Problems with the dominant reaction

Will I start blogging here again?  Tough call.  I’ve been flirting with the Dark Enlightenment for the past 5 months, along with everyone else.  From the beginning, this blog was always a meditation on the overlap between game and political power in the immediate and interpersonal sense, and I may find a way to merge this with the political concepts explored by the neoreactionaries.  If so, I’ll continue.

For the time being, however, too many objections to the basic preoccupations of the movement seem self-evident, and too few of the participants seem to be genuinely engaging the works of its true luminaries.  There are an enormous amount of contradictions implicit in the neoreactionary program that nobody seems remotely interested in addressing, and most of the fanatics seem interested in its more middle-brow elements.

A few points of contention:

– Clearly, democracy has, by its nature, subverted the seminal American value of equality of opportunity in favor of legislating equality of outcome through affirmative action programs.  I’m opposed to the latter, but I feel most reactionaries are fairly hasty in accepting the dissolution of equal opportunity.  Most of those writing probably come from middle class backgrounds, and that middle class didn’t exist in the 19th Century — which everyone agrees was the closest America ever came to true, unfettered capitalism.  My family was around in the 19th Century.  Half of them were wealthy Mexican landowners, half started the Yale legacy 4 generations back.  Most were dutiful, self-sacrificing professionals; some were extremely wealthy.  No disrespect intended, but when you start extolling the virtues of a radically inequitable distribution of resources, do take into consideration the overwhelming likelihood that you would be on the losing end — and how ridiculous you sound to those of us who wouldn’t be.  Does this sound arrogant to you?  Get used to it — humility isn’t a virtue in rigid class hierarchies.

-It does little good to point out that science supports the concept of population level evolutionary adaptation, and that this results in stratification of groups along a number of metrics relevant to success in contemporary society.  The question of how to handle the inequality that proceeds from innate differences between citizens is still a subjective decision, and it bears questioning which values should inform it.  The progressives advocate “social justice” as a guiding principle in making these decisions; the conservative objection is typically that this results in policies which disadvantage citizens of greater ability, and that this is unjust in its own right.  The neoreactionaries, however, take the argument one step farther and commonly argue that we should “acknowledge reality” by discarding all mitigating EEO policy.  It’s refreshing to hear anyone tell the truth about the world we live in, but this hardly helps when it comes to producing actual policies to pursue.  Looking to “Gnon” (i.e. nature) as an ideal to be accepted and restored is a slippery slope. Look at the issue from a different perspective: in a state of nature, women use collective bargaining to negotiate for power and resources, and create networks in which nepotism, not ability, determines success.  In other words, there’s a strong argument behind the feminist mafia being a completely natural phenomenon and any assortative hiring systems being artificial and unnatural.  In other words, this is nature.  Your imaginary world where only the best and brightest achieve positions of power and influence is not.

-As far as I can tell, Moldbug may be the only human being to ever address the issue of declining human usefulness in the face of growing technological efficiency with any real seriousness.    He also touches, at times, on Marx’s central contention that unmitigated markets naturally distribute resources with such unfathomable inequality that the future of industrial capitalism, from any vantage point, makes the medieval feudal system look like a socialist utopia.  Marxism is responsible for a good portion of the suffering undertaken by history’s human population over the past 200 years, but I can’t overlook that it was obviously a response to legitimate observations about the social structure intrinsically produced by industrial capitalism.  Most seem to view the reaction as categorically opposed to redistribution, but I think Moldbug leaves the possibility open of a non-democratic corporate state in which citizens collect dividends from the state’s product.  I’d be interested to hear more about this in the future.  My primary objection to redistributive economic policy comes from Angelo Codevilla‘s emphasis on the inevitability of highjacking when forces of economic might are capable of influencing the policies to which they are subjected — i.e. in any democracy.  Moldbug has found a way around this in his non-representative neocameral system.  Seems to me that most other reactionaries oppose redistribution altogether out of their own unfounded sense of  “nature” or “justice”.  Not that a reactionary would ever do that.

-Most political fringe movements share one thing in common, and it’s always the element I take greatest issue with.  That common element is a belief that this is not the natural world, that the current order is an aberration from reality, and things would be fine if people just followed the rules. Anarchists believe the state is an aberration.  Socialists believe capitalism is an aberration.  Reactionaries believe the Cathedral is an aberration.  I regret to inform you that it is not.  In fact, we are in a state of nature right now, and human beings have very naturally created this unnatural order.  There’s a great deal of emphasis on who ascends to a position of power in our society and the means by which they do it.   I said earlier that half my family are Yankees, and I can personally verify that Moldbug has identified the latter day puritan culture with greater accuracy and insight than anyone before him.   I feel strongly that Massachusetts came to rule the world – much as the jews did – because there is an ethic within their culture that predisposes them to success.  This ethic is likely indivisible from the unitarianism, from the puritanism, from the very values of the cathedral that so many take as an aberration.  Similarly, the historically underprivileged classes of society who benefit so greatly from appealing to the guilt which produced Puritan wealth have very naturally negotiated for positions of privilege in today’s society.  That’s what humans do.  It’s not an aberration.  So I’m all for being pragmatic about how to put capable people in positions of power, but we may have to take into account that we’ll be counterbalancing a very natural assertion of self-interest by other people, and that it’s somewhat pointless to write this off as a massive conspiracy theory.

Frankly, I’ve been consistently amused by the percentage of neoreactionary rhetoric that revolves around some notion of justice or right order in the world.  The natural order is savage, the comfortable order is corrupt, and I’m only really interested in addressing these issues because they are clearly detracting from the West’s capacity to function.  Whether or not it’s functioning fairly is, to me, a preposterous question to even be asking.

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21 comments on “Problems with the dominant reaction

  1. Bill Donovan says:

    I wrote a long comment and lost it when I mis-entered my password. I was saying thanks for the reality check. The post I lost was full of little witty things about Moldbug and Nick Land, and how I appreciated you pointing out that middle class people, like me, might not benefit from a neoreaction. As a member of the Cathedral I am a professor who owns a home, although I have to admit neoreaction feels right to me intuitively. In the lost comment I argued that the explanatory power of the 15 or so Moldbug essays I’ve read and Land’s writing, especially Land’s remarkable essay “The Dark Enlightenment,” have a compelling eloquence that makes me want to like their politics. Lots of food for thought in your analysis of where someone like me might end up. I wish I had not lost the original comment. Keep blogging! that’s my vote. Wait, neoreactionaries don’t vote. Ahh, trapped in the web of Democracy…

    • Arred Wade says:

      I cringe when I even hear about that happening.

      What attracts you to Moldbug and Land? I think their writing is more predictive than it is prescriptive, which makes it more palatable, if only because it seems fairly accurate. In fact, the most interesting thing may be that they aren’t recommending much of anything — only describing Western government in historically objective terms and examining the ways it could possibly degenerate. This is an interesting time, because I think people are starting to look for ways to realize some of these alternatives.

      • Bill Donovan says:

        Both Land and Moldbug have what I internally label as explanatory power, meaning they explain something I’ve been worried about in a way that makes it mentally manipulable and connected to economics and philosophy. I really was in the Cathedral before Moldbug pointed it out to me. There were thoughts that I was forbidden to think, and I was a self-enforcing orthodoxy. Moldbug freed me from a lot of guilt about thinking ‘bad thoughts.’ As for Land, the moment he convinced me he has a lot to offer is his simple definition of Modernity in “The Dark Enlightenment,” I read it four times and thought about it for days. It was like cleaning a dirty apartment, bleaching the fridge, and painting the walls, all of a sudden you have a nice place to think thoughts in.

        The reasons I like Land’s analysis of modernity is that it is built around a reason that doesn’t buy into the normative content of our time. Land uses pessimism the way Foucault used gayness, to be an outsider looking in.

        Land is very well versed in philosophy, my opinion is that he has absorbed the Western canon and is now being creative within it in a way that someone from a related field can understand and appreciate. Read his book Fanged Noumena in order to see his creativity and broad grasp of intricacies in Kant. In particular there is something in Kant’s the Critique of Pure Reason called the Antimonies, which, according to Kant’s biographer Kuehn, is the moment where Kant, despite ‘proving’ that reason is fatally flawed chooses the path towards optimism and away from pessimism, because pessimism is 1.) never going to be popular and 2.) will make you unhappy. I think Land, and maybe the Speculative Realists he taught, have done something with Kant’s Antimonies and said, well, reason is failed so let’s not give up on thinking but, as part of that investment in thinking, let’s compare our thinking against a sort of brutal truth that asks questions at exactly the places where optimism connects to reason. This allows him to write about our time in a way that makes sense to people asking questions about the in-your-face paradoxes of living now. His position is brilliant if anti-popular, because, even if there is some personal reason for his position, it has the strength of the disinterested and impersonal because it emerges out of one of the core moments of moral choice in Western thought. There has been a pile of dog shit in the corner of the living room since the 1780s and no one has bothered to notice that it’s making dinner taste bad.

        I feel less qualified to write about Moldbug. He’s entertaining and convincing. He makes points about things I think we are all frustrated by, and I am willing to take a chance.

        There are several other great bloggers Land links too from his blog.

        I wish someone from a perspective similar to Moldbug and Land would tackle the humiliation of the non-Western peoples that the Enlightenment caused. It would be great if we could un-humiliate them, and then just go on our business. If the differences between the races are biological maybe we cannot unring that bell, but we could minimize it. My initial exposure to this problem was when I was in grad school the second time, I learned that Globalism and Post-Colonialism were sacred. Not knowing what they were I undertook a reading campaign, and was surprised to discover a body of writing that was basically people complaining about white people. If someone mentioned Globalism and Post-Colonialism in a paper and you questioned it, you became the ‘jerk.’ I had been through art school and the Army and didn’t really even know what these two theories of discontent were, so I played the role of jerk often. The department chair told me that it was good I was taking a class on American war memorials, because the other students needed to “learn how to defeat people who think like you.” I was upset, because I was acting in good faith, and was still in the Cathedral mindset. I think Europeans are paying a price today for humiliating the world yesterday. I think we improved the material conditions of the world, and that we woke them up from a pleasant, anthropocentric dream. This had the effect of giving them an unpleasant affect. We could make up some ground if we get back in touch with the pursuit of knowledge, like Land and Moldbug, while at the same time remembering that “people will forget what you said and what you did, but they won’t forget the way you made them feel.”

        • Arred Wade says:

          I agree completely, and I think everyone, without exception, is a reformed Cathedralite. I was obsessed with Eliot in my teen years and was heavily influenced by his radically unpopular ideas of cultural conservatism — but still held paradoxically leftist and redistributionist views. Now I have to ask myself why.

          My feeling is that these Cathedral sentiments arise naturally in most members of an industrial society from feelings of resentment in the face of inequality. Why is it that progressives do not realize that their views are completely and totally orthodox? Leftists universally think of themselves as underdogs fighting against the dominant order, when in fact, leftism is and always has been the dominant order. How could they not realize this? The answer, I believe, is because they don’t see the world as starting in the center and moving leftward. They believe we started extremely far-right in a corrupt order that produces structural inequality, and that we are moving back to a natural state where nobody has cause for resentment or hurt feelings. And this is actually accurate if your view of history begins a few hundred years ago.

          But all complex societies by definition rely on the stratification of labor, and thus the stratification of wealth. There is no conceivable advanced society in which nobody has reason to be upset. The utopia they dream of exists only in 50 person tribal societies.

          So I think resentment is an inevitable reality in a stratified society, and works to deteriorate complexity when it asserts itself through government. Hence the need to get rid of democracy — the need to ensure that citizens are provided for without providing them an outlet to tear down civilization out of displaced humiliation.

  2. nydwracu says:

    Moldbug leaves the possibility open of a non-democratic corporate state in which citizens collect dividends from the state’s product.
    This most likely exists somewhere, but I’m not sure where. And if it doesn’t, it’s likely that it could be brought about. Oil states are the obvious place to start looking.

    Of course, if America dissolves, we could even have them here…

    • Arred Wade says:

      I think Singapore is the example usually given in terms of political similarity to the neocameral ideal, but I’m not sure what their redistribution program looks like.

      I’m young and crazy enough to still be fantasizing about running away and founding a new society somewhere — 27, but financially self-sufficient and operating a small business I can run from anywhere in the world. What did Pacino say? First you get the money, then you get the power, then you can realistically wrest independent sovereignty over a geographical area and entice the citizens of failed states to move in with radical redistribution schemes.

      • nydwracu says:

        Singapore is cited because it’s a functioning and orderly non-democratic state with an obvious Alfred the Great figure — and it achieved all that despite its ethnic diversity.

        Then again, Singapore is an island, and islands are usually easier to govern. (Hong Kong, Iceland, Mauritius, Seychelles… the obvious counterexamples are Japan and the American colonies in the Pacific.)

        I’d start looking at the oil states for redistribution programs. Venezuela? (Venezuela put in place a pension for stay-at-home mothers, which is eminently sensible from a traditionalist perspective… and leftists love it.)

        There’s a Middle Eastern guy who added me on Facebook who’s working his way up the ranks of Brahmins, went to school in Massachusetts, and so on, and despite that, occasionally makes posts about how Qatar is doing very well without democracy.

        • Arred Wade says:

          Highly ironic, I think.

          Liberals praise open borders and conservatives go into orbit. But are these new citizens bringing in liberal or conservative cultures? This generation is different than the generations in the past — I grew up in Northern Virginia with Salvadorean, Mexican, Lebanese friends. All old world. I learned more from them than from years of PUA websites. Non-reactiveness, frame control, outcome independence. It wasn’t until I was old enough to see through the surface level that I realized we had completely different models of gender relations, even though we grew up in the same culture. My feeling is that the liberals have opened the floodgates and they won’t like where we go from here, because the immigrants aren’t taking cues from us anymore.

          Same token. Western resources, institutions, education, and funding has been pouring out of America for a generation. This was great for the liberals when the best and brightest went back to the third world and attempted to implement western policies to reform the homeland. Now they are not as subservient anymore, and they can use their training to assert themselves. It would not surprise me at all if there was a widespread reaction across the third world against the excesses of democracy. They don’t need to play our game anymore.

      • NoveltyVotary says:

        Do you have an email I could ask you about business aspirations? Being able to run it from anywhere, etc?

  3. […] A couple critiques of the […]

  4. Red says:

    Yes Yankee puritans conquered the world. They own it by right of propaganda, conquest, and by religion. The problem is their empire is failing. Will the results of the forces they put into action cause a second dark age? They’ve devoured the world just like the mongols did and they seem to be on course to cause more destruction that the mongols could have ever imagined.

    • Arred Wade says:

      Hate to use this phrase,

      But will the “means of production” remain intact after the rest of us have been effectively relegated to post-civilizational wastelands? I’ve been homeless in New Orleans before. I know the world keeps functioning long after it feels and looks on all sides like it’s already come to an end.

      Said it once, said it a thousand times. They told us trade liberalization would globalize wealth, and it has. Folks in India have struck it big. They didn’t tell us it would globalize poverty, too — and that if gated communities can pop up in the international ghetto, ghettos can pop up in a gated country. Just think of what will happen in an ungated one.

  5. Jefferson says:

    A point that is missing from most (all?) neoreactionary critique is an adequate explanation of what culture is and how it is adapted. You make a good point about the current situation arising organically, but nobody seems to be mentioning an obvious (possible) cause: demographic decline. Birthrates dropped first in the West, and the West stopped waging wars of conquest/colonization. Our culture seems to be ahead of the curve, discouraging the middle class (especially the lower and middle middle) from reproducing. Worried about a restratification and the future West looking like the Gilded Age because there won’t be room for a middle class? No problem, we won’t have a middle class to worry about.

    • Arred Wade says:

      Yeah

      But I think the lower class will continue exploding demographically, and the upper class will continue retracting. And whatever pressure there is, this will keep happening. Especially when all of the value shifts pushed by the Cathedral have the cumulative effect of proselytizing members of the middle class to adopt the values of the lower class until it’s too late to turn back.

      Humans are naturally lower class. It never surprised me that the 99% are running with open arms to their new position at the lower pole of society.

      • Jefferson says:

        I guess I just don’t see this as necessarily a terrible (and certainly not a permanent) thing. While I’d prefer to not have a rigid class/caste hierarchy, I’d also prefer one that was more – I’m not sure the word I’m looking for, obvious? – than the one we have now. It’s absolutely insane for us to have one set of laws that covers everyone. Recreational sin (sex, drugs, music) seems to have no (or at least, limited) negative affect on the right side of the curve, but absolutely devastates the left side.

        In the meanwhile, technology has made the quality of life infinitely better for the underclass, and will only continue to get better. Either we end up with the cost of supporting our exploding underclass becoming too much/too painful to handle and we get some good old Malthusian pressure, or it stays negligible and we keep them walled off or plugged in (how much has Madden and NBA2k prevented race riots in the last 20 years?) and eventually just protect ourselves from them with the help of a billion robocops. Maybe this isn’t the ideal Star Trek future, but it’s better than the apocalyptic fantasies that get bandied about so frequently by supposed neoreactionaries.

        • Arred Wade says:

          Jesus, you got into this shit quick. There’s supposed to be a latency period of moral outrage before you say shit like that.

          1. I think you need to reassess your use of the words “we” and “them.” Downward social mobility is one of the most pronounced themes of this generation, and it’s not difficult to see from the ground level how people like hipsters are the vanguard of the new white lower class. Play it like Moldbug would: If you showed someone Kreayshawn in 1980, what would they think? They would think the apocalypse happened sometime around 2008 — which it may have. Read Charles Murray and ask yourself if you are actively a part of the contracting upper class. Do you live in a superzip? Are you connected with the institutions that define the SWPLs? If not, even if you’re in good shape, your children will likely be part of the “exploding underclass.”

          Thinking in those terms changed my perspective to some degree.

  6. VXXC says:

    Hmm. America seems to be divided above into Rich White Puritans and underprivileged types rightfully playing on their guilt for a natural share of the pie.

    I don’t suppose you forgot anyone?

    How do you look at reaction for 15 minutes and miss that *not everyone* is insulated from the consequences of Cathedral Guilt policies on crime for instance?

    And while your feeling so guilty, could you perhaps add the Rust Belt to the list of crimes? And now California? Upstate NY denied economic revival from it’s 30 Year Depression by using the resources under their feet? That’s Fracking. These crimes are happening now.

    You’ve ruined the Country. As far as helping minorities the “help” has utterly ruined and damned them…and their neighbors. Everyones inheritance is destroyed.

    Really it was a much nicer place before guilt set in, a most selective guilt at that.

    As far as natural talents among certain types: the chief talent is getting people in High Trust societies to trust you, and then betray them. Americans – those racist types – are so culturally trusting it’s like taking candy from a baby. These are communities that leave their doors unlocked for instance. I wouldn’t ascribe myself too many super talents. The chief product and service of our current ruling elites is: Betrayal of Trust. It’s much easier when you’ve got people who believe in you [not anymore mind you] and this same group’s trust culture is so high foreigners are amazed by it. Iraqi’s very recently for instance.

    You conned honest, hard working, hard fighting people [that’s the world conquest BTW]. That’s the superior talent. It’s quite squandered now.

    • Arred Wade says:

      Uhhhhhhhh go back and read it again

      • VXXC says:

        No thanks. Own prole agenda. You might want to address the “forget someone?” question…but don’t bother. We’d be insane to trust the answer. Trusting is not actually insanity, in fact I think some will miss it more than others.

        BYE

        • Arred Wade says:

          You figured it out, Collapse of Man is authored by a reptilian humanoid who spends his days dreaming up insidious new methods of exploiting the Central timezone. Don’t even try to fight back — nothing and no one can stop true progress.

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