Next time you encounter a so-called “conservative,” you might ask them what goal conservatives aim to achieve. You will usually either get an answer about traditional values, or a short discourse on the Constitution (if in Europe, they will talk about social benefits instead).
Very few of them will point out that the word “conservative” comes from the Latin word for “to preserve,” and that this means they are preserving something. If you bring this up, they will probably answer something about the founding of the nation, or maybe a favorite decade like the 1980s or 1950s. Anything farther back is a mystery, except the founding, which since no one remembers it, is handy like a movie screen for projecting upon.
But preservation calls to mind a few ideas. We can only preserve that which is alive, so it implies a continuity with the society of the past. Since civilizations outlast governments, which are institutions tasked with preserving civilization, it means the civilization is the goal of the preservation, not government. And since fortunes vary, it brings to mind a normally forgotten dimension of thought, which is that composed of degree and quality. When were the best days, and what did they do differently? That is what we preserve, and by recognizing that there are ups and downs to civilization, we argue for a timelessness, meaning that there are some ways — folkways, customs, structures, patterns, principles — which are good no matter what the year number is. In this sense, conservatism is entirely different than ideology, which argues for what “should” be true; conservatism argues from what is real, and within that, thrusts the question back onto us of what is good, which is more complex than “right” because it combines function and morality into a single measurement.
If you make it to that point, you have found an exceptional conservative.
From there the ship departs to unknown and barely remembered lands. Most conservatives grew up with a knowledge of Western Civilization, the series of societies stretching forward from the Romans and Greeks to the present day Western nations — Britain, Germany, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, maybe parts of France, perhaps the money-addled Swiss — who shared a similar outlook on the world and notion of what civilization should be. This group is easily spotted because it is distinct not just from those in other parts of the world, but from the people and styles of society in Eastern Europe, Southern Europe and, of course, Ireland. It will not be hard to achieve agreement on the idea that we are attempting preserve Western Civilization, and that not just governments but nations are a means to that end.
At that point, you might even ask about what defines Western societies, and the answer after much batting about will converge on the notion of a “spirit” or “principles,” rarely mentioned as seeming to emerge as if autochthonous to a genetic group who not only look like those ancient Romans and Greeks — but not their modern descendants — but appreciate and act toward the same notion of “greatness” which means not just a prosperous society, but one geared toward beauty, virtue, and a transcendent appreciation of the wisdom of nature instead of attempting to replace it with an entirely anthropogenic substitute. They might mention Plato and his quest for the good, the beautiful and the true by doing good to the good, and bad to the bad, or they might look toward a semi-modern alternative like Fred Nietzsche:
Let us look each other in the face. We are Hyperboreans â€” we know well enough how remote our place is. â€œNeither by land nor by water will you find the road to the Hyperboreansâ€: even Pindar,in his day, knew that much about us. Beyond the North, beyond the ice, beyond death â€” our life, our happiness… We have discovered that happiness; we know the way; we got our knowledge of it from thousands of years in the labyrinth. Who else has found it? â€” The man of today?â€” “I donâ€™t know either the way out or the way in; I am whatever doesnâ€™t know either the way out or the way inâ€ â€” so sighs the man of today…This is the sort of modernity that made us ill, â€” we sickened on lazy peace, cowardly compromise, the whole virtuous dirtiness of the modern Yea and Nay. This tolerance and largeur of the heart that â€œforgivesâ€ everything because it â€œunderstandsâ€ everything is a sirocco to us. Rather live amid the ice than among modern virtues and other such south-winds!… We were brave enough; we spared neither ourselves nor others; but we were a long time finding out where to direct our courage. We grew dismal; they called us fatalists. Our fate â€” it was the fullness, the tension, the storing up of powers. We thirsted for the lightnings and great deeds; we kept as far as possible from the happiness of the weakling, from â€œresignationâ€… There was thunder in our air; nature, as we embodied it, became overcast â€” for we had not yet found the way. The formula of our happiness: a Yea, a Nay, a straight line, a goal…
If we look deeply into the Western spirit, we see that it is not of this material world, but a desire for greatness and beauty which denies the lazy impulse of the human heart to lounge in the comfortable, familiar and unchallenging. This spirit demands conquest, but first of the self, and only then through the ways of the world.
Most of humanity, even most of our own people, will never understand this and so they will oppose it as if it were superfluous ornamentation. And yet, it is the core of who we are: we are that which is endlessly becoming, pushing farther, striving not for distance itself but for excellence, which is a combination of adaptation and grace, beauty, honor, pride, and all other good things. We aspire to the greatness of life itself amplified through our consciousness, instead of denied so that we can lurk in the seemingly impregnable castle of our bodily urges and self-importance.
With this in mind, “conservatives” have a full task indeed, because their cause forms a resistance not just toward the inevitable pull toward entropy of the universe, but to the natural human tendency of solipsism, or to pay more attention to our own thoughts and impulses than to the greatness that can be found in joining with the world and bringing forth all that is excellent about it.
With that in mind, we have to realize that our people — the genetic group that produces Western Civilization and has done so over the centuries — will be a target, simply because others will resent them. This means that any attempt at preservation starts with our people, who will always be a target no matter how nice they are, simply because others resent the heights to which we can climb:
The observations of liberal African-American journalist Keith Richburg are particularly pertinent here. Richburg believes that on the Dark Continent, tribal allegiance trumps political persuasion and envy carries the day. He cites the fate of the Tutsiâ€”an alien, Nilotic African people, who formed a minority in Rwanda and Burundiâ€”among the Hutu who are a Bantu people.
The Hutu have always resented the tall, imposing, attractive Tutsis, who had dominated them on-and-off since the 15th century. When Hutus picked up machetes to slash to bits nearly a million of their Tutsi neighbors in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, they were, on a deeper level, contends Richburg, â€œslashing at their own perceived ugliness, as if destroying this thing of beauty, this thing they could never really attain, removing it from the earth forever.â€
To preserve an ethnic group, you must first preserve it from itself, because people are inherently chaotic and make personal decisions based on whims, convenience, finance, and simple proximity. For that reason, the group must isolate itself by removing itself to a territory where there are no others, and actively excluding those others with a strong sense of self and the need for its preservation. Every species that has come about on Earth broke off from others, went its own way, and by excluding its nearby relatives, became something different — often greater — than the larger, more varied group from which it originated.
However, this racial-ethnic preservation alone will not be enough because in itself, it is not the grand force of unification that we need. Jared Taylor convincingly argues that instead of mere racial preservation, we need civilizational preservation and nurturing, because race alone is not enough:
I agree with Rabbi Schiller (and for that matter with Father Ronald Tacelli in an earlier issue of AR) when he writes that â€œso much of our civilizationâ€™s crisis goes beyond race.â€ While race is necessary for an explanation of the civilization of European man, it is not sufficient. If race were sufficient, there would be no problem. If racial (biological, genetic) factors were sufficient to sustain a people, it would never experience a decline as long as its racial integrity endured.
Thus, whites did not descend to their present pitiable condition because their racial purity was somehow diluted but because they conceptually surrendered their will and identity â€” which they did well before they began to surrender their heritage politically and materially. If race were sufficient, that conceptual surrender would never have taken place. The conceptual surrender is leading to a situation where the biological survival of the race is threatened, and if that occurs, then â€” because race is necessary, because no other race or people seems able to replicate or adopt the concepts on which white civilization is based â€” the conceptual surrender will not be remedied, and white civilization, the whole conceptual corpus, will die with the race.”
Taylor goes on to argue that separatism is therefore also not sufficient, nor is white supremacy, but that our only future comes in understanding a racial hierarchy where we are in power in our lands and other races are seen in a negative light, such that cultural forces push back against miscegenation and any kind of power-sharing. Although his logic is good, a more sensible approach might involve separation on an ethnic level, where culture is strongest and not weak as on a racial level, and a pervasive sense of xenophobia that is both non-judgmental and absolute. The point of being racially-aware is not to focus on other races, but on our own, which requires separation and alienation from other groups no matter how good, friendly, nice, or intelligent they are.
He touches on the ethnic issue briefly:
To name only the obvious, would John Kenneth Galbraith, Bill Clinton, Earl Warren (were he still alive), George Bush, Bill Buckley, etc., be admitted into the white separatist enclave? All of them are undoubtedly white, but if you did admit people like these, you would soon have all the problems that made you want to separate in the first place. There would be other debates: How about Eastern and Southern Europeans? The Irish? How about Jews? Could Yankees come into a Southern white separatist state? If there were several white racial states, would one or some ally with non-white states against the white states? My point in bringing up all these questions is that it is idle to talk about racial separatism without (a) a widely shared and well defined concept of race to which virtually all whites would rigorously adhere and (b) equally widely shared and well defined concepts of other criteria in addition to race that would prevent replication of the same errors and flaws that caused the problems in the first place.
Perhaps, looking at this from the opposite angle, we can see another path. We experience life in terms of effects which we diagnose backward to their causes; in other words, by the nature of time itself, we experience life backward. For that reason, it makes sense to look at the threat to our existence from outbreeding — the real problem behind all racial strife — as an effect of the underlying cause mentioned above, which is lack of an understanding of the spirit of Western Civilization.
Our struggle in doing anything about this is The Human Problem, namely that every organization adapts to its members instead of its purpose, purely because humans are social animals because they fear the disapproval of others or worse, the lack of approval, which in a society with specialized roles, means an inability to gain what is needed in daily life from others. Evolution worked for humanity when each person started a farm and provided everything needed for the family, but with the rise of other organized civilizations — think of the Mongols here — it became clear that centralization would occur and with it, specialization of roles. That presents to us the challenge of civilization: how do we motivate people to work together without placing the focus on individuals, who will then make the group adapt to them and in doing so, change its purpose to an inward-looking and thus neurotic one?
Davis M.J. Aurini summarizes the problem as a question of the simpler and thus more inclusive pushing out the finer and thus more elitist:
Our civilization is suffering from a failure of coordination. We are no longer able to organize mass movement with an achievable purpose, and nowhere is that more evident than in the still birth of Right wing movements. This is because every attempt at a movement compromises its purpose for a lower common denominator that will attract more adherents.
In other words, popularity beats out rarer analytical ability. This is not surprising since humans tend toward solipsism, and this encourages them toward social thinking because others are controlled with the same tokens and words used in our thoughts.
We have tried many forms of collaboration. Modern states work by self-interest; citizens are rewarded with money and services for working together. This ended up being exploitative just like the notion of uniting citizens by ideology, as in Communism or fascism, or even uniting them by religion, as we see in theocracies. If there is a problem for the ages, it is this question.
A hint can perhaps be found in the idea of inequality in nature, namely that there must be potentials which people seek to transect. For us to avoid the apathy that comes when any decision leads to about the same result as any other, which is what crushes both Communist societies like the Soviet Union and large corporations with their bloated pointless jobs, we must have striving:
I have a friend named Bob Wyman; he was the founder of a startup company I worked for a few years ago. Heâ€™s a mighty smart guy. One of Bobâ€™s pet ideas is that we can understand a great many things about the human and social world through the metaphor of thermodynamics. In particular he likes to say that everything that is good in the world tends to reduce entropy, while everything bad increases it. For example, war is bad. This makes sense, in Bobâ€™s view, because wars take highly ordered systems â€” the social and physical infrastructures of nations â€” and reduces them to disordered rubble. Meanwhile, wars also kill people â€” and a living human body is a far more ordered arrangement of the substance of the world than a decomposing corpse. And so on.
It isnâ€™t hard to apply Bobâ€™s idea here. For any system to be capable of producing useful work, there needs to be disequilibrium, a difference in potential. For a mill-race to turn a water-wheel, the water must flow downhill over the wheel. If the water on one side of the wheel is at the same level as on the other â€” that is, the parts of the system are at equilibrium â€” then nothing will happen. When the potential gradient inside a flashlight battery reaches zero, the battery is dead.
We need not just inequality between people, but between our current situation and where we want to be. We need something to strive for, and it cannot be anything we can fully achieve; it must be an ongoing goal, with a transcendental component such as a quest for virtue, such that we can always strive no matter how far we climb.
Western Civilization once had such a goal, when it was new, at which time the goal was to survive, and then to become the type of place its inhabitants had always dreamed of, beating back nature and enemies. Once that was achieved, a trap awaited: at the same time society became becalmed by its lack of goal, its success also led to the breeding of many of the lower echelons, which caused a Dunning-Kruger trap in that the lower classes could not understand the utility of their leadership hierarchy, its principles and values, or the need for their own position as lower echelons. For that reason, overcome by resentment and scapegoating, they revolted.
Specifying a future plan involves both external elements of form, such as restorationism and the ult right, but also an inner sense of what we want our spirits to be like that is in concert with the traditional spirit of Western Civilization. Any scapegoating, focus on economic systems, trying to use race or strong power (fascism) to apply this, or appeal to what is popular to the group will defeat us. We must become what we once were, but in the context of the future, and this requires resurrecting that ancient spirit and then picking up where it left off, in the process restoring a purpose to the remnants of our civilization.