Category Archives: Culture

Freak Show

I understand where the alt right’s obsession with genetics comes from. It is, at least in part, an attempt to give scientific validation to the concept of a natural order. The problem is that the idea of a natural order must be axiomatic, an article of faith. Turning to science for the validation of an ancient cultural axiom subordinates it to an empiricism that is both alien and hostile to ancient wisdom. Even if such a validation were possible, it would be more harmful than useful for it would implicitly affirm the privileged position that modernity assigns to science as a source of knowledge.

Scientific validation is not only a weak and always provisional form of validation but also, as far as traditional concepts are involved always an implicit invalidation. Traditional concepts rely on tradition and revelation as their authority. They belong to a different cultural ecology than empiricism and its stunted rationalism, and any attempt to render them empirical fatally jeopordizes them. To use Nassim Taleb’s terminology, traditional concepts are heuristic not empirical. They achieve validation by their effects. Medieval Christianity gave us Chartres. Postmodernism gives us Daniel Libeskind.

Science cannot be the final arbiter of truths that can only be effective if they are absolute.

In the modern world, it is impossible to affirm the legitimacy of tradition without questioning the legitimacy of science. The two cannot coexist.

When dealing with false philosophies that appear philosophically impregnable because of modern credulity to impertinent sophistry, Joseph De Maistre showed the way. Consider not the theory but its consequences. Deconstruction and its correlate, social contructivism (the belief that traditional norms are mere social constructions that can be violated and amended at will), are disproved by the freakishness they produce. Feminism is disproved by its uglifying effect on women. The belief that gender is a construction is disproved by the abject ridiculousness of men passing themselves as women and vice versa.

The aesthetic consequences of an idea are the most rigorous test of its validity.

What is latent in an idea, covered up by appeals to sentiment and resentment, is exposed by its realization. An idea whose products are disfigured, malformed, freakish, monstrous, weak, shrill, cacophonous, graceless, poisonous, ugly is a bad idea irrespective of the high-minded bullshit it comes wrapped in. Good ideas are recognized by their beautiful, ennobling effects. If you want to get the measure of the wisdom of any civilization or any period within a civilization, examine its artifacts. It is what a civilization leaves behind when it can no longer speak except through its residue that justifies or condemns it.

If the idea of a natural order is not axiomatic, if it is not an unquestionable cultural given, it is nothing. The fragmentary scientific validation of some longstanding cultural belief always comes too late and counts for very little.

What science–or more accurately, modern science–has killed, it cannot revive.

Tradition cannot cede authority to short-sighted empiricism without nullifying itself. This is fundamental.

An authentic traditionalist has to be willing to accept that tradfition is indefensible. This has no bearing on its legitimacy. Tradition is indefensible because it is the distillation of a knowledge acquired practically through harrowing and heroic encounters with the worst and best that life has to offer. Tradition is indefensible because it is not modern and, therefore, alien to the modern prejudice that equates legitimacy with understanding. The wisdom of tradition, its legitimacy, reveals itself today negatively, via the dismal consequences of what has replaced it.

In the same way that tradition is rationally indefensible, modernity and its abominations are rationally irrefutable. Genetics will never disprove the pernicious doctrine of social construction because that doctrine is itself part and parcel of the scientific ethos. After all, it is science itself that allows the surgical and pharmacological alteration of gender and, beyond that, the artificialization of the human organism at the cellular level.

Science cannot validate the natural order because it is science’s mutational power, its toxicity, that has made us unnatural.

It is our own unnaturalness that expresses itself in deconstruction. Deconstruction manifests what has already occurred, the undoing, the ruination of foundational cultural precepts, but it manifests this undoing as wilful reenactment and in this way affords us the delusion of voluntaristic cultural agency. We deconstruct gender because gender was already ruined by the exigencies of industrialization and the invention of automation and wage labor. We deconstruct patriarchal authority because patriarchal authority acquiesced long ago to the overwhelming power of ungendered capital.

Conservatism today has nothing left to conserve.

Modernity cannot be refuted. It can only be allowed to perish. Indeed, is modernity anything but a perishing? Is it anything but a civilizational supernova that comes after a civilization has exhausted its vitality? Most of what we take as the causes of cultural decline are actually its effects. It is our diminishment that modernity signifies, our inability to endure the heroic demands of the ancient wisdom.

Belief in the natural order demanded a fatalism, a stoicism, an islam, an amor fati that at some point became insupportable to modern minds. The recourse to genetics to restore the authority of nature reproduces the error it tries to correct. Faith in the natural order demands instead conviction in modernity’s evanescence.

The freak menagerie assembled by modernity is not an indication of a “transhuman’ future. Rather, it is an indication that modernity has no future.

White Self-Hatred?

Why is white self-hatred fashionable?

I would suggest that it has something to do with a striving after what sociologist Pierre Bourdieu called “distinction.”

The basic concept is not hard to understand. Elites are motivated to find ways to distinguish themselves from the common run of humanity. They do this by means of a variety of affectations and rationalizations, the common underlying element of which is the assertion of the elite’s inherent specialness, reflected in its elevated intelligence, discernment, refinement. Without this faith in its uncommonness, the elite would be susceptible to the intolerable suspicion that its position is purely contingent.

To support faith in its inherent superiority, the elite makes a point of embracing ideas and tastes that are flagrantly uncommon. In the arts, for instance, the elite patronizes just those artists and designers whose work is inscrutable and even repugnant to everybody else. Thus the modern phenomenon of the avant-garde. But, elite snobbery expresses itself in moral as well as aesthetic taste.

Just as the elite patronizes the artistic avant-garde, it also supports what at any given moment pass for avant-garde attitudes, preferences, and lifestyles. Some of the attitudes the elite patronizes may even have an anti-elitist cast to them. But this is of little import. The elite is immune to cognitive dissonance because it regards whatever avant-garde notions it adopts as no more than fashion accessories advertising superior taste. This habit of treating ideas as mere signifiers of elevated status reflects the elite’s belief in the invulnerability of its position. It is also an effective way to devalue and undermine the sometimes radical ideas the elite affects to embrace. It reduces ideas, ideologies, philosophies to mere trends, easily embraced because easily discarded.

(Most of the time, the elite is quite correct to treat ideas as of little consequence. It is only occasionally, through a combination of fortuitous circumstances, that ideas prove momentous. The foolish high-born women who promoted the spread of Enlightenment ideas in their salons did not foresee the French revolution that would put these ideas to deadly effect.)

The same elite that supported Marcel Duchamp nominating a urinal to the status of art in 1917 today supports a man nominating himself to be a woman and vice versa.

The more perverse the idea, the more its potential for signifying the elite’s extraordinary refinement. The uncommon are perpetually at war with the common. This is the logic that underlies the elite’s embrace of “progressive” ideas. Progressivism is the intellectual expression of elite snobbery.

The largely white elite’s embrace of anti-white rhetoric is to be understood as part and parcel of the elite’s affectation of moral superiority. Naturally, the elite does not feel that hatred of “white privilege” pits it against itself because part of the elite’s affectation is that the mere profession of progressive ideas places the professor above the common herd toward whom progressive invective is directed. The bad people, the deplorables, are always located among the low, uncomprehending, bestial masses. The common theme of progressive ideas is the lamentable backwardness of the common people.

This would explain why today, progressivism is so profoundly at odds with populism.  And why the vilification of white privilege is the ultimate expression of white privilege.

The Tyranny of Enjoyment

DOLMANCE: . . . What is it one desires when taking one’s pleasure? that everything around us be occupied with nothing but ourselves, think of naught but of us, care for us only. If the objects we employ know pleasure too, you can be very sure they are less concerned for us than they are for themselves, and lo! our own pleasure consequently disturbed. There is not a living man who does not wish to play the despot when he is stiff: it seems to him his joy is less when others appear to have as much as he; by an impulse of pride, very natural at this juncture, he would like to be the only one in the world capable of experiencing what he feels: the idea of seeing another enjoy as he enjoys reduces him to a kind of equality with that other, which impairs the unspeakable charm despotism causes him to feel. ‘Tis false as well to say there is pleasure in affording pleasure to others; that is to serve them, and the man who is erect is far from desiring to be useful to anyone. On the contrary, by causing them hurt he experiences all the charms a nervous personality relishes in putting its strength to use; ’tis then he dominates, is a tyrant; and what a difference is there for the amour-propre! Think not that it is silent during such episodes.

The act of enjoyment is a passion which, I confess, subordinates all others to it, but which simultaneously unites them. This desire to dominate at this moment is so powerful in Nature that one notices it even in animals. See whether those in captivity procreate as do those others that are free and wild; the camel carries the matter further still: he will engender no more if he does not suppose himself alone: surprise him and, consequently, show him a master, and he will fly, will instantly separate himself from his companion. Had it not been Nature’s intent that man possess this feeling of superiority, she would not have created him stronger than the beings she destines to belong to him at those moments. The debility to which Nature condemned woman incontestably proves that her design is for man, who then more than ever enjoys. his strength, to exercise it in all the violent forms that suit him best, by means of tortures, if he be so inclined, or worse. Would pleasure’s climax be a kind of fury were it not the intention of this mother of humankind that behavior during copulation be the same as behavior in anger? What well-made man, in a word, what man endowed with vigorous organs does not desire, in one fashion or in another, to molest his partner during his enjoyment of her? I know perfectly well that whole armies of idiots, who are never conscious of their sensations, will have much trouble understanding the systems I am establishing; but what do I care for these fools? ‘Tis not to them I am speaking; soft-headed women-worshipers, I leave them prostrate at their insolent Dulcineas’ feet, there let them wait for the sighs that will make them happy and, basely the slaves of the sex they ought to dominate, I abandon them to the vile delights of wearing the chains wherewith Nature has given them the right to overwhelm others!

Dialogue the Fifth, Philosophy in the Bedroom in Sade, Richard Seaver, and Austryn Wainhouse. Justine, Philosophy in the Bedroom, and Other Writings. 1st paperback ed. New York: Grove Press, 1966, 344-45.