Zeitgeist

White Nationalists and Diversity’s Agents

October 27, 2017

What endures in history is human psychology, namely, as seen in the form of what Christians have sensibly called the seven deadly sins. Of them the worst is pride, which often comprehends and is subtly related to the others. Pride is most accurately understood as excessive self-regard. It would be mistaken to call it an excess of self-love, for, as we learn from Dr. Johnson, love is a reflection from other people, calling forth our own inner impulse; love is reciprocal and therefore cannot exist in solitude. As I have argued lately in this magazine and in my essays for New English Review, we are living in a time of cultural decay, the old values that once united us—the family, religion, heterosexual love, community, culture—all vanishing. They are being replaced by an anxious status idolatry and, as desperate relief from that folly, all sorts of manufactured pleasures, which more and more take the form of vice. This status idolatry is a perverse species of pride; it is not the deserved and dignified pride of an artist, thinker, or athlete. It reeks of envy and the anguished need to be acknowledged as worthwhile by other people, for how few there are who have both the judgment and the strength of will to believe: “I do not care what they think. I know what I am, and to myself I am true.”

Wandering lost in modernity’s abyss, men and women are now like monkeys in a zoo, desperate to see their vanity validated in others’ eyes. “Often a man will suffer in patience for several years, resign himself, endure the most savage punishments,” we read in Dostoyevsky’s autobiographical novel The House of the Dead, but “then suddenly erupt over some trifle, some piece of nonsense, almost nothing at all.” According to the nameless narrator (really Dostoyevsky himself),

the cause of this sudden outburst in the man of whom one least expected it is nothing more than an anguished, convulsive manifestation of the man’s personality, his instinctive anguish and anguished longing for himself, his desire to declare himself and his humiliated personality, a desire which appears suddenly and which sometimes ends in anger, in frenzied rage, in insanity, fits, convulsions…. It is enough only for him to get started: when the man grows intoxicated, there is no holding him back. And therefore it would be better in every way not to let him get to this point…but how can this be done?

Our globalists, bent on realizing their own worldly distinction and living lives of philistine pleasures, never reflected on the inevitable political consequences of their bargain with the devil. Nor have false conservatives like Bill Kristol and Kevin Williamson taken seriously the price of their vulgar global capitalist idolatry. It must be understood that envy is intrinsic to human nature and a perfidious thing, showing its effects “in anger, in frenzied rage, in insanity, fits” and more. Thus classical thinkers taught that, unless the people, in their “instinctive anguish,” should revolt, extreme disparities of wealth are undesirable. It is also prudent for the elite to act on a spirit of noblesse oblige, because besides the ennobling moral good, beneficial to giver and receiver alike, the practice helps to check envy by maintaining social cohesion. Our problem today is that, like much of our democracy itself, this concept is religious in origin. Nor is it clear that, as the culture grows more secular, the elite will feel a sufficient sense of responsibility for their social inferiors. And “feel” is the right word, since when it comes to such a moral issue, argument amounts to little—the potentially sympathetic heart needs to be stirred by poetry.

The have-nots and the unhappy are now a diverse bunch, ready and willing to act out their tragicomedy. And as future technology eliminates large numbers of jobs, these aggrieved persons, ever restless for some vital diversion, may be expected to vastly increase. Children, when they are bored and distressed, get into mischief. Men fight and go to war. Having grown up in a culture whose essential values are status idolatry and idolatry of the flesh, many of us are now like rejects from a hyped-up party who, standing outside and looking in at the revelers, long to burn down the mansion. The white nationalists, having been told that they are racist, and misogynist, and deplorable, and all the rest, may well think: “Why should we not be wicked? After all, is this not what the intellectuals and the media want?” Likewise with diversity’s agents, Antifa and Black Lives Matter. Lied to all through their school years by their teachers, and lied to all through adult life by the media, why should they not want to destroy a nation that they are persuaded is thoroughly unjust?

Consider, too, that today people are conditioned by an utterly false and degrading way of life from the beginning. For America has become a culture of deceit, so ubiquitous that it is hardly noticed; it is simply taken for granted, being all we know. We are constantly interacting with people who pretend to care about us, in order to reach into our wallets. Everyone is a marketer. I should have more respect for these actors if, like street thugs, they at least had the manly aspect of being what they are. Lacking any higher values, and surrounded on all sides by the base and the untrue, white nationalists and diversity’s agents, Antifa and Black Lives Matter, understandably turn to violence—for at least it is real, a brutal assertion of something true in the midst of so much deception. Inspired by envy and pride, these groups all deserve one another, and the American public, relishing the opportunity to hate while appearing righteous, will delight in the evil spectacle.

It may be that something horrible—say, another Civil War—is now needed in order for America to move toward a better path, to develop a sensibility marked by less envy and individualism and more generosity, self-sacrifice, and compromise. “It was not so much from slavery as through slavery that humanity was emancipated,” Hegel thought. Sometimes the way forward is so hard that we don’t want to face it or believe in its necessity.

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