckservatives confer more and more moral authority to the phrase transexual reification and young cucks grow up who have never heard their cuck-elders voice anything but devout concern for the grievous danger transexual reification poses to American democracy.
But even as they pimp the concept out to cucks, the Left would never surrender ownership of a juicy new principle like transexual reification to the cuckservatives, oh no. The bolsheviks in the universities, the media, and the courts retain possession of the concept itself, including the right to define it… and redefine it. So all the moral authority the cucks invest in the principle of transexual reification passes directly into the hands of committed leftists, who can then use it to tell the young cucks what to love and what to hate. Not that they will have to use it very often: they already have racist, homophobe, white supremacist, chauvinist…
Scorched Earth Tactics (and Overreaction)
The rational reaction, after observing a few cycles of this nonsense, is to refuse to confer any moral authority authority at all, under any circumstances, to an obvious nonsense-principle like transexual reification. Nonsense deserves only jeers and ridicule.
After standing up to resist the bolsheviks once tasting success, what next? Now you want to go back to the previous step in the bolshevization of Western civilization, and look for other words that only name the strings on which the Left’s puppets dance. Gay rights, for example; that looks like nonsense too. And now that you mention gay rights, gay and its synonyms have caused nothing but problems. Our ancestors got along fine without gay (and its implicit conceptual scheme of sexual orientations), why can’t we? Disavow.
And rights? Hmm….
To an energetic young reactionary, the simple strategy of refusing to acknowledge, respect, or rely on bolshevik concepts begins to look like it has boundless promise. (And I have treated only the moral authority and informal power that these concepts convey; the greater clarity of understanding one gains after discarding the useless slime is electrifying in its own way.) But where something is boundless, there is the risk it will inspire vertigo.
The options this strategy presents begin to seem limitless. Is a “progressive,” or “leftist concept” one taught by leftists? That describes all of them. Nearly all teaching jobs go to leftists.
Is it a concept created or popularized by leftists? That only lands us in a deeper muddle. Now we must decide which of the creators and popularizers were “progressive”. The Left will gladly claim all of them as progressives, of course! …or will salvage a philosopher as implicitly progressive after a suitably gruesome “charitable reading”; or barring that, will discover that an ancient concept “anticipates” or “prefigures” some robustly leftist concept from a later millennium.
(Bolsheviks do not consider furnishing elements of their ideology with counterfeit pedigrees to be a form of deception, by the way; they have a sincere conviction that it is the victim of their charitable reading who has been rescued from irrelevance and obscurity by the progressive interpretation of his life’s work.)
Is a concept “leftist” if it has been newly-minted? Well, all concepts have histories — and in fact, one of the classic tactics of bolshevism is to smear venerable principles by establishing the low origins of the high.
Further, bolsheviks often invent new concepts specifically to discredit threats from innovations and discoveries.
- After global anthropological research in the nineteenth century led to the first systematic theories of race, bolsheviks coined color-prejudice and then racist as slogans in a campaign to delegitimize the reality of race.
- After regional disturbances in the nineteenth century ended in the establishment of compact nation-states, rather than the longed-for destruction of all social order, proto-bolsheviks seized concepts like the brotherhood of man, humanism, universalism, and xenophobia which could be turned against the new obstacle.
- Even the state was novel once, but nonetheless the enemies of order developed anarchism and a constellation of related tools to belittle and discredit the state: chipping away at it, wearing it down.
So not only will you encounter no natural stopping point once you set off on a quixotic quest to rid your conceptual arsenal of all concepts tainted by suspicious leftist associations: worse still, the rejection of one concept on the grounds that it is parvenu, unnecessary, originally devised with ulterior motives (and so on) is itself an intrinsically leftist concept, in many cases.
No one likes to get meme’d on. But never forget that “You got meme’d on, fam” is in turn a meme itself.
Don’t Throw the Pepe Out with the Bathwater
There’s no slippery slope here. I’m not trying to call into question the strategy of resisting, ridiculing, and rejecting leftist concepts. Rather, I want to show you a topological map of an entire theater of operations. There are all kinds of slopes out there, as well as ridges and valleys. Some of these features leave leftists exposed to the resist-ridicule-reject strategy. Other features are valuable as potential bases from which to launch exactly these attacks. No single strategy or tactic is equally well-suited to advance one’s ultimate goals in every battle, or on every part of the battlefield.
Whether concepts are modern novelties, whether they are tainted by their leftist origins, and whether they continue to be controlled by leftists certainly matters. One simply needs to keep in mind the purpose of the scorched-earth strategy: starving the Cathedral of moral authority and damaging its informal power. Where resist-ridicule-reject doesn’t serve either function, we would do better to seize the concept for ourselves and put it to good use.
New — I discussed the limits of the novelty heuristic in the last section of Resisting Assimilation. Mankind has only existed for 100,000 years, if that; all old ideas were new, once; the main value of rejecting the Left’s inventions out of hand is that it stops rewarding their tireless attempts to manufacture ever-more-bizarre conceptual weapons. Hopefully once it stops working, they’ll stop trying. But if you are leery of “leftist inventions” when you study the thought and culture of pre-modern people, you have already fallen for the leftists’ strategic assimilation of human history.
Dangerous — “Beware Greeks bearing gifts,” the saying goes, and the same caution should apply to the generosity of the Left. If Leftists developed a concept, or at least popularized or adapted it, for their own political and ideological purposes, it’s entirely likely that it is a weapon which will only fire in one direction. It’s also possible that it is so entangled with other leftist concepts that it could become something of a tar-baby. For example, a certain type of egalitarian argument may be entangled with parallel arguments in leftist ideology, such that if you think a specific conception of equality is meaningful and useful and introduce it to a naive audience, you will leave them unprepared to differentiate between the true argument you presented and the many specious fallacies leftists will pair with it. Training a naive audience to appreciate the subtle differences between entangled concepts may well be far too much work to justify their use! Sometimes this is intentional, and leftists (or cuckservatives) craft a concept as a Trojan Horse to appeal to the Right from the very beginning. But if you think disentangling concepts is hard work, try communicating to people in formal logic! Gobbledygook which is free of the bolshevik taint is simply necessarily confusing rather than potentially confusing.
Enemy-controlled — For some concepts, there are armies of adjunct lecturers teaching teenagers what the concept means; there are teeming hordes of unscrupulous journalists trained to use the concept to advance the Narrative in a particular way; there may even be a professor or guru who is the “world expert” on the topic, or an institution dedicated to making sure that the concept gets used to advance the progressive agenda. When you teach someone to use, value, and rely on a concept which the Left has fortified heavily, he will end up at the beck and call of the occupation force. Certainly Bolshevism is bad for women (in many ways!), but so long as bolsheviks say who and what is called sexist, why would you ever encourage anyone to care about sexism? But the occupation strategy that makes concepts like sexism, racism, or my hypothetical transsexual reification so toxic simply amounts to concerted, repetitive use of the term in question. Where we are in a position to outgun the bolsheviks, why wouldn’t we?
To help frame the stakes of the strategic alternatives under consideration, let me throw out some hypotheses about how the Left and Right might interact as memeplexes. (The second and the third models I first heard from other people: if you know who you are and want attribution, let me know.)
(a) Imagine the Left is an ideological parasite, sort of like a virus. All the concepts arising from the ordering of social life (and that help to order it) are fundamentally right-wing, and help generate the energy (intellectual and otherwise) to perpetuate and spread ideologies of order. The Left cannot create “its own” concepts, but it can co-opt the Right’s and mercilessly exploit them to power itself. (We could borrow the concept of horizontal and vertical transmission to say that, in this model, the left-wing memeplex is essentially horizontal and the right-wing memeplex is essentially vertical. Cf. deathwish values.)
(b) Imagine the Left has a systematic affinity for novelty and innovation as such. All concepts that arise from any source and in any context are fundamentally left-wing, and all brand-new concepts contribute to the revolution and disorder that fuels the Left. However, as the concepts give rise to new fields, new institutions, and new solutions to the problems of human life, they are domesticated and re-purposed by the Right, which can now use these co-opted concepts to resist a new wave of revolutionary leftist advances, spearheaded by even newer concepts.
(c) Imagine the Left is completely cynical, and functions with complete indifference to the content of the concepts which it assimilates; it merely absorbs what it can, and wherever the Left has incorporated a certain concept into its memeplex the Right has no choice but to embrace whatever concepts make the best weapons for resisting what the Left has become.
To flesh out these models, let us use the concept nation as an example.
- Model A suggests nation is a concept that grows slowly and naturally out of the organization of national life; the Left cannot make a nation or the concept of nations, but it can twist it and invest it with a special significance that makes nationality a frenzied obsession for leftists, at least for a certain period of time.
- Model B suggests nation was created at some point as element of an arsenal of leftist innovations for a particular generation of reformers and revolutionaries, but that after that period of disorder and bloodshed the successful nationalist revolutionaries would end up bequeathing the nationalist institutions they created to heirs with zero interest in letting a new revolution disorder them.
- Model C suggests that whether or not the Left wraps its tentacles around the concept (and whether, in turn, the Right champions nation or rejects it) is entirely contingent and could depend on chains of events and historical junctures that seem arbitrary; and quite likely, local contingencies could lead leftist ideology to take different approaches to the nation in different regions, so that reactionary thought would need vary accordingly to suit the needs of the local resistance.
I will not endorse one of these models. The point I draw from them is not empirical or historical; it is that it is very difficult to figure out precisely what it means to say that a concept is fundamentally left-wing or fundamentally right-wing. Assigning a particular meaning to the label “fundamentally left-wing” may well serve a useful function in a certain model of ideological conflict! But it leaves open the possibility that there are other ways in which the same concept has affinities for the right-wing memeplex which, if not “fundamental,” can nonetheless detach a concept from one memeplex as it attaches itself to another. Getting too excited about whether a certain concept is really leftist or rightist is just another symptom of the illusion that the Left-Right polarity encompasses all of reality. When you have a precise reason to describe a concept as aligned with the Left or the Right, the precision extends to showing you the exact limits of description.
By convention Left, by convention Right; in reality memes and meme-war.
Where Seldom If Ever/ Their Flickering Campfires Burn
I imagine to some readers memetic warfare seems a pale, insubstantial metaphor. Politics as war, yes very well; but memes? Concepts as weapons? Concepts suffering invasion, concepts groaning under occupation? For these doubters, let us examine more closely what the stakes of this struggle are. Consider the following passage (from G.K. Chesterton’s biography of George Bernard Shaw):
An original man has to pause at every allusion or simile to re-explain historical parallels, to re-shape distorted words. Any ordinary leader-writer (let us say) might write swiftly and smoothly something like this: “The element of religion in the Puritan rebellion, if hostile to art, yet saved the movement from some of the evils in which the French Revolution involved morality.” Now a man like Mr. Shaw, who has his own views on everything, would be forced to make the sentence long and broken instead of swift and smooth. He would say something like: “The element of religion, as I explain religion, in the Puritan rebellion (which you wholly misunderstand) if hostile to art—that is, what I mean by art—may have saved it from some evils (remember my definition of evil) in which the French Revolution—of which I have my own opinion—involved morality, which I will define for you in a minute.” That is the worst of being a really universal sceptic and philosopher; it is such slow work. The very forest of the man’s thoughts chokes up his thoroughfare. A man must be orthodox upon most things, or he will never even have time to preach his own heresy.
Chesterton has in mind situations where an original thinker (e.g. Shaw) has thoughts that are wholly new and thus difficult to express unless he accepts (at least provisionally) habitual, orthodox ways of talking. But the difficulty Chesterton’s examples illustrate applies equally to attempts to revive truly old intellectual traditions in TCY, which must perforce be expressed in TCY’s progressive jargon.
To some extent this burden is pure “Harrison Bergeron”: leftists howl in outrage if you call illegal immigrants “illegal immigrants” (never mind “illegals”!) and will give you no peace until you switch to something unwieldy like “temporarily undocumented migratory agricultural worker.”
Already, simply by tripling or quadrupling the length of everything that you would like to say about the traditional conceptions of borders and immigration, the leftist has limited you to a fraction of what you would have liked to say. Worse still, he has made it nearly impossible for your audience to understand you — outright impossible, in fact, if your audience has not been marinading in the latest round of politically correct leftist babble, but difficult even if they do understand the technical meaning of all the jargon you have been forced to use. There are cognitive limits on how long people can stay focused on a line of thought that does not seem to be reaching a natural conclusion! The thoroughfare is choked up, but not by your own thoughts; the choking forest sprouts up from the words which your adversary has forced into your mouth.
But here we are still only talking about simple 1:1 substitutions of unwieldy jargon for simple compact names. Conceptual homelessness cuts much deeper than that. You may very well believe the concept society carries undesirable connotations, and feel that casual talk of societies tacitly endorses a conceptual cornerstone of socialism. You may feel the same way about nation, the people, and many other concepts besides. But then when you need to talk about a large group of interacting human beings, a group less cautious right-wingers would call our society or our nation, what do you do? What circumlocution or neologism can you use to ward off unwanted bolshevik implications?
I have nothing against subtle circumlocutions and technical vocabulary, myself. But go back and re-read Chesterton’s description of how a man like Shaw would try to talk about the English Civil War. Isn’t it a great rhetorical handicap to be forced to introduce your ideas like that?
Isn’t it a great philosophical handicap to be forced to think about your ideas like that?
And if it seems like a heavy handicap to you, dear reader, who actively seeks out obscure reactionary bloggers, how must it seem to other people, who are sympathetic to the Right and whose support we will eventually need?
On the whole I think it would be better for leftists to feel that they cannot use certain basic concepts comfortable without admitting unwanted implications, and for us to feel quite at home with our basic conceptual vocabulary. Likewise, leftists should fear that when they accuse an opponent of some crime, they strengthen the hand of rightists who are the ultimate arbiters of guilt and innocence. Leftists should fret that their theories are built on quicksand, and that recognized experts who are hostile to the Left will be called upon to judge whether the way they use our concepts is learned or confused.
We’ve already seen this reconquest happen on a small scale. Our outriders have already started to raid mainstream culture, seizing certain memes and symbols by ius raptio. Display of these symbols has become a de facto oath of allegiance to the Right, and it is the Cathedral’s altar-boys who have started to feel inhibited.
Next will come concepts, and then eventually theories, fields, and schools of thought. Leftists already read little because study and thought do little to advance their social status, but we should look forward to the day when they actively avoid Homer, Rousseau and Darwin because they “know” that these authors are somehow implicitly fascist. When that day arrives, even if they are forced to read them, the leftists will be too demoralized by their “knowledge” to try to understand them and use them. The books that leftists abandon will be left open to us and our children, and we can raise families — perhaps even a whole civilization — on this newly-liberated memetic Lebensraum.
What I have called “memetic Lebensraum” may be equivalent to another German concept, Lebenswelt. According to Edmund Husserl’s Crisis of the European Sciences,
[The] life-world – the “world for us all” – is identical with the world that can be commonly talked about.
Husserl’s concern was that as the authority and prestige of narrow academic disciplines grew, they would cut off modern European man from his roots in the soil of the life-world, leaving him “at the mercy of the fateful revolutions of our unhappy age.” After his death, Husserl’s concept was colonized by third-rate Marxists and disfigured into yet another tiresome attack on work, family, and piety. Yet perhaps before all is said and done we will liberate Lebenswelt itself from the “culture of critique.” One can never have too much living-space!
Series: Memetic Lebensraum
- Part I (Resisting Assimilation)
- Part II (Conquest) < You are here
- Projected: Part III (Envoi)