Furthest Right

Peter Osbourne Describes The Cathedral


Writing about Nigel Farage, Peter Osbourne describes the Cathedral:

When he first emerged as a national figure, more than ten years ago, Britain was governed by a cosy cartel. Labour and the Tories may have been separate parties, but they had both been hijacked by a modernising clique who shared many of the same values and beliefs.

Peter Mandelson for Labour and George Osborne for the Tories were the high priests of these modernisers. For them, politics was a game, played for the benefit of a social and economic elite. Both men seemed to disdain the views of voters.

Indeed, together with a group of London-based strategists, they ignored the vast majority of the population and concentrated their efforts on wooing a very small number of voters in key marginal constituencies.

This perfectly describes the ideal of liberal government: equality/anarchy ruled by a powerful state in which each participant is acting to further a political career by cleverness, not goodness or realism.

Its opposite is organicism, which is the type of order described by Burke and Plato: people agree on a few principles which are applied in varying ways in specific situations. The Cathedral rejects organicism and instead creates an elite based on having politically correct opinions.

This mirrors the idea of Cathedralism itself, which is that human intent and control produces better results than organic development:

Linux overturned much of what I thought I knew. I had been preaching the Unix gospel of small tools, rapid prototyping and evolutionary programming for years. But I also believed there was a certain critical complexity above which a more centralized, a priori approach was required. I believed that the most important software (operating systems and really large tools like the Emacs programming editor) needed to be built like cathedrals, carefully crafted by individual wizards or small bands of mages working in splendid isolation, with no beta to be released before its time.

Linus Torvalds’s style of development—release early and often, delegate everything you can, be open to the point of promiscuity—came as a surprise. No quiet, reverent cathedral-building here—rather, the Linux community seemed to resemble a great babbling bazaar of differing agendas and approaches (aptly symbolized by the Linux archive sites, who’d take submissions from anyone) out of which a coherent and stable system could seemingly emerge only by a succession of miracles.

The above is not quite true, of course: Torvalds developed his system based on thirty years of growth in a highly architected 1960 operating system. Linux is a UNIX clone, and not the first one, either (Minix predated it, among others).

Cathedralism then is not the centralized intent, but the centralized intent to control, or to force people to en masse follow an agenda with identical motions. Control is a zombie horde; organicism involves people agreeing on goals and taking their own paths there, perhaps with a Darwinistic shaving off of those who repeatedly fail.

Wherever human societies thrive, the dark specter of human decay follows them, in the form of a happy hive-mind that wants to feel everyone is accepted so that this pacifism can be used to eliminate conflicts, freeing up the individual to pursue only what it wants. Unfortunately the overhead of enforcing this illogical scheme then enslaves the intelligent but foolish people who demanded it, at which point everyone becomes miserable and stops reproducing.

The only way around this problem is (literally) to avoid it: instead of embarking on the anarchy-plus-control method, go with organicism, or the hierarchy-with-flexibility that makes no promises of peace but avoids destroying everything good in the name of what is ultimately a human illusion based in emotional reactivity.

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