Conservatives are often characterized as being “anti-tax.” But why would you oppose a method of collecting revenue?
The media has a checklist for discovering ways to categorize people as extremists. Anti-government and anti-tax are up there on that list. This seems weird to most people, since taxation is just a method, and in their view, government provides many services.
However, as the old saying goes, “When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” This is what is called reversed cognition in my writings, and refers to our tendency to let our tools become our masters because we feel powerful with those tools. Cart before the horse, tail wags the dog. It is a common human mistake.
The problem with tax is that it resembles a business transaction. You give money to government, and government gives something to you. This gives you the right to complain and demand they do it right, but also gives them the right to run government like a business. At that point, government becomes a self-interested agency with a profit motive measured not in dollars, but the expansion of government itself.
When citizens are foolish enough to approve broad taxation, they have given government a mandate: invent whatever services you can justify and bill us for them with taxes in order to expand government. Like any other business, government then begins growing. If you pay it taxes for upkeep of the roads, it builds new roads, and expands into bridges, ferries and ziplines. These add more taxes, which make it easier to hide the fat. This in turn translates to easy jobs for many government workers and high profits for contractors.
At that point, it will be hard to oppose government. It has created a voting bloc of government workers who will always agitate for more services so there can be more taxes. People view paying taxes as normal and, if they are dependent on any government services, will radically oppose cutting any taxes. Government in fact builds up a little fan-base of neurotics who always support increasing government because in their addled view, results can only be achieved through a strong and “objective” force like a huge federal bureaucracy. In their view, government supplies electrical power, roads, water and weather reports, so it is surely the best and least profit-motivated method of achieving any result.
What this builds is ideological government. Government needs to justify new taxes; the best possible way is a type of mission creep that cannot be criticized because it is well-intentioned, altruistic, compassionate and egalitarian. This shifts the role of government from protecting a nation to shaping a nation, and leads down the path to totalitarianism. Ideology justifies new taxes because there are always people suffering somewhere and government will very happily take from the productive and transfer to them, keeping much of the wealth for itself and its own workers along the way.
Like any business with a monopoly, government becomes parasitic at that point. People depend on it and have no alternative, so they will pay whatever price it asks. Taxes keep going up, more ideological causes are invented, and since those are delusional, bad results explode across the land. Luckily — for government — social disorder justifies even more taxes and more services, and the more panicked citizens get, the more of them become typical Leftists who demand government solve all of their problems.
All of this could be stopped by not expanding taxes in the first place. A government who sees its role as caretaker of a people will keep the lights on and defend the land and do little else. In this view, it is up to the people as individuals to apply ideological quests like charity. That keeps the profit motive out of government, because the instant government becomes a charity, it has a rationalization for expanding itself. Even worse, it ceases to become a non-commercial entity and for all practical purposes, becomes a parasitic type of business protected by the color of the law and kept in a monopoly role. This is why conservatives oppose taxes: because some methods change our thinking and from that comes our downfall.
Bumbling through the internet, I came across a crowdfunding appeal for a new publication named Trigger Warning that sounds like what most of us want from the news: diverse views from different political and social orientations that lean toward hard, denied truths. In a time of invisible but pervasive disorder which will lead to civilization collapse, almost everyone is out there busy “succeeding” by finding creative new ways to parrot the denials that most people feel they must lean on. I spoke with Rachel Haywire, creator of the Trigger Warning project, to see how she and her team of creative talent hope to achieve this vision…
What will Trigger Warning do that no other publication will do?
Trigger Warning will provide a platform for those of us with unpopular viewpoints to express our ideas, adhering to a somewhat “trendy” aesthetic that will compete with all those popular Leftist new media sites. It will appeal to the young, hip, and “edgy” through doing a battle/tango with the Cathedral in both design and presentation. The New Left currently has a monopoly on culture, art, and philosophy; but it doesn’t have to anymore. There is no reason The New Right can’t up its game.
Why are ideas being suppressed in the current time, which is more stable than the past few centuries?
I believe it is much more than a political issue here. While many people see a massive culture war between the Left and the Right, I see a greater spiritual war between the domesticated house pets and the wild animals. The ideas that are being suppressed are the ideas of the more wild types, and currently these ideas are considered to be Right. Yet it is a mere public relations tactic of suppressing unsavory behavior and culling dissent. At the moment, dissent means anything that doesn’t adhere to the Leftist paradigm. I would venture to say that people on the Left are more scared of our behavior itself than our ideas. We freak them out because we are not ultra-civilized, and our ideas are merely used as a way to blacklist us. It’s a spiritual war disguised as a political battle.
Do you intend to make Trigger Warning ideologically neutral, or to give different ideologies equal air time?
I plan to give everyone air time whose ideas have been suppressed from the mainstream; as long as their writing is entertaining, provocative, and challenging. This would range from anarchists to radical conservatives to reactionaries. We are looking for intellectual and philosophical writing that has not been covered in academia or pop culture.
You seem to be part of a backlash against the dominant paradigm of our age. What awakened you to possibilities outside of the norm?
Going to a bunch of Leftist events and realizing how utterly conformist and conservative these people were. I have never been a conservative, but an individualist and a radical. I felt that the modern Left had become no different from the conservatives I used to protest. They were uppity and puritan to the extreme, not to mention boring as hell. It was only on the fringes of Right that I found the excitement and risk-taking ideas I’d been thinking about for so long. People were willing to discuss progressive and egalitarianism being a giant lie, the mechanisms of power from a realistic (yet dark by some standards) viewpoint, and the forbidden truths about human nature. I had never seen this open level of discussion on the Left before.
What do you hope will be the reaction to Trigger Warning, and what changes will that provoke in wider society and culture?
I hope that more people who are “in the closet” about their beliefs will come forward and express themselves. There should be no reason to suppress yourself in fear of being fired or blacklisted. This goes against everything our country is supposed to stand for, and it needs to change immediately. I think our wider society is coming around due to this trend we are starting, even if the process is tediously slow. They will attempt to capitalize on our work while they cut out the uncomfortable edges, exactly like they have always done. In essence, they will change culture as a whole in order to appease us; as we are the unruly mob that they wish to consume their products. Look out for Hollywood memes speaking our language in the next few years.
Can you tell us something of yourself, and how you came to go down this path, instead of choosing a more comfortable and profitable position?
I guess I’ve always had the “does not play well with others” issue. I’m the girl who shouts out that the emperor is naked, even if pretending like the emperor is dressed will win me a prize. It’s in my nature, I suppose. I’ll never go along with something or someone to appease the group. I’m more concerned about the freedom of the individual. If these means struggling, I am willing to struggle. It would be far worse than living my life a life. Yet I am not willing to live in poverty for my position. People who are willing to speak the truth and go against the dominant current should be the people who are thriving the most in our society, not the other way around. That is true hierarchy, at least from what I understand.
Have you been getting support from people who advocate free expression, like the Libertarian organizations, ACLU, anarchists, or anyone of that nature?
Lots of Libertarians and anarchists have backed our campaign. Even some open-minded progressives. Yet not a single one of their serious organizations has been willing to cover our campaign, much less any of their journalism outlets. You are the first media publication to cover Trigger Warning. I think this shows a division between the demographic of these Libertarians and their financial desires. Their demographic craves Trigger Warning, but the people at the head of these orgs see us as a risk to their social clique and financial stability. One exception would be Attack the System, an anarchist website that has always been open to highlighting unpopular viewpoints. Another would be Comcastro, a tech podcast that recently interviewed me about the site. We’ve also gotten coverage from industrial music websites like Heathen Harvest and Brutal Resonance. I don’t expect anyone at the Cato Institute, (for example) to acknowledge our existence, unless they feel that we have somehow become a threat. We conflict with their posh neoliberal branding.
How did you and your fellow experts in Trigger Warning come together? Was there any event which inspired you to take the plunge?
Besides the fall of Western Civilization? I was sick of doing everything by myself, so I hit up Ann Sterzinger after she left Taki’s. She was eager to get involved in this project, and before I knew it I was out in Chicago filming a video with her to promote the site. Once we launched our crowdfunding campaign we brought in Elizabeth Hobson and Ashton Blackwell, both fellow thought criminals who were on the more alternative culture side of things.
[Join our army.] from Trigger Warning on Vimeo.
In former years, people congratulated themselves on how much they avoided paranoia. This was at the height of the Cold War, and these people brushed that aside by saying it was not a real threat, the Russians were nice people and no one wanted war, so there was no need for paranoia.
They kept saying these even as the bodies, spy plots, assassinations and mass executions were uncovered. Conclusion: these people knew nothing about what they spoke so confidently of. They were bluffing, like most neurotics, because to them the world is a uniform maze of terrors, so why prioritize one that could actually end the world over the others? An unhappy, neurotic and socially-controlled person will always be miserable and afraid, so the particular threats do not matter to them, and give them a chance to preen some feathers and appear brave to the crowd by denying known threats.
Interesting enough, the same impetus drove the Soviet Revolution. People got tired of the actual problems, like too many people and an unstable mix of ethnic groups, and so they blamed their leaders for not having magically made everyone fall into line. A hundred years later, it is clear that the problem was not their leaders, as what followed was worse. The psychology was the same as the Western neurotics that they inspired, either the dreamers who saw “a better way” in the Soviet systems, or the nutcase suburbanites who made a name for themselves at the local bingo hall by claiming that impending nuclear death was not actually a problem.
This leads us to paranoia. In the time-honored tradition of human sleight-of-hand, paranoia contains two very separate categories which are equated to push one off the table for consideration: (1) the tendency of mental patients to see irrelevant details as evidence of a conspiracy and (2) the awareness of intelligent people that healthy and happy humans are few, and the rest are conspiring to scapegoat those few, destroy them and take what they have. The first category is literal insanity; the second one, absolute sanity and yet totally denied in this society.
If you live in the best house in your neighborhood, you may get along with your neighbors and even like them, and they you, but they will still resent you. You rose above somehow and that makes them, by the same reciprocal principle of relative motion that means a swimmer who pushes off from another sends that other in the opposite direction, feel lower. Given a chance — a situation where they are both protected from blame and have a plausible scapegoat, like a witch-hunt, anti-Jew pogrom, or Revolution — they will declare that you succeeded by cheating (or words to that effect) and demand to seize your house. If you do not immediately shoot enough of them dead to make the rest reconsider, you will lose it and probably be executed for crimes against whatever tin-pot authority they erect to oversee the seizure.
That is the face of realistic paranoia: most people are not bad, but not in control of themselves either, and thus susceptible to bad the way people catch colds. A rumor goes around, or a crop goes bad, and they are ready to find someone to blame. The price of being alive is constant vigilance, and humans — when they live in nice societies bought with the blood of their ancestors — tend to forget this. You can never relax. There is always someone plotting against you to take the fruits of your success, declare you unperson and kill you. 95% or more of humanity lives in squalor, dysfunction, poverty and tyranny because it is too clueless to create the type of civilization that succeeds. Following that pattern, they labor not on making themselves succeed, but on finding someone else to scapegoat so they can steal from that civilization. Be paranoid: it is the only realistic response.
Imagine that a path in the woods suddenly branches. The original path goes straight; another path, a tangent, moves off into a different direction. On that tributary someone has erected a sign that says DEATH AHEAD.
Assuming that you could not quietly sneak off the path and walk parallel to it in the woods to see exactly what doom lies at its end, and that you had to take two paths, the situation becomes clearer. Go straight, or die.
However those in your group are complaining about the straight path. It hurts their feet; sometimes, it has led them to places to set up camp that have been disastrous; it seems unfair how someone always has to work at the edges. They argue that the DEATH AHEAD path is in fact, life ahead. Less pain, more gain.
We are in this situation now, as we have been for a thousand years. The DEATH AHEAD path finds greater popularity than the straight ‘n’ narrow, and yet history shows us that it is indeed as the sign has labeled it. To do so, requires looking at a high-level view of civilization itself.
In ancient Athens, people became afraid of the example set by the Spartans of a militaristic society. The Athenians went the opposite way and embraced democracy and free expression of the individual instead. At first, this seemed to work. Then it became unstable, and they found themselves executing dissidents as well as one of the most important philosophers of all time, namely Socrates. Some time after that they passed into history. Today, Greeks are essentially ethnic Turks mixed with random elements of people the Athenians once easily conquered. FAIL.
In 1789 in France, a Revolution occurred. It was followed by years of show trials and mass executions of men, women and children. Eventually, the Revolutionaries turned on each other. At some point, order was restored by starting external wars — fighting for democracy, of course — which then consumed the budget and the nation. The people were poorer and less happy than before. Shortly after that, France dropped from superpower status to being known as a land of rifle-droppers. FAIL.
Just a little over a century later, in Russia, another Revolution happened. The people overthrew their leaders, and there was great celebration, followed by executions. And then, more executions. Change of power, then even more executions. Gulags for thousands, and almost everyone lived in dire poverty far worse than what they had experienced before. Eventually, after spreading nuclear waste across a continent, their system collapsed and now they are ruled by gangsters, known for their prostitutes, and are essentially a third-world nation. FAIL.
There is a pattern here.
As your grandmother probably told you, it is far easier to identify what you do not like than what you desire in its place. This is why everyone complains, and one out of a hundred has a constructive idea and works on it. This is not just the nature of humanity; the same pattern can be seen in our ape and monkey relatives, where most of them throw poo and shriek but only a few will act. Revolutions represent the triumph of the complainer. Unhappy people, who are always unhappy no matter what situation, find a sense of warmth and validation in being with other unhappy people. They find a scapegoat to blame, and then take over. They must then kill what they have blamed. At that point, they have nothing to hold them together, and third-world style dictator-and-warlord style government takes hold.
Let us review the steps of a People’s Revolution:
If you could craft a disease to destroy a society, it would be hard to do better than that. And yet they will tell you that they are free, and more individual than ever, with this new revolution. The old way made them feel like cogs; in the new way, they are individualists. They get nervous if you point out that this individualism is granted by others, and only exists when observed by others, so it is not really individualism and has come to suspiciously resemble a group-hug… but that will merely upset them if you tell them.
Our path lies not ahead of us but to the side. We have taken the DEATH AHEAD path, with the help of a Constitution in the US and strong culture in the EU to save us from its extremes, but as it turns out, those extremes cannot be avoided. Even with the millions of rules and dozens of wars we have fought, democracy is death. Always. And forever. Thus the choice is upon us: keep walking toward death, or get a [expletive(s) deleted] clue and turn around back to the straight ‘n’ narrow.
Capitalism stands as a superior alternative to socialism as a method; history shows us this. The Western nations adopted a quasi-socialist program in the 1960s, and the further we have gone down this path, the less useful and more indebted we have become. However many of us are appalled by the excesses of capitalism, which leads to criticism of capitalism itself.
Autonomy, not freedom, is the cornerstone of capitalism because that process operates at a more granular level than command economies. Regulation impedes capitalism; sometimes, this may be a good thing, such as some environmental regulations. Generally, however, regulation throws barriers into the process of transaction and makes it less granular by creating normal operating channels that one must undertake to avoid the pitfalls of regulation. When everyone must fill out a 5504 form or be fined, and that form specifies what can and cannot be done, the market changes from whatever it was to a 5504-compliant version of what it was. For this reason, even what we see as “capitalism” sometimes is not.
The worst excesses of capitalism come from another direction: consumerism. Consumers prefer mediocre, convenient and cheap products to quality products, but if those quality products were more widely produced they would be roughly the same price as the cheap ones thanks to economies of scale. The reason products degrade in quality is that it is more profitable to make them cheaper, throw in some advertising, and sell to the 80% of humanity that cannot tell the difference instead of the 20% who can. If I make a quality car, and the brand gets well known, people will start buying those cars because they have heard they are good, their neighbors buy them, and they see them on television. If I then replace the quality design and parts with a cheaper design and materials, I can pocket the profits. Instead of raising price, I lowered cost, and for the same result. This is why American beers, cigarettes and cars are terrible in quality and unreliable in the long term: they are made as perfect products, but not perfect devices, which is left up to the 20% selling to the luxury market.
When we see consumerism in action, or the reckless profit incentive driving corporations to run roughshod over decency and nature, what we are seeing is the motivation to profit by reducing cost (or opening new opportunities for production). What most do not acknowledge is that this is driven by the desires of individuals. Stockholders, most of whom are regular people or funds that benefit regular people such as shared retirement funds, care about only one figure: return. They want to see as much money as possible coming to them. This means that if product A decides to be ethical, it has taken on a cost and is less competitive than product B which just went ahead and cut corners to make more profit. The shareholders will buy more of B than A, and B will increase in value, which is what everyone in the system from employees in the mail room to the CEO to Bob and Susan in Muncie, IN building up their retirement portfolio wants.
That being said, the alternatives are grim. Socialism and distributarian societies require centralized economies; regulation creates the same effect as gradually introduced socialism, and under democracy, laws almost never get repealed or substantially changed. This leaves us with capitalism, but we wonder what other methods might control it. One such method combines the structure of feudalism with the modern economy, and makes sure that money is in the hands of people who find it socially, personally and bad business to cut corners and clear-cut forests or strip-mine picturesque mountains. This requires that a natural elite, as opposed to a “meritocratic elite” which means the most obedient students and workers, control most of the money in society. Egalitarian nations tend to balk at that idea.
Another option is to have a very strong cultural bias toward correct actions such that it is spread uniformly through the population, and people who do not agree are sent elsewhere. This requires an ethno-cultural nation defined by shared heritage, culture and values. Not surprisingly, egalitarian nations shriek at that one as well. However, both of these methods provide restraints on capitalism that are not external, but work within the primary method of capitalism, which is preference of buyers and consumers. That alone can regulate excesses, and does a better job than regulation itself, although it is still imperfect since consumers often do not know or are too distracted/lazy/busy to consider vital information. This is why a hybrid of the two may be our best: capitalism, interpreted by natural elites, with most of the population in agreement but those who are least able having the least say. Originally we called that hierarchy in the textbooks and among ourselves, “social order.”
Richard Wagner: Parsifal
Richard Kleinmichel (transcription), Alexander Jacob (piano)
Numen Media, 2015, $19
Parsifal grew from the fertile brain of Richard Wagner, who adapted ancient German subjects into his popular and extremely accessible operas in the late 19th century. An adherent of German romanticism, Wagner enjoyed plucking heroic tales from the Teutonic past and transforming them into an ode to the Germanic spirit, making Wagner extremely popular with German nationalists from Houston Stewart Chamberlain to Adolf Hitler as well as audiences worldwide from Berlin to San Francisco and Tel Aviv.
Parsifal is taken from the minnesinger Wolfram Von Eschenbach’s tales of the Grail knights and their quest for that great symbol of religious enlightenment. Opposing the character Parsifal is the wicked magician Klingsor, a man so overcome by passions that he has castrated himself to remove the distraction. Parsifal is the pure youth, the personification of innocence and virtue, such that he cannot, at the beginning of the opera, recall his own name. The musician captures this innocence beautifully as she teases the youth into the scene, by chance as much as not.
Alexander Jacob’s music builds beautifully during the prelude to Scene I, where the grail knights have assembled to pray. As the score fades into the boy with his bow, and closing portions of the body and closing portions of Scene I, the tension is maintained by a soft hum of key strokes, deep and persistent, which are offset by the sharper keys forward. As the knights accept the youth Parsifal into their brotherhood, and the light of the Grail is revealed to him, the piano becomes contemplative, resounding, eternal. One is moved, imagining the mustachioed men in their keep.
As Parsifal arrives at the castle of magician Klingsor, the evil sorcerer sets a succubus to tempt the youth. Jacob’s score becomes busier, lilting softly through faster and more delicate keystrokes, musically imitating the scheming and evil mind of Klingsor. As Parsifal slips through the garden of delights unseduced, one can almost feel the beating of his heart in the persistent rhythm of the music. The seductress, Kundry, cannot seduce the youth, Parsifal, and as the magician casts the Holy Spear that pierced the side of Our Lord at the youth, a magical force intervenes and Parsifal catches it, and the castle of Klingsor crumbles into naught.
Many years later, the story continues, the Grail knights grown old. Jacob’s music continues, cautiously, his skilled fingers picking through what sounds like personally enchanting melodies on the keys. A helmeted figure arrives, bearing the spear that killed Our Lord, and it is revealed, many years later, to be Parsifal, who has never used the holy weapon to strike in anger. Deep wells of emotion arise through the score as Parsifal and the knights baptize the succubus and pray to the Lord on Good Friday. The spirit of renewal seems to pass through Jacob’s fingers; spring seems as fresh, as youthful, as it ever could. Twinkling sounds echo, everywhere.
The finale of Parsifal is no letdown. As the knight, Parsifal, pardons the grandmaster of the Grail knights for his unmentionable sin, converts the succubus, and reveals Die Graal, high overhead, for all to see. The music becomes prosaic, relaxed, as it must be for a penitent priest. The crystalline stokes of Jacob’s hands lead us through Parsifal’s baptism of the whore, to his revelation of the Grail, this final bit of wisdom- her expert hands making the terrifying journey of a knight errant seem a happy, untroubled place.
Some might contend that a Wagner opera requires a violent, exaggerated score. A man holds in his mind the score from the Flight of the Valkries. Richard Kleinmichel, who transcribed these excerpts from Parsifal to piano, however, has been able to relax out of an ancient tale of pure youth obtaining the highest spiritual accomplishments. Interpreting that scroll, the fingers of Alexander Jacob tap out the feeling of nervousness, accomplishment, and ultimately, victory through God, which is what Parsifal ultimately is, evidenced by the succubus turning into a white swan at the end of the opera.
I would highly recommend Richard Wagner: Parsifal as an interpretation of Parsifal for who seek to understand the meaning behind the Wagner opera and have inquiring minds. It transfers the bombast and grandiosity of opera into a personal narrative, both background like ambient music and intensely melodic, creating a world which immerses the listener in the feeling of both the ancient tales and the powerful opera, but does so unobtrusively like memories of a dream.
Political movements in the modern time tend to fail because they self-assimilate into the dominant paradigm, which is liberal democracy. They do this by rejecting it on a surface level but having no actually distinct structure, which leads to them being compatible with it and then, because people seek what is simpler and going with the flow is always simpler, merging into it and becoming a flavor of it.
This is why the Libertarian party leans left instead of to the center, the GOP leans left instead of to the right, and the Communist party runs in elections only to make the Democrats look good. Stepping off the road of the mainstream in politics does not produce different human psychologies, only a different group of people who have a tendency to — when not being assimilated — self-marginalize by deliberately making themselves incompatible with mainstream thought. (There is a smaller and rarer group of us who self-marginalize accidentally by insisting on philosophical consistency. Both groups hate us.)
Neoreaction and the New Right both belong to a parent group called conservatism. In this world you are either committed to egalitarianism as the singular goal, or you are a conservative. All of liberalism is united by egalitarianism, which is a social impulse disguised as a moral rule, and those who do not go along with this form the varying degrees of conservatives. The very word “conserve” implies retaining what is valuable. Conservatives uphold traditions that achieved the best results in the past. We do not theorize in the realm of ideology, which is composed of what “should” be according to individual human impulses. Instead we look at what works and realize that, as long as keep doing those things, our society will not only be stable but rise. Therefore, for us there is only one issue: keep civilization healthy. Although Neoreaction takes a post-libertarian surface and puts it on conservatism, it is conservatism; while the New Right adopts the methods of the New Left, its ultimate goal is conservative.
Recently several Neoreactionaries took issue with me over the following message on Twitter:
In response to the lengthy pseudo-debate that followed, I wrote a post on solipsism and the dangers of social standards overwhelming logical ones, which was the subject of my original Tweet. I then sent it to both of the above. Neither has responded on this blog.
I have avoided using the word “clique” regarding Neoreaction, but it is time to unbind it and release it. Neoreaction is not itself a clique, but it has separated itself into cliques. These cliques consist of bloggers who support each other and think they are generating activity, when really it has become an audience preaching to itself. I do not doubt that they mean well, but meaning well without honest and thorough analysis calls to mind the old folk wisdom, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Good intentions without good methods leads to non-solutions; instead of doing what needs to be done, people buzz around signaling their good intentions and then, because after several years nothing has happened, they depart to their next fascination. At that point you have to wonder whether they honestly believe what they say, or are merely using it to justify their lifestyles.
The cliques of Neoreaction have centered themselves around a number of what I will call “sacred fictions.” These fictions justify their inaction and their lifestyles. As a result, they buzz around these with high interest, not realizing they are the auto-marginalizing group described above. They have in fact already created a group that only appeals to a certain type of person and this has stopped their expansion to the audience they want to reach, which is normal people. This is why movements descend into geekery; they unconsciously target a specific group, which means that anyone in that group — no matter how socially inept — is eligible. The people from that category who need to belong to something the most are the socially inept, so they become the cutting edge and quickly the majority. At that point, people from outside start looking at the group like the Renaissance Fair or a Star Trek convention, because its most prominent members and the bulk of its membership are geeks.
Neoreaction appeals to the angrily under-appreciated tech geek crowd. These people act as if they believe a STEM education is all that is needed to understand the world, and ignore the wider world of philosophy. Very few if any of them have read Nietzsche, Kant, Schopenhauer or Plato. Most of them however are familiar with technology and tend to see the world as engineers do, which is why they are drawn to social engineering, even if by the “hands off” methods of libertarianism: they think society is like software, where you can make rules and get results that fit the profile of a well-maintained server room. Did I mention that few of them are familiar with literature, either? They deny the importance of a classical education, which interestingly enough does not require going to school. It requires reading the books, thinking them over on long walks (ideally through the countryside and not the mental spam of the advertising-coated and distracting cities), and then struggling with the tough questions that do not succumb to easy paint-by-numbers answers like technical issues.
Neoreaction as formulated by Moldbug and others was a series of points of analysis, not yet to the level of academia or philosophy, but good enough to cerebrally circumnavigate the arguments on The New York Times editorial page. Neoreactionaries however have fallen into treating society like a giant iPad application, and it means they have missed many of the surrounding issues and lessons of history. Even when they memorize facts, they fail to interpret them, because their means of interpretation is too narrow. STEMlords like to talk about how STEM is the only game in town, but they have simply done what others before them have done, which is to shutter their eyes to information beyond what they know how to do, and thus to declare their methods the only methods. This creates a Dunning-Kruger effect within this group, who are generally above 115 but below 125 IQ points, and creates the kind of arrogant presumption that enables the formation of cliques. Not all of them fit into this pattern, but Neoreaction as a whole is going down this path, which explains its increasingly circle-jerky tendencies.
Let us look at a Neoreactionary concept, “Exit.” Alrenous writes up an interesting analysis here:
The point is discipline. Exit is a good first approximation, but Exit empowers Voice and and opt-in is just as powerful as an opt-out; exit is essentially a two-syllable word for freedom of association. (Similarly, families are not normally in Exit’s domain of validity, because genetics imposes its own discipline; I’m sure you can think of other exceptions.)
The essence of Exit is discipline, and the essence of discipline is survival. To truly have Exit, the institution’s survival must be under the power of its putative beneficiaries. History shows this is the only way putative beneficiaries will match actual beneficiaries.
This strikes me as closest to the original concept, which Mencius Moldbug used to illustrate how libertarian theory could apply to societies: if civilization was a marketplace, and people or groups could have the option of “exit” or leaving a society, the rules of economics would apply and overly-restrictive liberalized societies would lose members to less-restrictive and more traditional ones. There are a few fatal flaws with that idea, starting with the problem of the “informed consumer”: most people buy Budweiser over Sam Smith’s, and most of them smoke Marlboro instead of Dunhill, which means that most of them will go to the cheap, convenient and stupid answer or society instead of trying for something better. What this means is that, like the Renaissance Fair, a few self-marginalizing geeks will run away to a new society and watch it promptly fail from ineptitude beyond the few tasks they do well. Another flaw is that having people moving around globally by convenience would create chaos; yet another is that the instant a better society is created, the same forces that corrupted other societies will infiltrate and replicate the process there. It would require a stronger defense mechanism than individual preference to defend against that.
Alrenous makes a really solid point here that transcends the definition of “exit”: exit is freedom of association. In other words, remove liberal laws and let birds of a feather flock together. That is what Jared Taylor has been saying since at least 1995 and what the original libertarians, and indeed the framers of the United States’ Constitution, believed. To them, government failed when it became ideological, and so it should be neutered so that people could — by free association — sort themselves into a hierarchy. Such sorting will favor nature, and not ideology, so it will be racist, sexist, homophobic and intolerant in the language of liberals. Looking back over history, we see that liberalism exists because nature is not liberal. Naturalist societies came first, and liberalism rebelled against them, and everywhere too much liberalism appears, society fails; this means that liberalism is an act against nature designed to compensate for that natural distribution of hierarchy. If you wonder why egalitarianism, or the anti-hierarchy was chosen, you can infer it from that fact alone.
However, shortly after that point, Alrenous and I must part ways. It is here that I find myself detaching:
To truly have Exit, the institution’s survival must be under the power of its putative beneficiaries.
I.E. “power to the people.” He has taken a clear statement, which is that a civilization must exist for the benefit of its people, and translated it into the dominant paradigm, which involves the choice of those people. Let me clarify this with some classical wisdom: societies are organic things. What matters is that the organic whole survives, not that every single individual survive. In fact, society is weakened when individuals survive who are criminal, incompetent or merely against the culture of that society. More importantly, organic societies are divided into hierarchies with each group having a role. Most people cannot make complex decisions, and so should have no part in the power process. Yet “under the power of its putative beneficiaries” would do that. Even a group of highly educated STEMlords will find themselves falling prey to this democratic fallacy.
Nick B. Steves — one of the participants in the conversation above — steps in with a more application-oriented definition:
Exit is, at the most abstract level, private government. To exit is live beyond the reach or beyond the notice (or both) of prevailing, entrenched formal institutions of government. Therefore one must be prepared to build one’s own. It is agency, writ large—at the level of a social collective of some size. If you win, you’re a government. If you lose, you’re dead, along with those who cast their fortunes with yours.
In case it is not clear at this point, exit not merely secession, the orderly exchange for one set of familiar political bindings for another. Secession could be important. And it is practical. The American Empire is fading fast. America’s credibility overseas having been wasted, her client states are quietly seeking better and more fruitful relationships. And as the pile of unfunded liabilities stack up at home, the question is only when not if, the austerity imposed by the fiscal laws of physics will come due. When the empire falls a citizen of an independent Texas or Alaska, like those of Switzerland, will be far better off than a citizen of USG.
In other words, exit is forming smaller nations in order to withdraw from the large ideological government, and in the process basing those smaller nations on some idea other than ideological government. I find that distinction most important: exit is not merely physical exit, but exit from the concept of the purpose of government. However, the above has some issues in that it is merely a 200-year deference of the American experience. The United States started as a libertarian nation and, through the preference of the masses, arrived at its present state. We see every major empire in history following the same path. Thus the exited nation will quickly find itself back in the same place the Americans have because its exit was not complete enough. Nietzsche offers a good answer here, but Neoreactionaries do not read Nietzsche and so are oblivious to it.
The state lieth in all languages of good and evil; and whatever it saith it lieth; and whatever it hath it hath stolen. – Fred
In other words, we need to make exit from the concept of the State itself… which requires both ethno-nationalism, which in North America would be keeping the WASPs and sending everyone else away on boats, and a change in power structure from State power structures. That requires more exit that the exit-prone are willing to take. Another problem faces the exiteers, which is that the host society does not take willingly to this because it is fundamentally a criminal enterprise. It exists to tax, invent more justifications for taxes by expanding its mission through ideology, and then tax some more. A private government would rapidly find itself being heavily taxed and also policed. Given the power large corporations had today, if such a thing as being unbound by US law was possible, they would do it. The issue is not so much the long reach of the law itself but the opportunity presented to (1) government and (2) the voters. Government will want to seize control and tax; voters will want the same thing so that it can help subsidize their benefits and happy warm feelings about the progress of our nation. Further, popular opinion can and does swing against anyone who is perceived as having escaped society and gotten away with it. One of the most common behavioral archetypes in humanity is the crowd racing after the one kid with the candy, or the nice bike, or who had some special privilege. They will do the same to any “exited” group as they did to the South.
No, it is sad to say, but in life, oftentimes the only answer is a hard answer, but because it is the only answer, anything else becomes self-defeat. There is no exit from modern society except conceptually, and that requires going farther than Neoreactionaries at least right now are willing to. Then again, there is hope. As one writer on our forum said, Neoreaction is under the control of people who are butts, which is slang for those who exist for their own self-gratification and will divert any organization from its actual goals to personal goals. We see the same thing in mainstream conservative groups like the GOP, in underground far-right groups like white nationalists, and perhaps all of leftism. The self-serving latch on to ideas so that they can use those ideas to make themselves popular. From popularity comes power and even monetary success. This is a type of corruption, and it has afflicted Neoreaction since the Google AdWords checks started rolling in. I find it interesting that many of the people most in need of questioning their own motives refuse to comment here or promote anything I do beyond surface recognition. I wonder where the Twitter conversation above falls on that spectrum.
As others have observed, Neoreaction will succeed when it drops the geeky use of language — imprecisely, as one can easily see — and focuses instead on clear communication and plain solutions. Neoreaction gained popularity because it created talking points to counter those from Pravda-on-the-Hudson and Pravda-on-the-Potomac. It gave people theoretical devices to work around the ideas that hold us dominant in this time. Its most important achievement has been to help make it acceptable to talk about right-wing ideas again in public, although Donald Trump, Marine Le Pen and Michel Houellebecq have it beat there. But when its own ideas become impractical, like “exit,” and it is ruled over by butts and cliques, it loses not only its validity but its appeal. Perhaps this writing, like many in the past, will give it a spark of direction that could rectify that problem.
Modern people have divided the world by using categories which because of their good/bad nature are allowed to make decisions for people. For example, we all know that terrorism is bad and totalitarianism is bad.
Terrorism refers to guerrillas who target civilians so that the media freaks out and makes the terrorist cause more important. Totalitarianism describes any system of government where a central authority manages the daily activities of its citizens in order to keep them obedient and controlled.
We in the West love to talk about how we fight for democracy/freedom/peace, which all seem to mean the same thing: our system taking over yours. This has not changed for several hundred years. Napoleon fought his wars for the same reason, and the Soviets described their various assaults in similar language.
Another powerful reason exists to distrust this language. We are using it to deflect from our own society and its failings. In particular, we are both terrorists and totalitarians.
Anyone living in this society suffers constant fear of physical harm from the instability of society leading to criminal attacks, and the possibility of his fellow citizens making terrible decisions in times of crisis. These decisions range from rioting, stampeding, and theft to ignoring the crisis itself and voting for a series of distractions until war is upon us and we are unprepared. A few thousand soldiers and sailors from Pearl Harbor would like a word on this account, as well might the 3,000 people dead at the World Trade Center, not to mention the many people who were injured or had their property destroyed in race riots in Los Angeles, Ferguson and Baltimore.
The terrorism we face is that of instability. Our government claims to be doing something about these problems, but each time one flares up and the herd panics, government gets more power. In addition, the voters will never tackle a problem if they can ignore it, so government must create a crisis to get anything done. When they want more money for police, they let crime get out of hand; when they want more power for war, they allow an attack. Either way, citizens get caught in the middle and treated as expendables.
Our totalitarian side is simple: where previous totalitarian governments had a negative focus, as in a desire to crush non-conformists, our government sets up a simple formula. You either obey and be rewarded, or get ground down into the ghetto where the constant crime — which somehow they cannot solve — and corruption, disease and hopelessness will destroy you. In the Soviet Union, it was demanded that all who did not obey would be shot; in the Soviet West, it is demanded that all be shot by our helpful underclass except those who obey.
Textbooks do not define the terms this way. They prefer to keep the terms outward looking, so we think of terrorists as people overseas with Arab accents and totalitarians as sneering German übermen. Ask yourself why we need to deflect in this manner. The answer is that we can look anywhere but in the mirror, because to do so is to remove the legitimacy of our society and the method we use to control our people. In our masked totalitarian-terrorist society, that sin remains unforgivable.
The record of scientists and engineers in philosophy is fairly dismal. Lacking the perspective on argument as a method of incorporating multiple angles of analysis at the same time, they zoom in on single angles and, as is the tradition in their field, draw broad conclusions from details of the data. The result is inevitably populist philosophy that appeals to people because of its oversimplification, but falls apart on further notice. With this in mind, Jonathan Haidt’s attempt to cross over into liberal arts land is not only ambitious, but a partial success marred by failure in both philosophy and mechanics.
With The Happiness Hypothesis, Haidt tears into a question of particular relevance: where do philosophy and studies from sociology, psychology and neuroscience overlap? He does so from his ultimately liberal perspective but manages to keep an open mind toward many good ideas while trying to shift the conversation in a liberal direction, but his thesis ends up favoring a conservative idea. He presents a formula for happiness that appeared in the research of others but Haidt explains more clearly and connects to related concepts:
H = S + C + V
In this case, experienced happiness (H) is equal to a biological set point (S) plus the conditions of life (C) plus the amount of volunteer activities (V) in which the individual subject engages (91). Biological set point refers to the innate degree of positivity hardwired into the individual; conditions of life encompass socioeconomic status and limits on the individual imposed by physical and mental condition; and volunteer activities refer to any engagement in the community which is not strictly mandated by immediate self-interest. What is interesting about this formula is that it debunks the liberal model of happiness. First, people are wired toward a certain outlook. Second, they are not incredibly disturbed by even a bad condition in life because they quickly adapt to it. Finally, acting for the benefit of society as a group — instead of imposed methods of making people equal — seems to bring the greatest happiness. As with all that Haidt does, he makes these revelations slowly and hides the good bits in the details so as to avoid directly challenging the status quo, then later cleans up with some positive noises about the usual assumptions.
The first half of the book provides the most interesting information and shortly past the formula the writing changes into a breezier, more conjectural and less factual style. This contrasts the early chapters which hit a sequence of ideas in rapid order and produce the sense of covering vast ground, then loosely tie those thoughts to philosophical musings, where the later chapters focus first on a general philosophical idea — usually drawn from the odious Buddha — and then expand it to cover enough areas to rope in some tangentially-related research. Some exceptions exist, but lower density and more conversational logic in the second half makes it worth skipping for the most part. One such blip comes in this discussion of moral reasoning:
This turn from character ethics to quandary ethics has turned moral education away from virtues and toward moral reasoning. If morality is about dilemmas, then moral education is training in problem solving. Children must be taught how to think about moral problems, especially to overcome their natural egoism and take into their calculations the needs of others. As the United States became more ethnically diverse in the 1970s and 1980s, and also more averse to authoritarian methods of education, the idea of teaching specific moral facts and values went out of fashion. Instead, the rationalist legacy of quandary ethics gave us teachers and many parents who would enthusiastically endorse this line, from a recent child-rearing handbook: “My approach does not teach children what and what not to do and why, but rather, it teaches them how to think so they can decide for themselves what and what not to do, and why.” (164)
In this example, Haidt reveals the difference between ancient views of morality and those in the present: in societies which were not pluralistic, there could be a single standard of moral behavior, which put the focus back on the individual in the form of the question of whether they acted according to that standard. Because culture tends to form a pyramid from a few basic ideas outward, this standard concerned goals more than specific rules, leaving the specific adaptation to the individual. As society becomes less unified, and eventually adopts multiple moral standards, the question moves from moral goals to personal behavior for the purposes of appearance and takes on a defensive role, with individuals offering reasoning as a form of excuse-slash-rationalization after the fact. Haidt does not explore those issues, which are beyond the scope of this book in addition to being hopelessly un-PC, but he provides the keys to that level of thinking.
Earlier in the book, during the more exciting section that mated modern research to philosophical observations rather than broad philosophical conclusions, Haidt explores hard genetic determinism and the concept of inborn character, ending up a step away from discovering nobility as a character trait and the basis of the caste system:
When we combine the adaptation principle with the discovery that people’s average level of happiness is highly heritable, we come to a startling possibility: In the long run, it doesn’t much matter what happens to you. Good fortune or bad, you will always return to your happiness setting — your brain’s default level of happiness — which was determined largely by your genes…If this idea is correct, then we are all stuck on what has been called the “hedonic treadmill.” On an exercise treadmill you can increase the speed all you want, but you stay in the same place. In life, you can work as hard as you want, and accumulate all the riches, fruit trees, and concubines you want, but you can’t get ahead. Because you can’t change your “natural and usual state of tranquility,” the riches you accumulate will just raise your expectations and leave you no better off than you were before. (86)
Among other things, this model refutes the liberal idea of political equality and rising wealth creating happiness. It also subverts many of the notions of consumer society. While most of this book offers essentially background information, interesting cross-overs like these are frequent in the first four chapters and scattered throughout the book. Despite the generally over-written second half and its resulting sparseness of information, this book provides a great reference point for conservatives by debunking many human myths of happiness, and pointing instead toward the type of community-involved society that a civilization unified by heritage, culture and values could create. With a hard edit, this one could go down to approximately a hundred pages and be more effective.
I had a dream once that combined a number of notions from American movies. In it, I was one of the few remaining people uninfected on earth. The others had been struck like a disease that made them zombies, but unrecognizably so. As in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, they appeared normal, and unlike the aliens in They Live they were 100% human. Like Night of the Living Dead, they suffered a compulsion to attack the uninfected, but unlike it, they had their full faculties and could not be detected. But more like in They Live, they endorsed an ideology that was equal parts complacency and elimination of non-compliance. Then I awoke and realized I had not been dreaming at all.
What I call Crowdism is the union of individuals for an individualist end: the suspension of social standards and order so that the individual can act without responsibility for consequences. They want freedom, from judgment, sense, aesthetic taste, evolution and higher standards. It is the rabble demanding its right to be as degenerative as it wishes to be, as measured by the individual and not the group. In fact, the Crowd is united by the fact that it acts like a group in defense of the individual, which is why it fits into none of the usual slots. A certain mentality both creates Crowdism and is created by it, and that is solipsism, or the tendency to think the world should adapt to the individual instead of the other way around, which implicates a mental process in which the world which is normally perceived through the individual is perceived as being within that individual. In other words, the individual becomes the world and the world something that resists the individual, much like we have conflicting impulses within us that resist each other.
This concept of what we might unfashionably call evil — undeniably a subset of Kant’s notion of “radical evil” — suggests that evil is not a discrete and isolated thing, but a constant tendency in human beings which we beat down like our desire to eat one more slice of cheesecake. There is no Satan needed because humans invent their own evil, and its root is not in a desire to do evil, but in an error by which humans substitute self for world. In fact, as Plato suggested, without guidance human emotions and desires turn toward this very destructiveness, which is why most humans live in misery and most societies fail. Humanity is self-destructive, much like individual humans drink too much or eat too much cheesecake, or vandalize the things that make them happiest. When we deny responsibility for our actions, happiness is no longer our own task, but something we view as happening like a lottery. This enables us to pursue the unfulfilling objects of our desire and then engage in “sour grapes” type rationalization where we come to the point of seeing that nothing would have made us happy anyway. Unhappiness becomes a weapon against striving for anything better, or to rise above. This evil pathology explains both the victimhood mentality of modern people and the seemingly unerring capacity of democracies to select the worst possible plans in any situation. But what makes this evil so pervasive is that it exists within us and cannot be purged, but it can also be spread between people, like the hybrid zombie/body-snatcher infection described above.
Most of us will refuse to recognize this evil. That is because solipsism feels good; we sense in it that we can never die, and that we are always good and right no matter to what degree we are not. It saves us from self-criticism, and criticism by others. It makes us feel justified in selfish behavior because the world has made us its victim, and in self-pity we have a cause for resentment and thus a systematic revenge on the world. When we do bad things, and create socialized costs for others, that is not a personal loss but victory because we harmed the force that oppresses us. This evil recognizes no boundaries: it crops up in good people as well as bad, in smart as well as stupid, and in smart it may take on a greater life because they have the ability to make it interesting. Even when we argue against it, we are not immune; like a fire dares us to stick our hand into it, evil dares us and seduces us. And of all frustrating things, it has no home. There is no Hell to destroy, Mordor to invade or Berlin to reduce to rubble. Evil simply takes a new form, spreading by contact between people who (in an effort to disguise their own weakness) re-style it as good, or cropping up again anywhere a mind thinks. It is the enemy without form, an invisible aggressor who almost never appears in a guise of bad but always appears good, or at least convenient.
Recently I launched a corrective attack on Neoreaction, the system of post-libertarian thought launched by post-libertarian bloggers during the early 2000s. Neoreaction has a number of good things going for it: it recognizes the failure of The EnlightenmentTM and consequently, rejects equality, democracy, and populism or the tendency to motivate people by pandering to the lowest common denominator already accepted by them. It is more of a virtual salon or symposium in that, like Plato’s Republic, it offers a series of thought experiments to stimulate awareness outside of the confines of the accepted and to thus open channels to thought beyond the status quo. In this attack, which is designed to expand the field of Neoreactionary theory to include the conservatism from which it has come and to clarify both, I identified a number of problems:
- Neoreaction fails because it is reaction; that is, it reacts to what is instead of plotting another course. Reactionary thought is not bad at all, but limits itself by trying to look backward, instead of realizing that it does not need to justify itself, and can merely pick high-level common sense solutions as a philosopher would.
- Neoreaction suffers because it is inherently social. The original spark for this discussion arose from one person taking a blog offline, which usually happens when personal conflicts make it undesirable to continue with a group. When I say Neoreaction is “social,” that means that it reflects what groups of people want to talk about and think about, which quickly becomes a form of populism. It has confused the desire to attract audience with the desire for truth because of the nature of its appeal: it makes STEM majors and assorted internet critics feel that, by engaging in the act of academic-style criticism, they have become a new vanguard of truth. We have seen this phenomenon before, you and I, in the burst of “traditionalists” who came about in the early 00s as well. If a movement of thought does not have a purpose, it becomes a purpose in itself, and that inevitably falls prey to the evil mentioned above and becomes a form of Crowdism. In Neoreaction, the Crowdist impulse has taken form through endless play-acting at being theorists with a nasty in-group enforcement, driving away the truth-oriented instead of those who want to live out the image of being neoreactionary. This is both an inherent tendency of humanity and an evil particular to discussion groups, in that the act of discussing becomes the power those people desire, instead of having a desired end effect.
- Neoreaction loves the idea of “exit,” both as theory-object and reality. Exit is departure from a society, whether by literally moving or having some other way of existing outside of its power. What originally was a way of subjecting societies to market forces by showing how individuals would leave for greener pastures, and thus a post-libertarian society (free markets + a lack of liberalism, essentially) could out-compete other societies. This model fails because any such society becomes a threat and gets eliminated. Those of us who have run through this mental simulation for some time realize that the only solution is to re-capture the West, which becomes easier as it gets weaker, and create a new civilization. This is the antithesis of chatter and yet is less satisfying than chatter, because discussing it does not make the above average thinker feel like a profound genius. “Insight porn,” some call it, and it is aptly applied here.
- Neoreaction still believes in “systems.” Free markets, democracy, laws and regulations all belong to the world of systems, or the idea that we can set down some kind of rules and have everything work out fine because of the results of those rules. A Gödel might have observed, no system will cover every case, and so systems inevitably end up being hijacked and turned on themselves, with the unfortunate attribute of now being concentrated power which is hard to resist. That is what happened in the West, ancient Greece and Rome, and virtually every other society that has become destroyed: the leadership became corrupt and, since they wielded centralized power, were able to suppress dissent. With postmodern civilizations, the power is no longer centralized but is just as strong, and it is this — called “the Cathedral” by neoreactionaries — that must be overthrown and replaced with actual leadership, throwing out all the laws that served as intermediaries and failed.
If we are going to attack The EnlightenmentTM, nothing remains but to do it. Democracy, equality, liberty, freedom, “rights,” populism and the idea of systems itself are all wrong. They go to the dustbin of history, but so also should other thought that promotes socialization as a substitute for actuality.
In contrast, history and common sense show what works. Aristocracy, nationalism, social conservatism, heroism and transcendentalism work together as a system that is both traditional and fits within Neoreactionary thought. The social community however rejects this because it breaks what makes Neoreaction accessible, which is that any STEM graduate or internet typist who memorizes a few ideas can participate in the theory, and that in itself is the goal. The goal lies outside the social group, which like a force of entropy becomes populist, and without that to unify the group, it relapses into being a social event instead of an actual one.
Any movement can become social. Where the index of selection, or how it chooses what becomes part of its library of ideas, is social in any way, it is a social movement. Cliques of intellectuals succumb to this as well. This is why Crowdism is said to be pervasive: it is a human monkey tendency that corrupts truth with the pragmatic convenience of getting along in a group and motivating them toward a goal, albeit at the expense of the clarity of the goal. Understanding this is crucial to the anti-equality idea, as it displaces our faith in “systems” and voting and returns to the idea that a decision must be made by those capable to make it.
My goal with any kind of new movement is to have less chatter and more solid expression of motion toward these ends. Neoreaction served its purpose well as an introduction to these ideas, but then got caught up in its tendency to be talking points instead of practicality. We see the results now in the constant drama across the Neoreactionary blogs and the writing of much theory, little of which expands any substantive issue, as people jockey for position in the salon. As the years pass, the goal emerges more clearly, and it is time to discard intermediates and — emerging from our comfort zones — go for the goal.