Rhetoric and the Morality of Hatred

Yesterday, I presented In Defense of Hatred to the Northwest Forum, run in absentia by Greg Johnson of Counter-Currents. My speech focused primarily on the importance of rhetoric in defending what we love and the moral legitimacy of hatred. You can listen to it above, or read the text below.

There are few things more hated today than hatred itself.

I read an article about two weeks ago from Psychology Today that a family member shared with me. The article was about Oxytocin, the hormone we associate with love and affection. It facilitates social bonding, especially between babies and mothers, and between partners during sex. It wards off depression. Sounds good, right? Well, it turns out that there’s also a dark side to oxytocin. Here’s a short excerpt:

“The same hormone that helps people feel warmth and camaraderie with friends and family is also implicated in the hatred and contempt they may feel for opponents. In recent years, researchers exploring the intricacies of oxytocin have revealed that it rouses envy as well as gloating over others’ misfortune. Psychologists conjecture that oxytocin plays a part in fueling ethnocentrism, xenophobia, and intergroup conflict.”

What I thought was truly impressive was the conclusion they came to. They did not consider whether hatred may have some benefit, or question why love and hate appear to be related at a neurochemical level. Instead, they decided to attenuate their appreciation for the “love hormone.” Since most scientists these days are materialists, this attenuated appreciation for oxytocin extends into a moral suspicion towards love itself. Maybe love isn’t so good after all.

This line of thinking might seem a little shocking, but it really is symptomatic of our culture’s collective opinion of love and hatred. And once you notice it, you begin to see it everywhere. Many in our society would rather not love at all than love something if that love carried ANY potential for hatred.

I wrote In Defense of Hatred because I noticed that this moral position had crept its way into the public consiousness, and was manifesting itself in attitudes so stupid it defied rational comprehension. One prescient example of this manifestation is the reaction we often see in the aftermath of Islamic attacks. As you all probably know, an injection of diversity explosively enriched Manchester at the end of last month. 22 were killed, and 59 injured. Then at the beginning of this month, another truck of peace brought the strength of multiculturalism to London Bridge, killing 8, and wounding dozens. These are just a few of the more recent episodes. I’m sure we can all think of dozens more. But it’s the responses to these sorts of attacks that reveal our society’s strange relationship with hatred, and it was a particular response to an incident that happened about a year and a half ago which really crystallized the matter for me personally.

In November of 2015, 9 otherwise totally ordinary Parisians led an attack against their countrymen with bombs and guns, focusing especially on the Bataclan theater. They killed 130 people, and wounded 368.

At this time, I was already beginning to get a little jaded to the novelty of terrorist attacks. However, as the flames and the blood and the bodies passed across the news headlines like white noise, the empty and unserious quality of the most prominent and public responses to the massacre came into sharp focus. I remember a video of a Parisian father and his son, of no more than five or six years old, being interviewed by a news channel in the aftermath of the attack. The young boy was quite concerned about what his family would do, now that there were clearly mean, bad men with guns in his city. His father, however, gently but firmly assured him that Paris was their home, and that in any case there were bad men everywhere. And then he told his son “they might have guns but we have flowers.”

“But flowers don’t do anything,” replies the boy. He flounders for a moment, trying to think of what flowers are actually for.

“Of course they do,” retorts the father. “Look, everyone is putting flowers. It’s to fight against the guns.”

“It’s to protect?” asks the young boy?

“Exactly,” assures the father.

Now, quick show of hands, does anyone present listen to that and think “what a good father?”

Who here actually feels their blood boil when they hear that kind of nonsense?

Alright, and who is so used to the banality of it that they aren’t even surprised or bothered anymore?

This father resonated with millions of people, who all thought that this was inspirational, and captured the soul of how a Western man ought to respond to concentrated and intentional violence like the Bataclan massacre.

At a biological level, there’s something deeply pathological about the desire to ignore or accept a threat against your family, your city, your nation, and yourself. We can all see that a father who tells his child that flowers will protect them from brutal, totalitarian theocrats with guns will leave the defenseless against threats that are very real. It is a pathology of unseriousness, and it is the same pathology that can compel scientifically-minded researchers to hedge their appreciation for love rather than accept that some degree of hatred or intergroup conflict may be necessary or good.

In Defense of Hatred is an exploration of the nature and origins of this pathology. It also provides a framework for understanding how hatred is not merely a necessity, but a moral virtue in its own right, precisely because of its relation with love. If love means anything at all, it implies an elevation of worth, and for this reason love is inherently relative. We love some things more than other things, and our behavior should reflect this. Does your family matter more to you than a stranger? If so, what would you do to protect your family, if it was threatened? What wouldn’t you do?

If something that we do not value threatens something that we value very much, we must stop the threat as though we hate it. Failing to do so would be an active denial of the love that we claim to hold. If we don’t protect what we love from things we don’t care about, it tells the world—and worse, it tells ourselves—that we don’t really love it that much after all.

Hatred and love are inextricable, because they are both facets of care. A world without hate would be a world without love, because hatred is love’s final and best defense. Without hatred, the probability of loss would make love an intolerable risk, in a constantly shifting world of competing interests, decay, and death. Hatred is no guarantee of the survival of what we love, but it is an effective tool and a powerful deterrent, which helps to make hope in love possible. I think this is something that everyone understands intuitively.

And yet here we are, in a culture that condemns hatred as a moral evil. This contradiction between our stated beliefs and our behaviors means that we did not get here through philosophy, but through rhetoric. If we’re being totally honest, the rhetoric appears purpose-built to deny the legitimacy of the love we have for ourselves and ours; love is just the collateral damage in a narrative power-play. If we want to have any hope of advocating on behalf of what we love–hell, for love itself–we will have to use more effective rhetoric, and we will need to steel ourselves against the pressure of theirs.

Towards this end, it may help to go back to the basics. Aristotle held that there were three aspects of rhetoric: Ethos, what is usually translated as personal qualification; pathos, that which stirs people’s emotions; and logos, what we might think of as oral demonstration of truth.

Let me begin with ethos.

Ethos is usually translated as the qualifications that make you someone worth listening to, but it is far more than mere credentials. Aristotle said, of ethos, “Persuasion is achieved by the speaker’s personal character when the speech [is] so spoken as to make us think him credible.” In other words, ethos is about more than just the individual. In fact, as it’s used today, ethos is really best thought of as the characteristic spirit of a group. You may hear of the ethos of doctors, derived from the Hippocratic oath, or the ethos of the US Marines. It’s not a coincidence that our word “ethics” comes from ethos; you can’t have a systematic framework for judging right action without a group with shared goals and values. When Aristotle talks about ethos, he’s talking about the speaker’s demonstration that he holds and adheres to the values and characteristic spirit of the audience. He’s demonstrating that he’s on their side, and can be trusted because they share a common identity, if not a common interest. That’s what makes him qualified and trustworthy. That’s what makes him persuasive.

By contrast, what is the ethos of the anti-hatred culture we live in today? Is there one at all? Out of the one great law “thou shalt not hate,” we can identify a rough moral consensus that promotes universal love; the kind of Rawlsian love that holds no preference for the child in your home over the child in another country. But this kind of love carries little in the way of commitment. It is a compassion of whim and convenience, that gives no sense of validation or security to its recipient. There is no elevation, and there is no loyalty.

This means that anti-haters tacitly acknowledge that they have no loyalty to any meaningful ethos. Their ethos is the ethos of the jellyfish. They can sort of squirm and undulate around a little, provided they’re in a fluid and amorphous environment, but they mostly drift wherever the currents take them. This makes them inherently untrustworthy to anyone who believes in or cares about anything concrete, anything hard, anything real. They are liabilities, liars waiting for the moment to betray you, and the fact that there might be no malice in their amorality is irrelevant. Their love is jellyfish love: more a function of chance than intent, and it stings when you recognize its nature.

We should all learn to identify this jellyfish love, and point it out. The anti-hater has no skin in your game; he openly says that he won’t help defend what is most precious and important to you… because that might be hateful. Nobody who gets on a soapbox about how terrible it is to hate can be trusted, because they do not share your identity, your interests, your ethos… because in condemning hatred, they condemn adherence to any identity; to any ethos.

How about pathos? What about the emotions?

Aristotle described pathos as “awakening emotion in the audience so as to induce them to make the judgment desired.”

When condemning hatred, anti-haters always reference the harms that follow from acting out in hate. They talk about lynchings, war, genocide, anything that can conjure a mental image of intense suffering, and this induces two responses. Can anyone guess them? Pity and fear; the tragic emotions. We naturally want to avoid these things. By tying hate to visually and symbolically significant violence, they persuade the typical person to avoid hate.

Like any good lie, it works because it captures half of the truth. Yes, violence, brutality, even cruelty, often follow from hatred. And in truth, there are inappropriate, weak, and self-defeating forms of hatred, just as there are inappropriate and even dangerous forms of fear, joy and love. Hope can be especially dangerous; just a few days ago, the british journalist Douglas Murray remarked that in Europe, a huge amount of damage has been, and is continuing to be done by “optimists.” We should all acknowledge that hatred which is not justified by good information, understanding, and the competence to act upon it, is almost always a bad thing, and that “hot” hatred tends to be ineffective because it makes the actor predictable and easily manipulable. For these reasons, I think the superiority of “cold” hatred is something we should all remember.

Of course, the anti-hater doesn’t want any hatred, cold or otherwise. They want to avoid the violence, and they correctly notice that violence can sometimes come from hatred. But they never answer–and sometimes seem unable to comprehend–the sorts of questions that follow from their stated position. For example, do they ever consider what motivates hatred in the first place, and if that motivation may in fact be worse than the hate itself? Have they considered, for example, why Vlad the Impaler erected his forest of Turks? Do they know where he learned this sort of barbarism from, and what probably would have happened to the people of his kingdom had he not deterred their would-be invaders by speaking to them in their own language?

Even if they were right, and contrary to all of the converging interests of evolution, haters are a bunch of Jokers who just want to watch the world burn, wouldn’t there be something both stupid and sinister about wanting to love everyone? Everyone? And isn’t there’s a paradox lurking in here somewhere?

The hardest question, of course, and the most important to ask is simply this: what, exactly, are we supposed to do with these hateful people? Where do we draw the line of distinction between the saints and sinners, the good people and the pure evil, and what sort of hell should we throw the latter into for their hatred? Can’t we all vividly imagine — in all the Orwellian details — how the cure is almost certain to be far worse than the disease?

They want a world that does not exist, one in which hatred not necessary, and for that reason, not tolerated. Their utopian vision cannot fathom its own contradiction with human nature, because all utopias are, to some degree, explicit attempts to overcome human nature. And since they cannot grasp the contradiction, they explain away all expressions of the contradiction as exceptions and anomalies, to be done away with, and forgotten. Anyone who has read a book like Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago knows how fast the number of exceptions can add up. The body count of utopian idealism is infinitely greater in scope and often worse in its detached cruelty than the schemes of any petty dictator or warlord, even the most sadistic ones. The reasoning is explained by another great 20th century thinker, C.S. Lewis, who I think is worth quoting at length. He says:

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”

Aside from the murderous destruction of ideologies that defy human nature, those who oppose hatred wish, fundamentally, to cure us of being human. Beyond the gulags, the famines, the censorious oppression and the fear, there is the willingness to be condescended to like children, that should deeply offend everyone that has even a shred of pride, and should terrify anyone who understands the sorts of condescending people that will end up in charge of it all.

Is all of that really worth it, to avoid the possibility of an occasional violent conflict?

We all wish to avoid needless suffering, violence, death, and destruction, but denying the moral validity of hatred is not the way to minimize these. It is far more likely to generate the most destructive of all forms of hatred: the resentful hatred of the disappointed idealist, whose nihilistic justice will condemn you by default and destroy you, for failing to transcend your own humanity. So our pathos is this: If you want gulags, if you want purges, if you want genocide; if you want censorship, fear, and loneliness that defies comprehension, simply lay out an impossible foundation as a moral standard, like forbidding a natural human emotion, and watch what happens.

Finally, we have logos: the “speech itself.” Logos is the etymological origin of the word “logic,” and refers to proving the truth of the claim through reason.

I’ve already gone over most of the logical substance of the argument for hatred, but in short form it is this:

Real value is expressed through actions, not through words, and any expression of “love” that is not backed up by some willingness to fight for what you love is essentially meaningless. The call to end hatred, therefore, is the call to end love itself. The kill-shot to the anti-haters is this: anti-hate is nihilism.

Like oxytocin, hatred is an intrinsic part of human nature, and a natural response to a threat against what we love. And there will always be possible threats against what we love. So we should all cultivate the capacity and willingness to hate, and to hate effectively, if we are to be moral and loving human beings.

Let me close with one final point on rhetoric.

It may be tempting to at times grant the liberal premise and run with it. We can see the hypocrisy so clearly, and yet they don’t seem to care that the real feminists would be protesting Islam and Saudi Arabia, et al. We should all be careful about accepting too much in the name of irony and memes. We become what we repeatedly do, and no matter how much we think we can separate our beliefs from what we say, we eventually become invested in the premises of our own rabbit-hole arguments with liberals. “Democrats are the real racists” began as a flippant rhetorical jab at liberal hypocrisy, but has since morphed into a core conservative premise. In some circles of the Alt-Right, “White Sharia,” which began as an ironic observation of the tolerance liberals are willing to extend to conservative Muslims, is beginning to take on the trappings of an unironic position.

I think that we on the Alt-Right should avoid making the same mistake with hatred. It may sometimes look convenient to say “we aren’t the haters, the progressives and globalists are the REAL haters!” But that grants the premise that hatred is bad. We are ALL the real haters, or at least we should be.

The prevailing anti-hatred ‘ethos’ of our age — the jellyfish ethos — has put our movement in a unique position. We have a real opportunity to actually speak truth to power. If we want to attract people and hold them, memes, humor, and wit are certainly important, but so is being serious and courageous about things that truly matter. Our friend Jack Donovan spoke at the National Policy Institute, and said that genuine culture is the product of love and hate, even if it’s not about hate. People are yearning for genuine culture, for feeling alive, and not separated from the world by screens, drugs, and protective bubble-wrap. We can be that beacon of courage, hope, and life, but only if we disentangle ourselves from the web of ironic premises that everyone else uses to hide from the world.

Let me close with a short quote from the book itself.

“The answer is not trying to manufacture hatred in ourselves. That is empty hatred, or at best unjustified hatred. Rather, it is to love, deeper and more passionately and more honestly. Let sincerity and joy drive out your fear. Any hate that you may require will arise organically and naturally from the unfettered love that you hold.”

Towards these goals—of love and of life—we should all embrace hatred, and we should not be afraid to say so.

Thank you.

Religious Practicalities

Anyone who has been following the Alt Right internal politics will no doubt be getting a little peeved by the infighting and edge-lording that is coming dangerously close to defining the movement. Just in the last few weeks, what essentially amounts to a hit-piece on Greg Johnson came out from AltRight.com, and Jack Donovan finally came out in public attacking the White Nationalist movement as a whole.

I don’t know Daniel Friberg — one of the editors of AltRight.com, with whom the argument with Greg began — so I’ll assume he’s probably a decent fellow. Or perhaps he’s a piece of shit, as Greg Johnson alleges. I don’t know.

I do know Greg Johnson, however, if only peripherally, and I know Jack Donovan. Both are not merely fundamentally good people, but courageous to boot (a far rarer trait). So many intelligent people, and yet the arguments persist. It seems as if the Alt Right as a political movement is inheriting the internal divisiveness of its libertarian predecessor.

A few weeks back, the arguments between The Golden One and Thulean Perspective (Varg) related to the Christianity and Paganism essentially reflect the pugnacious nature of the Alt Right journals, for those who only follow politics on YouTube.

Worse still, it isn’t just the dumber elements arguing with the intelligent ones, or the humble with the vainglorious. Some of the more firm race-realists might ascribe this to white individualism, but I believe the lines are traceable to a religious starting point. By uncovering this cause of the disconnection between subcomponent members of the Alt Right, we may be able to move forward as a group, rather than as squabbling mini-groups, and actually accomplish something in our own interest.

The divisiveness of the Libertarian party, I believe, correlates strongly to its broadly atheistic identity. As I have written about elsewhere (here and here, for instance), religion is not best understood primarily as a metaphysical belief structure, but as a hierarchy of values and a general orientation towards the world. At the symbolic religious level, atheism is virtually indistinguishable from nihilism, and a political movement which is predominantly atheistic in character will naturally result in a plethora of disjointed and incompatible value-hierarchies. Political success from such a movement is unlikely.

Now the choice arises in the Alt Right between paganism (especially the Nordic variety) and Christianity. Here’s an interesting question to explore: which one is more likely to succeed, in a political context?

I think the heart of the answer can be reached rather intuitively by looking at the most important virtues established in each. Paganism most strongly emphasizes strength and honor, while Christianity holds up forgiveness and grace.

Personal strength and honor are certainly critical virtues, and they are unfortunately undervalued by many Christians, especially today. However, real strength is not achieved by an individual, but by an individual working within a group. In Pagan circles, this is often stated as an aphorism: “the strength of the wolf is the pack, and the strength of the pack is the wolf.” These pagan circles understand the concept, and hold up “tribe” as something like a sacred unit. That these religions succeeded in surviving for thousands of years argues on its own, prima facie, that such a small-scale, tribal system is cohesive and sustainable.

But there is strength in numbers, and we live in a larger world. A perfect Dunbar-sized tribe of 250 people won’t stand a chance against a nation-state of 250,000, armed with the latest technology, specialized industry, and economies of scale. This is not a matter of idyllic lifestyles, but a matter of brute strength. In war, the larger nations usually win, and in politics, larger movements will succeed over smaller ones.

The symbol for strength through unity has historically been the fasces, a bundle of sticks bound together around an axe. Individually, they can be broken, but as a group, they are invincible. Symbolically speaking, the question is which makes for the stronger axe: better sticks, or better bindings?

Aedhan Cassiel of Counter Currents puts it comparatively in a more prescient way:

If the United States government were to turn against the Wolves of Vinland and try to wipe it out of existence, how long do you think the Wolves would survive? It would be perfectly reasonable to bet they wouldn’t last a week.

And why is that?

It’s because the United States government is a larger entity than the Wolves. And the United States government is a larger entity than the Wolves because membership in it is based on shared dedication to common principles and goals as well as consent to the hierarchy of an overarching command structure—not whether or not everyone who joins the U.S. government wants to buddy up with each other. The U.S. government’s capacity for domination of fringe groups like the Wolves is, in and of itself, proof that political alliances built out of principle rather than “buddying up” will trump isolated, small–tribe “groups of buddies” every time.

So in order to be successful, the Alt Right needs to find a narrative moral foundation (i.e., a religion) which encourages the virtues that bind people together, rather than the virtues that encourage in-group cannibalism.

Christianity fits this bill.

All of these things are conducive not only to personal spiritual growth and maturity, but also to the success of a political organization. Some of the earliest letters of the Church, after all, were explicitly written to reduce in-fighting. And the history of Christendom broadly bears out the success of Christianity in this regard.

The question is, does Paganism have these qualities?

I believe the answer in principle is “yes.” The problem modern pagans run into, however, is that their Paganism tends to derive from a rejection of Christianity, rather than a genuine expression of classical religious beliefs and the carrying on of an organic tradition. As a result, they have become Dionysians, rather than Apollonians. In a more Nordic context, many pagans who believe they are worshipping Thor and Odin are, in fact, following in the example of Fafnir (whom Nietzsche described as the Dionysian character of Wagner’s opera, contrasted with the Apollonian Wotan), or perhaps the great wolf Fenrir.

Those who were influenced by Nietzche’s arguments for master moralities over slave moralities have aspired for the virtues of nobility. The Dionysian character of a master morality is impulsive, assertive, unconstrained by conventional morality, and otherwise essentially virile and vivacious. It may plan and display patience, but it does not brood or linger. For the Nietzschean master, the Christian slave is a pathetic thing, self-denying, and by extension, life-denying.

Of course, Christianity is not at all anti-life. It embraces the virtues that form the bonds of a cohesive and strong society, from which strength in life is derived. They have become the innumerable pack, while Pagans have remained Dunbar packs, or even lone wolves.

As Nietzsche saw a Christian culture in his time, despite a loss of Christian theology, so too is much of modern pagan culture Nietzschean in character, despite a general lack of Nietzschean literature. It rejects Christianity not because of Jesus, but because of the Apollonian character of Jesus. Within this Nietzschean paganism, the pathetic, weak, Left has become so dehumanized that they are not even worthy of combat. There is no honor in beating up children.

Where is there honor? Why, in waging wars with other valiant, strong pagans — explicit, nominal, or honorary. People like Jack Donovan, or The Golden One, or like Greg Johnson.

I have no desire to convert contended Pagans to Christianity. I do, however, desire a successful right-wing political answer to the left’s march of nihilism and atheism, and cohesion will be required for this movement. Both European history and the texts themselves indicate a stronger embodiment of the necessary virtues for this movement within Christianity than within Paganism. If this movement is to be successful, Christians will, of course, need to leave their American-Protestant evangelism and their obsession with conversion at home (Orthodox Christians and Catholics have something of an advantage here).

More importantly, however, Pagans will need to confront what their own personal issues with Christianity are. The things they most hate about Christianity are not just latent within the Pagan traditions themselves, but will be required of a successful political movement. In the long run, they will most likely be required of any given individual anyways, so you may as well sort yourself out earlier rather than later.

Vanity and Improvement: An Ethical Evaluation of the Gym-Selfie

Pride may be a sin, but its true nature isn’t how we’re used to thinking about it:

She says ‘I’ve come of age as a writer in a time when it’s no longer possible just to write. A writer must also promote her work and in the process promote her herself as a person of interest. I learned the snarky, casually intellectual voice of feminists and pop-culture bloggers; the easy outrage, the clubby comraderie.’ So that was the age she came of age in and where she learned how to write to an audience, and always aware of herself as a kind of media personality, right? Now, what happened to her?

What happened to her was she became a mother. She had this viscerally real experience of becoming a mother, and she said one day, she was with her infant child on the front porch of her house and it suddenly dawned on her that she had no interest in snark. She had not interest in an audience that might want to comment on her experience. She wanted to get utterly into her experience, and let it simply wash over her. It’s as though the dense reality of this baby blew away her preoccupation with with an audience, and with being a personality.

Here’s  something else I want to just read directly from the article. Listen: “Before I had a child, I took it for granted that no intellectual writer type could ever be taken seriously, were she to cave in to conventional sentiment. As a mother, I was swept away by these huge, ancient, universal emotions I’d previously dismissed as uncomplicated.” It’s very interesting, isn’t it? It’s as though her baby just kind of broke through this carapace of self-regard, this sort of knowing, snarky distanciation from reality. This always playing to an audience. And she found herself immersed in the reality of the experience.

Now here’s what I find interesting. It’s a cool commentary on the generation today coming of age with social media, but it also points to a very ancient spiritual distinction between what is classically called humility and pride.

Pride is not simple self-aggrandizement, or self-affirmation. It is a kind of superiority derived from a perceived separation from reality, or at least from other mortals. The moral opprobrium derived from the sin of hubris doesn’t come from the quality achieved by the individual, or even their awareness of it, but from the separation — the distanciation — from other people and from the world.

It isn’t a coincidence that the self-proclaimed nihilists you know think that they are better than everyone else. It’s a short walk from distanciation from reality and distanciation from distinctions, from value, and from the ability to derive enjoyment from value.

In my opinion, the greatest application of the distinction between pride, as theologically understood, and pride as contemporarily, culturally understood, is the much-maligned gym-selfie.

Fundamentally what is wrong with taking pictures of yourself while working out?

A possible criticism is the distanciation that the camera itself tends to create (what Davis Aurini calls “the electric eye“). Such a phenomenon can be easily seen in the horrendous case of Fitbit, where the emphasis on metrics has in some cases so dramatically separated its users from the end goal — fitness — that they believe themselves to be “succeeding” if their numbers look good, even if their health and fitness are observably flat-lining or deteriorating.

If a gym-rat is simply taking photos every time they go to the gym, that’s obviously a concern. The photos, and not the work-out, become the goal, and their health can actually suffer from this shift in focus.

But to listen to the mocking and satirizing of photographer gym-goers, usually by people who rarely or never work out themselves, you’d think that the fitness aficionado had committed some sort of felony against common decency. The degree of contempt and caustic snark behind the criticism of the “vanity” of gym-bros ‘n hoes speaks to a different motive than generous concern.

Which side smacks more of “pride?” The people trying to improve themselves, taking pictures of themselves for encouragement, documentation, and personal enjoyment? Or the people who, from a cultural high ground, distance themselves from the reality of physical pain and struggle, pointing and mocking those arrogant pricks who go to the gym and aren’t ashamed to show it?

The watch you see above belongs to one Jocko Willinck. Willinck is a former Navy SEAL, an author, an expert on business leadership, and an avid athlete. He is regularly mocked on Instagram for regularly posting pictures of his watch, which shows what time in the God-forsaken morning he begins his workout. His response, of course, is to tell them to unsubscribe. Joe Rogan, for one, likes seeing what time Willinck is up and killing it in the gym. It motivates him, and it also motivates me. I want to be more like Willinck, and those watch-pictures remind me both of the distance between me and Willinck and of what I have to do to close that distance.

And I do close that distance.

What’s especially ironic about this issue is that any drive towards self-improvement is fundamentally motivated by an awareness of distance between your self and your idealized Self. “Humility,” in the colloquial sense, is the tacit motivation behind any attempt at improving a skill or working out.

What people normally call “pride” is simply a joy in yourself and your accomplishments. This is a good thing, especially when that pride overflows and inspires others to emulate or even surpass you in accomplishment. Vanity in the theological form — the distanciation and separation from this joy, perhaps for viewing it as naive, immature, or “uncomplicated” — is a bad thing. People looking to get in better shape should not let a confusion of these two meanings get in the way of working out, or in participating in the encouraging culture of fitness.

The Violent Artwork of Cleon Peterson

“I’m just trying to communicate strength and aggression through the least amount of strokes as possible.”

– Cleon Peterson, July 2016

When Andrew Breitbart asserted that politics is downstream from culture, he wasn’t saying anything particularly new. Plato’s Republic, in fact, took the political implications of art so seriously that it proposed a ban on all music and poetry. Yet Breitbart’s simple and pleasantly visual restatement of an old truth made it discernible and accessible to a large audience, one which Plato’s beautiful if somewhat inaccessible Greek was not. And with this opinion has come a predictable and distinctly Platonic interest, not merely in what art is being made, but in what art ought to be allowed.

With this kind of public sentiment building, it isn’t a pedantic digression to point out that such control wielded by the political opposite of a “philosopher king” is about as un-Platonic as one could imagine. It’s important because the control which the strangely democratic cultural authoritarians wish to exert requires a circumspective judgment that is generally a lot slower than we can emote.

Consider, by way of example, headlines like Paris Mural Artist Depicts Whites Getting Murdered, Raped, And Enslaved, a blog post with over 2,000 Facebook shares.

It may seem like picking low-hanging fruit, to bash on a blog that has passages like this:

This mural depicts a completion or near completion of the Hebrew-Masonic goal of European dissolution. The pure brazenness of this only exposes their complete arrogance and certainty of success. It is also worrying that this went completely unquestioned by the French and wider white European population, only indicating further that the population is asleep.

Or this:

Predictably, Cleon Peterson’s art also comes with a heavily anti-Christian theme. One picture shows a lone white figure on his knees praying, while multiple black figures prepare to murder him. Another shows a figure getting crucified upside down. This is a pure expression of the mind of the Hebrew-Masonic conspirators (the latter being the lackeys of the former) pushing the evil agendas that plague Western nations today.

But that is really the whole point. If you want to control the culture of society through restraints enforced by the state, these are inevitably the sort of people who will have the strongest opinions about what should and should not be allowed. Those without the circumspection required for good judgment on such matters aren’t inhibited by the doubts that other perspectives bring (a familiar phenomenon in cognitive psychology), and so their opinions will tend to be more influential and effective.

This author has clearly never considered that this minimalist and highly symbolic artwork (by the commenter’s own admission) might not be depicting the different colors of people literally. The black men and the white men may or may not be negroids and caucasoids; they could very well be the darker halves and lighter halves of a shared human nature, designed to convey the feeling of the darker half victorious over our better halves.

In either case — literal or metaphorical — artwork that depicts a phenomenon is not necessarily an endorsement of what it depicts. Picasso’s famous Guernica comes to mind, as do Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm. Who is going to say that Orwell supported totalitarianism because he wrote about it? And given the apparent racial overtones of the art, who’s to say that Peterson isn’t a rather extreme member of the Alt-Right, rather than a progressive leftist, and is trying to depict blacks as vicious barbarians that must either be evicted or destroyed? The fact that all of the interviews with the artist himself portray a rather apolitical, California skater-kid who just lets his anti-authoritarian, violent feelings out on canvas, is apparently beside the point.

So too, apparently, is the fact that some of his other artwork portrays black figures committing violence against other black figures, or white figures committing violence against whites. More interesting still, there appears to be more black-on-black depictions than white-on-white. In fact, the whites in the white-on-white violence don’t even appear “white” as they do elsewhere, as pure victims. If the interpreter insists on having some kind of coherent narrative lens to understand the motivation and thoughts of the artist, the metaphorical one is by far the more parsimonious.

A case could be made for a far-left interpretation of the painting, in which weak whites are inferior to the superior, African man. Or a case could be made for a far-right interpretation of the artwork, in which the African is an unrepentant savage and a beast. In terms of propaganda, the latter is far more effective, and even if the intent was the former, it will slip into the territory of the racial puritan’s favor. But neither of these interpretations are satisfying. They do not capture the whole of Peterson’s work, or the artist himself. They are both projections from frenzied, conspiratorial interpreters, painting their own black-and-white picture onto an artist simply conveying, in primoridal, Hellenic forms, an anti-authoritarian streak and an appreciation for the power of violence and aggression.

What this means for the cultural Platonists is that even if we are not libertarians (as I am not), we still ought to act as if we are civic libertarians on most matters that fall outside our realm of expertise, and even some matters that we do know a fair deal about. Criticizing artwork is, of course, just fine, but as every Platonist knows, criticism — like song and poetry — can have a powerful effect similar to that of the law.

Perhaps it is fittingly poetic that the solution to this Platonic paradox may be an Aristotelian one. Virtue ethics, and turning our gaze inward, rather than outward, to identify the problems in the world, is not only more effective, but may even eventually provide us with the requisite orientation and wisdom to become the philosopher kings of Plato’s dreams.

In short, Peterson’s art is not the problem.

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange was happening to you.

– 1 Peter 4:12

Philosophy v. Theology

I was attending a New Year’s dinner with some old friends a few years ago, when the subject of philosophy came up. My friend had a master’s degree in computer science, with a minor in philosophy, and was exceptionally well-read on the subject. At the word “philosophy,” a friend of my friend’s dad came over. It turned out he happened to have a PhD in the field, and had a thought or two to contribute to our discussion.

My initial challenge to my friend was the purpose of philosophy. My contention was that it was essentially about wisdom, “philo-sophia” literally meaning a love of wisdom. My friend, and the PhD acquaintance, held that philosophy was fundamentally about “truth,” and not wisdom. They were willing to grant that perhaps it had once been about wisdom, but had evolved and matured to the point of being about understanding the nature of things.

“Well, okay, I’ll grant your definition. Philosophy is about truth, which I think is important, but as a servant of wisdom, not as a thing in and of itself. I’m interested in wisdom: what do we call the study of that?”

“Um… pop-philosophy?”

I didn’t bother pointing out the (probably unintentional) condescension latent in the label, being offhand and casual. But the answer didn’t exactly sit right with any of us, and the struggle to distinguish the pursuit of knowledge — what is true — from the pursuit of wisdom — what is good — was challenging. It was distinction that eluded me for a long time after that meeting.

Sometime in the last year and half, however, the answer to the question revealed itself to me. The pursuit of wisdom has a name, and that name is theology.

I was an ardent atheist at the time of the philosophy discussion, and I suppose by the lights of certain fundamentalists, I might still be today. As with philosophy, it’s a label I’m willing to grant if “God” is defined narrowly enough, and “belief in God” confined exactingly enough. But even within Christian theology, there is more than one “God,” as tacitly acknowledged among the first commandments from the decalogue:

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

– Exodus 20:3

The precision of opting for “have no other gods before me,” rather than “have no other gods,” is telling. The commandment could just as well have told the Jews to believe there to be no other Gods, and yet it did not. This is not just telling about the spirituality of supposedly monotheistic faiths, but informative about the nature of what a God — and by extension, what theology — is.

Augustus Invictus and I had a lengthy discussion last month about the nature of religion, and of Gods. I brought up Wim Hof of a man who had, quite organically and independently, come upon the word “God” to describe his relationship to the cold, which drew him out of his depression and into a realm of superhuman ability, and into life. Augustus, in turn, referenced Frank Herbert’s masterpiece of science-fiction Dune, saying that religion is that which reminds me that I am not the man I want to be.

There is something odd about these examples, relative to the majority of religious tradition that most people are familiar with. Rather than being a pedagogical system maintained by a hierarchical institution, Wim Hof and Herbert seem to be describing something different, something more visceral, and getting there by a different route.

In my opinion, the most illuminating light that spans this understanding gap is, perhaps ironically, pop music. Consider the words of Leonard Cohen:

At our best, we inhabit a biblical landscape, and this is where we should situate ourselves without apology….That biblical landscape is our urgent invitation…Otherwise, it’s really not worth saving or manifesting or redeeming or anything, unless we really take up that invitation to walk into that biblical landscape.

From a traditionalist’s perspective, this may seem like a strange way of framing the situation. But the writer and performer of the famous song Hallelujah knows what he’s talking about. Aside from being a lifelong Jew, Cohen was an ordained Buddhist monk. He understood that religious talk was not so much a metaphysical theory, but a grammar for describing emotions and questions that cannot be described adequately in the language of ordinary life.

Lady Gaga isn’t the only one who understands this without having such a background in faith. Audioslave, System of a Down, and many other artists use Christian (or other religious) language to talk about emotionally complex, mysterious, or downright traumatic subjects. As a rule, artists that take the subject less seriously use the language less seriously; those who care more, as a function of age, inclination, or introspection, tend to use the grammar of religion more carefully and with greater reverence.

I was reading N.T. Wright’s book Scripture and the Authority of God today, and was pleased to hear him make the exact same reference I have been making use of in describing the “truth” of much of the bible. If someone asks “is the parable of the boy who cried wolf true?,” no one in their right mind takes that question as a historical one. The question is clearly about the message; do people stop listening to you if you deceive them? The truth of the parable is, when you think about it, greater than the truth of a historical event. We understand the timelessness of the relationships between archetypes, and no historical evidence is necessary. The parable, in other words, is a language for talking about relationships.

In this way, religion is the language for discussing values, wisdom, and how to live. This makes theology the study of wisdom, in much the same way that philosophy is the study of truth. Words like “epistemology,” “a priori,” phenomenology,” and “existentialism” are all words we use to talk about the truths of our experience of the world, and in exactly the same way, the stories of religious traditions (and here, one can’t help but notice that Christianity and Buddhism seem to rise to the top of these kinds of discussions) are the language for discussing wisdom, values, and the good.

It is for this reason that I’ve gradually shifted my focus from philosophy to theology… assuming, of course, that philosophy is, as my friend suggested, first and foremost about truth. This does not mean that philosophy is of no use, of course; truth is indispensable in pursuit of virtually any endeavor. But is it valuable in and of itself? Living well, and not being right, strikes me intuitively as the superior long-term aim. In this regard, I’m happy to side with Cicero, who’s opening in his Defense of the Republic was making fun of philosophers who sat on the sidelines and accomplished nothing. I share Cicero’s appreciation of theology more now than I did as an atheist, and am glad to be in such esteemed company.

Mostly, I’m just glad to have found a name for what I love studying.

Why Christianity?

Today’s right wing is rehashing an age-old debate, and one that I myself have grappled with for nearly a decade in some form or another: what faith should the West follow? Paganism, Christianity, or Atheism?

The debate begins, to my mind, first with a root separation, of those of faith from those without.  Let me begin by going over my own reasons for choosing religion over atheism.

Between the end of high school (2008) all the way through to about two years ago, I had been a very strong and vocal atheist. I was raised Christian, but saw through the illusion that was literal Christian dogma. I remember quite clearly a video I saw, which logically demonstrated that prayer which was answered by God in the form of “yes,” “no,” or “wait” was equivalent to a Geicko commercial promising to save “up to 15% or more:” it covered every base, and was indistinguishable from nonexistence.

From there I read Dan Barker’s Godless. Soon after that, I read Richard Dawkins, and eventually, the man that was to become my greatest intellectual hero: Christopher Hitchens. The arguments were flawless. God is not dead. He simply is not.

The beginnings of my unconversion (or reconversion, if you prefer) began by sheer chance. I remember stalking the aisles of a Barnes and Nobles, armed with a gift card to dispose of, and the title The Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell stuck out to me. Without knowing anything else about the author or the theory contained within it, the title alone seemed to say to me “this is a book with a very big idea.” It was not the first nor the last time I judged a book by its cover, but it may have been the most fortuitous.

I found it to be one of the most difficult books I’ve ever had to read, more difficult even than the Thomas Kuhn I read back in high school. I understood enough, however, to see a deeper layer behind the literature being analyzed. I could not yet discern what it meant, but I could see that it was there.

At the time, I received most of my news, information, and entertainment from YouTube, and so one day, I decided to search for “Joseph Campbell,” and came across The Power of Myth, an interview by Bill Moyers with the famous literary theorist. This interview has since been taken off of YouTube, but for me, it was a light bulb moment.

All my life, I had been raised to think of religion as an assertion of scientific truth. If “God” exists, than he is essentially a man in the sky, who must be falsifiable or else presumed false. With this scientific world-view, the idea of a mythological religious attitude was perfectly understandable, but completely uninteresting. It was like Santa Clause, or The Boy Who Cried Wolf. It was not unique, and felt a little puerile. It was lame.

What Campbell began to illuminate for me was a phenomenological understanding of the world, wherein relationships between things, and between types of things, are the substance of our experience and the orienting forces in our life, rather than discreet “facts.”

From a scientific standpoint, a mythological story is inherently uninteresting because it is scientifically false. But mythological stories are not false. They stay with us for thousands of years, and we keep retelling them to each other because they say something essentially true about ourselves and our relationship to other people and to the world. In fact, they are in some sense more true than empirical facts. This, of course, depends on how one measures truth, but if the standard of truth is “what works based on collective experience,” rather than “what is most corroborated by scientific scrutiny,” than the experience conveyed in folklore transcends our contemporary knowledge of physics and mathematics by orders of magnitude, measured both in combined human experience and in relevance to living well. It isn’t much use to most people, knowing how to make an airplane wing in the correct shape. How to make a marriage work, and how to orient oneself in relationship to boredom and to suffering, are relevant to everyone, no matter your job.

I felt like an elite intellectual, like I had discovered the very top of the pyramid called “religion.” But this soon gave way to the feeling that G.K. Chesterton described in his book Orthodoxy, of one who has set sail from England to discover far-off South Sea islands, but somehow miscalculates and discovers England. As I reread old scripture–scripture that I had so casually dismissed once upon a time–a new layer of understanding shone through like a ham-fisted moral in a children’s fairy tale… and yet I had never seen it before.

The deeper understanding hadn’t just been there the whole time: it had been the underlying purpose the whole time.

But this was not my point of re-connection with Christianity specifically. Mythopoetic narratives, establishing, retaining, and building who we are, layered beneath a narrative that survives through literalism, are the foundations of most religions. I found myself facing a new challenge, not between faith and atheism, but between two faiths: Nordic paganism, on the one hand, and Christianity on the other.

Plumbing the depths of moral philosophy had brought me to face the hard-edged suspicion of Nietzsche. In the exploration of master-moralities and slave-moralities, and their resulting effects on the character of the human condition, what once seemed like the harshest criticisms of religion now seemed like weak and insufficient compliments: the problem is not that Christianity is violent and intolerant, but is in fact not violent and intolerant enough.

The national character of pagan faiths make them particularly amenable as psychological homes for particular groups of people, rather than as universal, one-size-fits-all spiritual systems designed for the particular nature of nobody in particular.

The more I thought on the topic, however, the more transparent it became that universal truths do exist, and that universal truths are not exclusive to more particular and contextual truths, of the sort that distinguish tribal faiths from the great monotheisms. The problem was not with Christianity, but with human nature… a problem which Christianity tackled head-on better than any other faith.

By illustration, anyone involved in Nordic paganism knows about and resents the politically progressive, hug-the-world incursions into their religious traditions. Indeed, it seems that most Asatru organizations that aren’t the equivalent of Unitarians are converging in a separate, but equally blasphemous direction: towards a business model, where the religious aesthetic is used as a marketing tool to ply “brutal” and “deadly” merchandise, from knives to t-shirts to necklaces. All in the name of Odin, ostensibly…

I don’t say this to condemn paganism generally. Christianity is not only as bad, in this regard, but arguably worse. What this use of paganism shows, however, is that the weakness in Christianity is not a genuine expression of the faith, but an expression of the weakness of mankind. Christianity is only more commercialized and politicized because it’s larger, at the moment.

I’m reminded of the story of a young woman, a main character in the story Reading Lolita in Tehran. She was a devout Muslim woman, who wore the hijab openly to school, prior to the 1979 revolution. The other women, who were Westernized and broadly secular, made fun of her for her peculiar religious habits. But for her, that made the garment meaningful. It made her special.

We often use the word “special” ironically and as a pejorative today. But this is only because of the way that people who were profoundly unspecial abused the word, and declared that everyone was special, in their own way. This amusing paradox did devastating damage to the previously unchallenged understanding that some things really are special. Indeed, the word “sacred” essentially just means “special,” or “set apart.” We should no more reject the meaning of “special” or “sacred” than we should the difference between our significant other and a stranger, or between our children and another child.

Anyway, the revolution of 1979 saw the return of theocracy to Iran, and now all the women had to wear head coverings. Suddenly, the sacrifice of the one devout woman had been rendered boring and “normal.” When everyone is forced, or perhaps even mildly coerced, into adapting a faith and its trappings, the faith becomes a victim of the character of its new converts. This is something evangelical Christians should bear in mind when proselytizing the faith.

So the choice between paganism and Christianity could not be one between the cultures each had adapted, but between the principles underlying them. The problem here, however, is that the religious traditions have been built slowly, by many errors and corrections, and by trial and error, over thousands of years, by people far more intelligent than myself. There is no way a mortal, even in a whole lifetime, can begin to comprehend the intersecting values, ideas, experiences, and principles that created the value-hierarchy, the beliefs, and the practices that form the core of a religious tradition. It takes what Kierkegaard called “a leap of faith.”

My decision did not feel particularly sudden, but if there was a decisive moment, it must have been listening to Greg Johnson’s interview with Paul Waggener:

GJ: […]And obviously you have diverged from Christianity as a path to Nordic neo-paganism.

PW: I wouldn’t call it Nordic neo-paganism, though that was certainly one step on the road. That’s not how I would express my spirituality now. I think that would be far too limiting a category to put it in. But yes, I certainly diverged from Christianity, and that was certainly one step along the way.

GJ: OK. So, how do you describe your outlook now and can you describe the Wolves? Tell us a little bit about them.

PW: As far as spiritual outlook, I would say that my spiritual outlook is tribal, in that my expression of spirituality now is organic, and it’s grown as the tribal organization of the Wolves, which I am a member of, has grown. And I think that it’s become a tribally-serving expression now rather than taking something from without and modeling a tribe after that. So, after the tribe took wings and has become more of a self-developed entity, the spirituality developed along with it. It serves the tribe rather than the other way around.

It occurred to me, while listening to their conversation, that religion is not something you choose. Certainly Paul and the Wolves are doing something like creating a faith of their own, but I already have a tribe. I have a wife. I have a brother, a sister, and a brother in law. I have parents, in-laws, and two extraordinarily close friends I’ve known for more than a decade. All of these people are either Christian or come from a Christian background; if they are not Christian, they reject the faith for reasons similar to those I once rejected it on. None of them are remotely familiar with, or interested in, Nordic paganism.

If I were to choose paganism over Christianity, I might experience some novelty, and the joy of exploring for myself a religion I was previously unfamiliar with. But because I was not born into it, I will never truly master the religion as one who was born into it could. And because my family and tribe were not born into it, my choice would be an abandonment of them and the culture they knew.

I have actually half-compromised, based on another passage from that interview, and opted to learn about and practice traditions of Orthodox Christianity, rather than the Catholicism of my mother’s side, the Episcopalianism of my father’s side, or the Methodism of my own upbringing.

Certainly I was raised with a very conservative Christian upbringing, but when I was young my father was actually an Anglican priest and he moved to Orthodoxy later on as a reaction to some of the . . . I think he would probably consider it to be creeping liberalism finding its way into the Anglican Church. He believes that Orthodoxy is a sort of last bastion of true Christianity left in the world.

I confess that I am not a particularly orthodox practioner of any spiritual tradition, and there are blendings of traditions, as much from arrogance in my own understanding as by accident. The necklace I have, for example, is actually an unconnected pair of strings with 100 knots tied in them. In this way, it resembles an Orthodox prayer rope. I also use it as the Orthodox do: to recite the Jesus prayer a minimum of 100 times a day. The knots themselves, however, more closely resemble a Catholic rosary, and moreover, they are separated into numerically inaccurate “decades” (of 25) by beads, as a traditional rosary is. The knots make it easy to casually loop the string into a kind of necklace, which closely resembles a rosary.

To make matters even worse, I will often bring it with me to the gym, and hold the cross in my mouth before attempting particularly heavy lifts. In this way, I hope to associate power and effort with the necklace, and imbue it with associative power that can be drawn from when I need it. While not incompatible with Christianity, this practice seems pagan in spirit.

Yet perhaps this pagan association reflects something that the Christian church has lost, and has a right — perhaps a duty — to reclaim for itself. Every religious tradition, in every generation, must be saved from the corruption of time and humanity. If I am successful in finding new life in Christianity, and showing that to others of my generation, it will make the work of my children no easier for the same task that they will have to perform. Yet it must be done regardless. Or, put another way, I get the privilege of pursuing this noble and rewarding task, despite the previous efforts of minds more brilliant than my own to do the same. Their work was not fruitless, but there is no final solution to the problem of human nature. And thank God for that.

Golden Let-Downs

There’s something ironically reminiscent of the Obama years, in the expressions of outrage and betrayal by formerly loyal supporters.

We should not be too hard on them — or on yourself, if you happen to be in their number. The ability to criticize our representatives is a precious one. The disappointment and sadness expressed by his supporters prove how cheap and false the Left’s allegations were about the mindless loyalty of the right to their golden-haired God Emperor.

With the simultaneous attack on Julian Assange and the apparent softening on immigration on the heels of his bombing of Syria, how can anyone right of center (let alone a member of the Alternative Right) be optimistic about the remainder of the Trump presidency?

When I voted for Donald J. Trump in November, I was unconvinced by the actual policies he was promising… or at least not persuaded by them. It’s not that I thought he was a liar (by the standards of his office of aspiration), though any honest person listening to the man is forced to admit that he is less than honest. He’s from New York, for one thing. Even the “truthful hyperbole” strategy he employs — while essentially honest in nature — is dishonest in its mechanics. But there are more important things than a president’s truthiness.

A nation is not so much “led” by its leader as it is reflected by him. There are over 330 million of us and only one president: which one really holds more sway? Certainly the president is a powerful cultural figure, but no one could possibly be more powerful than the collective actions of an entire country. How else could we get a reality TV star as our leader?

Let’s be serious: Donald Trump was never going to make America great again. You can point 330 million people to water, but you cannot even move them, let alone make them drink.

I don’t say this to condemn Trump, of course. I voted for him, and stand by my vote, because I only voted for him for one reason: protecting freedom of speech.

The press, and even supporters, tend to softball the issue by couching all assaults against free speech as mere “political correctness.” Since the First Amendment only protects free speech from abridgment by Congress, it is easy to conflate the right with the law that ostensibly protects it. In doing so, we completely miss the constrictions on expression at the hands of corporations, schools, Hollywood, and the culture at large. They are every bit as dangerous to the civic health of a Republic as constrictions that come from the government itself.

To provide just one example, any criticism of Islam can be caricatured as “Islamophobia,” which takes any intellectual justifications out of a criticism and pathologizes a sincere, and perhaps even true, concern. This is not done at the Federal level, nor even the state level, but by television news programs, by parent-teacher associations, by church congregations, and by dinner party guests.

This means that government isn’t the problem. Government reflects the problem. The problem is with us. Perhaps, like Solzhenitsyn, we do not love freedom enough. Perhaps we love reality TV too much. But I repeat myself.

In my book, In Defense of Hatred, I wrote that the inability to defend what you love can lead us to an inability, or an unwillingness, to love in the first place:

If we cannot hate, then we will retroactively convince ourselves that we didn’t really love it. And the danger of unrequited loss by establishing a meaningful preference, might not be worth it. It might be better to never love.  To wish that what you loved had never existed, so you could be spared your pain.

If we cannot say what we think without fear of reprisal, then what’s the point in getting involved and learning enough to have an opinion at all? And if no one has, or is willing to articulate, a civic opinion, how can a Republic survive? It does not matter whether these restrictions come from the government or from other people. If we cannot use words to resolve our differences, than we will eventually have to use violence.

In 2015, Trump stepped onto the stage and said all the wrong things. It was exactly what we needed. Suddenly, everyone who was afraid to say what they really thought about immigration, about Islam, even about race and gender, saw a Golden example of a man breaking all the rules and winning.

No amount of backsliding on promises can undo this psychic victory. Now everyone knows that everyone else knows the problems with immigration, and we can talk about it. When everyone laughs out loud at the emperor’s nakedness, it is impossible to pretend that the robes are beautiful again. Trump happens to play both the part of the boy and the God Emperor simultaneously, a feat few others could so masterfully perform.

Let’s not pretend that the task of making America great was a burden for the president’s shoulders alone. Frankly, I’m glad he finally let the true believers down. There is something weak in the hope that a single leader will make all your problems go away. It’s a weakness of spirit that Jack Donovan touched on in his piece on Trump:

Men in America can’t keep waiting for someone to come and stand up to feminists and race-baiters and social justice warriors for them, and then stand behind them, saying, “yeah, what he said.” They can’t keep waiting for some elected leader to put big businesses and banks and all of the scheming, swindling, greedy sellouts that run this country in their place. These people hate you, and they don’t care what you think or what you want. No matter what happens to you, they believe you have it coming, and if you don’t do anything about it and take control of your own life and destiny — you will deserve it.

Whatever happens to white American men — and all of the men who are unable or unwilling to benefit from rent-seeking identity politics — will be up to us.

Enjoy the liberal and progressive butthurt, but don’t get too angry with Trump for letting you down. He had one job, and he did it. Make use of the cultural space restored by the God-Emperor, and exercise those rights which he has shielded from the culture at large.

That’s the heart of civic life in a Republic: the speech of the citizen, not of the dear leader.