Culture

In Defense of Sargon

UPDATE: I have retracted the view I expressed in this piece, in light of further information.

To me, Carl “Sargon of Akkad” Benjamin is much like Christopher Hitchens: I don’t agree with him on very much politically, but there is something about the quality of his mind that is admirable. In my discussion with Greg Johnson, we both agreed that someone who is principled but wrong is better than a person who is right but unprincipled, because the person who is principled can eventually correct their error which will inevitably reveal itself, whereas the unprincipled person can deny their error or hide from it indefinitely. Moreover, the principled person is trustworthy, whereas the unprincipled person cannot be trusted, especially in the moments that it matters the most.

In his refusal to help Kraut & Tea’s dishonest operations, Sargon demonstrated a degree of moral integrity and fortitude that everyone likes to imagine that they have, but few are able to manifest when actually put to the test. He has repeated this elsewhere, in his humane treatment of Laci Green, and his consistency in discouraging doxxing, violence, or abuse of other people online with whom he disagrees. For all of his faults, Sargon has character.

Lately, Sargon has come under fire in the aftermath of his now infamous debate with Richard Spencer, and after a rather rough conversation with Mister Metokur. While there are many criticisms of Sargon’s political positions, the main claims being made now are not attacks on his position, but attacks on his character. He is being attacked for “having a big ego,” for instance, as well as for thinking he’s a leader, and perhaps most popularly (from Richard Spencer) for thinking he’s smarter than he really is.

I will go after Sargon all day long on his political positions. JF has leveled some devastating criticisms of the half-baked hybrid liberal-libertarian position that Sargon has amalgamated together as an alternative to the neoliberal and Alt-Right positions vying for the next generation’s metapolitical fealty, and I believe JF is absolutely correct in his criticisms. However, observing that someone is wrong does not mean that the person lacks character, and it is a threat to the value and respect of character to go after someone’s character merely for being wrong.

I would like to bring back to mind that Richard Spencer participated in the attack on Greg Johnson in conjunction with Daniel Friberg. Greg utterly refuted the claims, was vindicated by Aedhan Cassiel, and then again by John Morgan. (AltRight.com’s responses were weak and off-topic). Richard Spencer is an intelligent person, but he does not have character in the way that Sargon does. He certainly has a bigger ego than Sargon, not only for going to the media and participating in stunts (Charlottesville, HailGate) that give him publicity at the expense of the movement, but also for audacious and hubristic claims, such as that he would be the leader of the Alt-Right and would direct its course for the next hundred years.

Mister Metokur is, in my opinion, even worse than Spencer, who at least stands for something. Mister Metokur, so far as I can tell, does not stand for anything. All he does is tear things down… and man, does he do it well. By his own admission, he’s only doing this for laughs. Life is a big joke to him.

Deconstructing something is easy. Anyone can notice that the epistemology supporting any particular view of the world is incomplete, and can point out apparent inconsistencies and flaws. If they do it with humor, this deconstruction can be particularly devastating, but it doesn’t help anyone. It’s a hell of a lot harder to create something, which Mister Metokur seems adamantly opposed to doing. Listen again to his conversation with Sargon, and see if you can hear anything else. Functionally, Metokur is a nihilist. But he makes you feel superior while you’re following him down, so it’s okay (because those people were trying to feel superior to us; joke’s on them!). If there’s someone out there putting in decades of thought and research into bringing meaning and purpose into the lives of the next generation, Metokur is the kind of guy who would rather shit on his work than try to do something better.

Sargon is better than Spencer or Metokur. He may not be the smartest guy in the world, or the most well-read. He may not be a natural leader, or a even a “moral genius,” to borrow a phrase from Sam Harris. But he is reasonably smart, he works hard, is a good organizer, is charismatic, and most importantly, he has demonstrated his good character in virtually every case in which it has been tested, which is more frequently in public than most people will experience in their lifetime.

I understand why Sargon wants to shirk his role as “leader” of anything. Strategically, it is risky, since being a leader makes one a target, and targeting leaders has been a consistent SJW strategy. Being “leaderless” was one of the things that made #GamerGate so successful. It was difficult to attack, because it was difficult to pin down. For this reason, it is also personally stressful. Finally, it is distracting from other goals and plans, such as “making shitty video games.”

That said, however, I think Sargon should step into a leadership role, and would urge him to do so, if not within the “Liberalists,” than in another classical liberal advocacy project.

Strategically, the problem with leaderless movements is what’s morally wrong with Mister Metokur. If ground is to be defended, real people, with real names, have to defend them. #GamerGate was defined as successful not because video games were protected, but because most of the Gaming journalism sites changed their official policies and Gawker went down. This was no small feat, but the same enemies that were aiming for video games have been relatively successful at infiltrating comic books and movies, not to mention schools and businesses. #GamerGate is one small victory in a war that has been generally looking grim… or at least had been, until Donald Trump and the Alt-Right began, mostly independently, challenging the underlying Left-Wing cultural hegemony over society. Guerilla fighting can be successful in the weeds and in the swamps, but this war will be decided on the battlefield, where real people face off in real-life, with elegant ideas more metaphorically like gleaming swords and shields than like the rusty dirks of “dank memes.”

Personal risk is a serious problem, and cannot be ignored. I would only respond by quoting my friend Augustus Invictus: “I wonder which is more terrifying: to lose a child to a cause – or to lose the respect of that child when she discovers that her parents were cowards who made a virtue of submission?”

This is the kind of sentiment that is easy for people like Mister Metokur to laugh away, but it is the kind of sentiment that strikes a chord with anyone who simultaneously possesses self-respect and sincerity, both of which Sargon possesses.

Anything worth doing is hard, and changing the world is a lot harder than making shitty video games. In my opinion, that alone should guide Sargon’s choice of priorities.

It may sound suspect that I, an ideological opponent of Sargon, would be giving him advice about what he should do. But for me, ideology is a secondary loyalty. Loyalty to good character comes first, which is why I like Sargon more than Richard or Metokur, despite both of the latter coming closer to my own political views than Sargon. Ultimately, no political movement can succeed if it is run by people with poor character, and a civilization is composed of multiple political movements with differing positions on a variety of subjects. At the end of the day, Sargon and I are on the same team, fighting for a similar social ideal (a Republic, infused with English-American values). We just have different ideas of how to get there.

I also happen to think that the Left does have a lot to say about politics, and that if the Left is represented by bad people, the underlying concerns that the Left usually seeks to address will not go away, but will only reemerge stronger and more pathologically down the road.

Finally, as I stated in my book, I want strong enemies:

I do not want my enemies lying to themselves. Perhaps they have something important to say, that I can learn from. […] I want strong enemies. When I was in debate club in college, I could demolish liberal students whenever a politically partisan issue came up because none of them had read conservative arguments, as I had. They were unprepared, weak. And I was a less skilled debater than I could have been because of it.

[…]

And is it not simply more satisfying to defeat stronger enemies? Whether it is in literal warfare, or the more metaphorical variety–politics, law, culture, or even sports–the strong man never gets a sense of satisfaction from defeating pathetic, weak enemies. It is only from defeating challenging enemies, worthy of one’s hatred, that your own strengths can be vindicated and demonstrated. As Nietzsche pointed out many years ago, it is in this way, at least, that we can learn to love our enemies.

My best wishes and hopes go out to Sargon, whom I think of as an imperfect but worthy and respectable opponent in the battle of ideas. Like Henry V, or Hamlet, I think Sargon should step up and take his crown as “leader,” heavy of a burden as it is, because ultimately it is worth the cost. For his own sake, and for his movement’s sake, he should step up to the plate, and we who disagree with him — about race, or individualism, or rights, or anything else — should support him in this if we also believe character and virtue to be more important than the details of political theory.

Don’t join in the crowd of resentful losers, leaping on any wounded animal they can smell like hyenas. That is the path of weakness.  Rather, respect great men, because the only chance anyone can have of becoming great is by recognizing and venerating the qualities of greatness in others. As measured by character, Sargon is a great man.

Sargon, if you ever read this, thanks for all the great work.

Advertisements

The Moral Con

c987374624e09fadc1e25542314ef24d

The creators of Cards Against Humanity recently pulled an interesting and illustrative stunt. They purchased land on the Mexican border, with the goal of preventing the Mexican border wall.

“Donald Trump is a preposterous golem who is afraid of Mexicans. He is so afraid that he wants to build a twenty-billion dollar wall that everyone knows will accomplish nothing. So we’ve purchased a plot of vacant land on the border and retained a law firm specializing in eminent domain to make it as time-consuming and expensive as possible for the wall to get built.”

Whatever you may think of the border wall, positive or negative, one of the virtues of this stunt is its creativity. It is neither violent nor destructive, is entirely legal, and appears likely to be an effective impediment.

Yet even if you disagree with the wall and applaud the clever means of opposing it, there is something off about the motivation behind it. Their statement from their website begins with a somewhat immature insult, and a straw-manning of a very serious and reasonable concern among many Americans, particularly on border states: the job-loss, crime, and cultural dilution that comes with the scale of immigration we’ve been experiencing. It may be wrong, but it isn’t unreasonable.

More telling is their line about making the wall as expensive and time-consuming as possible. Given that two of their stated reasons for opposing the wall are its cost and its projected ineffectiveness, this tactic specifically designed to increase the cost and reduce  the wall’s effectiveness indicates another motive, especially when we consider they made no positive case for the Mexican migrants. They aren’t pro-immigration, they’re just anti-Trump.

It is entirely possible–likely, in fact–that their motives are entirely economic. As a marketing scheme for promoting their game, immediately before the holidays, it’s pretty brilliant.

That it may cost taxpayers millions of dollars would be just an unfortunate side-effect.

Even if their motives really are civic, and their positions are–contrary to all appearances–clear and thought-through, there’s something suspicious about the timing and the pandering. It’s very popular to signal against Trump these days. Isn’t this the very reason why so many dislike Trump in the first place?

The whole situation reminds me of a video Davis Aurini put out about two years ago, in which he describes the mechanism of the con man:

The important thing you need to remember about con artistry is what the ‘con’ stands for, what a con-man is. He’s a confidence man. He’s someone who gets your confidence and uses that to steal your money. You know, there’s an old saying, that “you can’t con an honest man.” You can defraud an honest man, but conning him? Much, much more difficult.

Why is this?

Aurini explains a basic confidence trick called the “pigeon drop” that involves two cons and a mark. One con engages the mark in conversation, while the second sneaks up behind him and drops a wallet on the ground. He then points it out to the mark and the first con, asking if the wallet belongs to either of them. The first con and the mark both say they don’t recognize it, and so the second con–with the tacit approval of the first con and the mark–opens the wallet, to find it loaded with cash; maybe $3,000.

The first con verbally notes “that’s  $1,000 each.”

The second con puts the cash in an envelope (and through some sleight of hand, swaps the envelope with an identical envelope filled with sheets of paper, simulating the $3,000). He then hands the dummy envelope to mark to hold on to the cash; he’s going to take the wallet inside the nearest building and see if he can find the owner, on the condition that the other two don’t leave. The first con volunteers a few hundred dollars of his own to the second con as collateral and proof he won’t wander off… thus pressuring the good-natured mark to do the same.

When the second con-man doesn’t return, the first says he’s going to look for him, leaving the mark with the envelope full of paper, left to eventually to realize he’s lost a few hundred dollars and gained an envelope of nothing.

There’s one critical key to all of this […] a real con-man gets his mark complicit in the crime. See, look at that pigeon drop; what happened there is these three people found a wallet with $3,000 in it, and you don’t know who this money belongs to. That could be their first and last month’s rent, maybe they’re on to a new apartment. It could be money they desperately need. And here the three of them are talking about splitting it among themselves, because this poor, imaginary fellow dropped their wallet? They get the mark complicit. If you’re going to be a con-man, you get the mark complicit.

What would be the point in putting your own money into a collateral pot if you weren’t planning on taking some of the found cash? The sly observation “that’s $1,000 each” primes the mark to participate in the theft. Putting his own money in the plot seals it, and in doing so, opens him to the con men’s ploy.

Where does Cards Against Humanity fit into all of this?

For people on the right (the ones who tend to support the border wall), traditional values are important, if not sacred values. Even for those on the left, the “traditional values” are valuable, even if they don’t beat out compassion, openness, and fairness.

Cards Against Humanity is not just a game like Risk, Monopoly, chess, or hearts. It is an invitation to creatively practice inverting these values and embracing the inversion. We are not laughing at the incongruity of the cards when we play Cards Against Humanity; we’re laughing at the dark creativity of the players. This form of irreverent creativity is a skill, and like any skill, is refined and even habituated with practice.

From the perspective of a right-wing traditionalist, it makes absolute sense that the designers of such a game would be the type to not only support left-wing policies, but do so of their own accord, in a creatively dickish manner, once given the power and resources to do so.

To summarize the mechanics, Temkin, Dillon, Dranove, Halpern*, Hantoot, Munk, Pinsof, and Weinstein* functioned as moral and civic con-men. They invited us to participate in a game that mocks the moral character and values that a traditional conservative should take seriously. It was only a joke, you see. When we discover that the creators of such a game don’t actually share the values we do, and are actively working to thwart our civic goals, it is like being the mark, standing alone, and discovering that he is holding an envelope full of paper.

(In fairness, gun-stores which sell guns to liberals, and who then donate some of the proceeds to the NRA, function in a similar manner. Here, the con-man label is not analogous to the motives of the con, but the experience of the mark).

This may sound a bit puritanical. What, are we not allowed to laugh? Are we not allowed to enjoy irony and make jokes?

This is a very tempting line of thought, and curiously, a sort of intuitive one. Curious, because a rejection of a particular kind of humor is no more a rejection of all forms of humor and laughter than a rejection of sweets constitutes a rejection of all forms of food or even tasty food, nor is rejecting theft a rejection of making a little bit of money. There’s an interesting question: exactly how much theft can we reject before we become puritans? There is no reason the “puritan” thought should be intuitive, and yet it is. C.S. Lewis was right when he observed — in the voice of his demon-tempter, Screwtape — that the word “puritanical” and its associations has become one of the greatest tools for facilitating habituated sin.

In fact, it may be useful to go over the four sources of laughter outlined in The Screwtape Letters, Joy, Fun, the Joke Proper, and Flippancy:

You will see the first among friends and lovers reunited on the eve of a holiday. Among adults some pretext in the way of Jokes is usually provided, but the facility with which the smallest witticisms produce laughter at such time shows they are not the real cause.

Fun is closely related to Joy — a sort of emotional froth arising from the play instinct.

For Lewis’ demons, neither joy nor fun are particularly useful for tempting mortals, except as a distraction. Where the real usefulness of laughter begins is with the Joke Proper:

The Joke Proper, which turns on sudden perception of incongruity, is a much more promising field […] The real use of Jokes or Humour is in quite a different direction, and it is specially promising among the English who take their ‘sense of humour’ so seriously that a deficiency in this sense is almost the only deficiency at which they feel shame. Humour is for them the all-consoling and (mark this) the all-excusing, grace of life. Hence it is invaluable as a means of destroying shame. If a man simply lets others pay for him, he is ‘mean’; if he boasts of it in a jocular manner and twits his fellows with having been scored off, he is no longer ‘mean’ but a comical fellow. Mere cowardice is shameful; cowardice boasted of with humorous exaggerations and grotesque gestures can be passed off as funny. Cruelty is shameful–unless the cruel man can represent it as a practical joke […] Any suggestion that there might be too much of it can be represented to him as ‘Puritanical’ or as betraying a ‘lack of humor.’

But flippancy is the best of all. In the first place, it is very economical. Only a clever human can make a real Joke about virtue, or indeed about anything else; any of them can be made to talk as if virtue were funny. Among flippant people the Joke is always assumed to have been made. No one actually makes it; but every serious subject is discussed in a manner which implies that they have already found a ridiculous side to it. If prolonged, the habit of Flippancy builds up around a man the finest armor-plating against the Enemy [God] that I know, and it is quite free from the dangers inherent in other sources of laughter. It is a thousand miles away from joy: it deadens, instead of sharpening, the intellect; and it excites no affection between those who practice it.

There are times when laughter is useful in dealing with difficult situations; the light side of dark humor. And of course, in the realm of what is allowed to others, we can’t make special exceptions or bans. “All of it’s okay, or none of it’s okay,” as they say, and there is good reason for this. But allowing others to target anything does not oblige us to participate in their particular forms of humor.

Laughter is immensely powerful. It is persuasive, because it makes us participants, but sometimes the participation is in more than the punchline.

We don’t need to become conspiratorial investigators, doing deep reconnaissance on the backstory behind every comedian, every Onion headline, and every satirical cartoon that rolls across our feed, just as the man in the street doesn’t need to know everything about everyone to have a basic level of trust. He just needs the will to be an honest man.

And we need the will to be honest and serious in our own values.

A Question of Violence: The Problem of Coed Dominance Hierarchies

Jordan Peterson’s recent interview with Camille Paglia contained this gemstone of an insight:

Here’s the problem: I know how to stand up to a man, who’s unfairly trespassed against me, and the reason I know that is because the parameters for my resistance are quite well-defined, which is, we talk, we argue, we push, and then it becomes physical. If we move beyond the boundaries of civil discourse, we know what the next step is. That’s forbidden in discourse with women, so I don’t think men can control crazy women. I really don’t believe it. I think they have to throw their hands up in… it’s not even disbelief. There’s no step forward that you can take under those circumstances, because if the man is offensive enough and crazy enough, the reaction becomes physical right away, or at least the threat is there. And when men are talking to each other in any serious manner, that underlying threat of physicality is always there, especially if it’s a real conversation, and it keeps the thing civilized to some degree. If you’re talking to a man who wouldn’t fight with you under any circumstances whatsoever, then you’re talking to someone to whom you have absolutely no respect.

But I can’t see any way–for example, there’s a woman in Toronto who’s been organizing this movement against me and some other people who were going to do a free speech event, and she managed to organize quite effectively, and she’s quite offensive, you might say. She compared us to Nazis, for example, publicly, using the swastika, which wasn’t really something I was all that fond of. But I’m defenseless against that kind of female insanity, because the techniques that I would use against a man who was employing those tactics are forbidden to me.

If this line of reasoning sounds familiar, it may be because you heard Jack Donovan say something along these lines:

Men worry more about offending women, so they filter their conversations differently. Competition with females is always a net loss of honor for men, so men tend to “give way” when women show up to compete with them. Co-ed competition becomes less serious and therefore less exciting.

There are three logical outcomes. One, that hitting women becomes culturally acceptable. Two, that women are excluded from the conversation. Three, violence is taken off the table.

Off the bat, the choice may seem obvious, but how much violence are we really willing to take away? Civilization itself is built on violence, and law itself is structured violence. Is it really so bad to get beaten up for defaming someone, when the alternative could include jail-time?

If violence goes away, then honor goes away. Serious conversation goes away, for the reasons Jordan Peterson described. And, as I’ve argued elsewhere, love goes away.

In any case, how would you enforce a rejection of violence? The third option is not an option at all, but a dream. Either the rules of violence apply to women, or the respect given to men in serious conversations–which is derived from their willingness to potentially endure violence–does not apply to women.

This may sound like a decision women have to make, but men are participants in the conversation too, and recipients of the consequences. Men protect women, and have defended women’s honor. They still do today, sometimes effectively, and sometimes not. More to the point, men have an intrinsic desire to protect women. Perhaps they can be persuaded not to, but this natural inclination has to be accounted for in the equation of violence that determines respect in debate, civil or otherwise.

We as a culture–men and women–are going to have to decide which path we take. If the sane women can get together, as Peterson suggests, and rein in the insane women, and do so for the rest of time, then we can continue on in the generally integrated society we have. However, this seems unlikely for two reasons: first, as Peterson observed, sane women are usually busy doing sane things, like taking care of their families, working, and other ordinary things. The best ones can’t be bothered to police the most neurotic and controlling elements of their gender, as men are required to do of the most violent and predatory of theirs; men are the majority of violent criminals, and make up the majority of the incarcerated by a broad margin (arrested and held, of course, by other men).

Second of all, the women who might be inclined to do so are working against the weight of female opinion generally:

Any woman who voted against Hillary Clinton voted against their own voice.
–Michelle Obama, Sept 27, 2017

The crazies are already running the asylum.

Perhaps we can institute a more structured kind of female social police, to control the insane women in our society? This sounds Orwellian on its face, and already seems compromised by the Hillaries and Michelles, but it may be the only alternative to the acceptability of violence against women or more severe exclusion. The founding theory of virtue in the Western tradition holds that only by cultivating personal character can the necessary authority of the state be curtailed. This cultivation of personal virtue simply has not happened in at least three generations, and the breakdown in conversation will rip our nation apart if we do not begin to take matters of honor, respect, and civility seriously again.

The Instagram Ethos

I’ll take with me
The Polaroids and the memories
But you know I’m gonna leave
Behind the worst of us
–Selena Gomez, Kygo, “It Ain’t Me”

There is a certain philosophy–most prevalently but not exclusively held by college girls–that I would like to put under the microscope.

It is a worldview which, correctly, observes that the early twenties is the period where people have an extraordinary amount of power. They have a sprawling labyrinth of options open to them. They are at their peak in physical beauty, at least if they are women. They have sudden access to financial resources, courtesy of student loans, which can be utilized for all sorts of only peripherally educational activities, such as traveling abroad to foreign countries or throwing parties in their dorms with other students. They are surrounded by friends and strangers in a similar situation, most of whom are sexually available, and who in any case might make for good company at a bar or a concert.

From such a lofty peak of artificial success (we might call it a “success bubble”), it is easy to look beyond graduation, and see that things will only be going downhill. You’ll have responsibilities, you’ll have to work around people significantly less attractive, less interesting, and perhaps even less safe than those around you now. In fact, you’ll probably be working extra hard to pay for the years you’re going to be experiencing anyways.

It’s as if death is coming at 23.

What do you do?

Live like you were dying.

This philosophy, which I will call the Instagram Ethos, says that we are in for a future of mundane and boring drudgery, preceded by a brief spat of glorious power and freedom. To optimize life, we should live life to the fullest in this brief period, accumulating “Polaroids and memories” which will hopefully last us a lifetime and keep us happy in nostalgic reminiscence into our old age.

As a worldview for rationally optimizing utility, it is actually quite understandable. It is a point which is made by, among others, the Apostle Paul, in his first letter to the Church of Corinth:

If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.
–1 Corinthians 15:32

The college sophomore is not quite as naive as Paul uncharitably characterizes the unbeliever; the student at least believes that there is life after school. But they have tacitly accepted a view which characterizes this life after school as something like purgatory. Carpe Diem is no joke, for tomorrow you may not die, but you will clock in and out at your boring job every day, which is a kind of relative death.

Take all the photos you can. #YOLO.

There is a problem with this philosophy, however.

The happiness of the traveling, college, or other “empowered” young life comes from living in the moment, and the ability of the individual to continue to derive joy from these memories is dependent upon a kind of attention and value placed upon these memories.

Notice that this value must be chosen at the expense of the current present moment. What is included in this current present moment?

Among other things, any beauty, quality, love, or meaningful relationships. In short, all of the things which gave the “college experience” and its various analogues their magical quality in the first place.

I am not saying that these things are unachievable. Far from it. But in ordinary life, outside of the success bubble of the early 20’s, these things must be worked for, often for long periods of time. For people who never experienced the success bubble, the hard work makes the reward sweeter. But for people who have not only come down from this artificial peak of humanity, but are now burdened with paying for it, this work makes the re-achievement look impossible or difficult to the point of not being worth pursuit.

The trouble with achieving quality, beauty, love, and meaningful relationships is that they take loyalty.

Patience is one of the most important qualities for achieving all of the above experiences, and patience itself is a form of loyalty: it is sticking with one thing, or waiting for one thing for some principled reason, despite having reasons to do other things.

Humans are even more demanding, and more personal in their need for loyalty. You cannot enter a healthy marriage without the expectation of loyalty. The sorts of friendships worth having, the kinds that give meaning to your life, require loyalty. Given the choice between helping a friend who’s stuck on the side of the road or staying at home and watching the game, only the weakest “friend” would accept you choosing the game over them. Relationships worth having are imbued with value demonstrated through actions.

The Instagram Ethos puts the young person between two competing objects of loyalty: your memories, and your present. No boy-(or girl-)friend wants to be second to your memories of the people you fucked when you were younger. No boss or employer wants your attention focused more intently on your glory days as the star of the team than on the work of the company, because it isn’t sufficiently “satisfying” for you. And no friend is going to want to hang out with you if memories of old buddies are more fond to you than they are in real life. Especially if you refuse to shut up about it, and keep bringing up that one story about that time you and your friends had that one crazy experience.

More likely than rejection by others is your own rejection of them, or at least the refusal to invest the time and effort to build those relationships, to work for the quality and the beauty and the long-term gain. Why bother? You already have this bank of memories to feed off of, don’t you?

Why forgive your friend and get things sorted out when you can think about your other “real” friends you used to have?

Why put in the extra hours of paperwork and dull research at the office when you can show off that A you got in that one hard class, the paper you keep just to remind yourself how smart you once were?

Why work hard to find a virtuous spouse and work through fights and hard times together to build a lasting marriage, when you can easily remember banging someone way hotter than them, and whom you could probably find some simulacrum for anyways?

Of course, the work required to achieve these things does make it inconvenient. It’s especially frustrating to have to re-acquire them after having already had them. Perhaps this is reason enough to avoid the more hedonistic habits of many undergrads.

But the difficulty does not make the good things in life unachievable. And as time goes on, others will achieve them; friends, fellow students, siblings and exes. Eventually, you’ll run out of excuses explaining why everyone else is somehow managing to live a satisfying life, and you’re not. The scrapbook doesn’t help you over failures after life in your prime.

In point of fact, there is no reason that the early 20’s is, or should be, the prime of our life. The quality of life is a matter of our experience in the moment, and this experience is derived from the web of relationships we have with others and to the world. When we let these relationships slip, or never forge them, because we are relying upon Polaroids and memories to keep us going through the purgatory of life, we can make for ourselves a desolate, lonely Hell of an existence, as lonely spinsters and basement-dwelling bachelors. And no one will care.

Above all else, guard your heart,
For everything you do flows from it.
–Proverbs 4:23

Jack Donovan Was Right

“White Nationalism” is doomed.

And that’s okay.

As Vox Day and many others have pointed out over the years, the concept of “white nationalism” is a distinctly American notion. Europeans are “British Nationalists,” or they support “Germany for the Germans.” In fact, there are few things more hated by Europeans with a sense of identity than the European Union. This hatred is exacerbated by the EU’s support for immigration, but it would exist just as well without floods of migrants pouring into the country; if anything, it redirects their attention away from Brussels.

Jack Donovan stirred the pot in the White Nationalist movement when he publicly declared that he was not one of us in the end of May. By “us,” of course, I mean people who have, at some point or other, called ourselves White Nationalists and still hold the general beliefs about identity, race, and culture that drew us to this movement.

The general response was, of course, negative. No one wants to be disavowed, condemned, or mocked, especially by someone charismatic and relatively influential.

Aside from the emotion, there seemed to be some critical arguments Donovan had neglected. Isn’t there strength in numbers, after all? Strength that we would be giving up by limiting our “tribe?” And if you refuse to take pride and ownership of the accomplishments of your culture, your ancestors, and your people—if you refuse the gifts that have been handed down to you as a legacy—don’t you forgo the very basis for civilization, perhaps for survival itself?

These are powerful arguments, and contain cores of truth that are essentially inarguable. Strength is fundamentally derived from social organization, because we are social organisms. Working together is what we do. And part of working together is working across times and generations, benefiting from the dead, and bequeathing benefits to those not yet alive. We, in turn, carry on the life of those deceased in our own DNA, in hopes of our descendants picking up the torch where we drop it.

But the arguments for large-scale statism are a step beyond mere social organization. The logic of strength through cooperation outside of your nation is contingent upon a shared loyalty and sense of identity in that nation. While the nation can achieve this in short stints, through the organic frenzy of revolution, through social manipulation, or at gun-point. When these things begin to fail, the State is already dead, even if it has a few convulsive steps left in its legs.

This is a brief summary of the premise behind Fifth Political Theory. It’s like becoming barbarians, but it appeals to a slightly different crowd.

Could the Wolves, Hell’s Angels, and other, similar organizations be conquered by the United States Military? Easily. But at what cost, and for what benefit? What do the Wolves have that the US Government wants? And how much would the Government have to spend to attain it?

The scaling problem of using the state monopoly of force has been compounded in recent years by technology, especially the internet. William S Lind and Lt Col Gregory Thiele explain some of these changes in their handbook on the subject:

But today, war is changing faster and on a larger scale than at any time in the last 350 years. Not only are we facing rapid change in how war is fought, we are facing radical changes in who fights and what they are fighting for. All over the world, state militaries find themselves fighting non-state opponents.

This kind of war, which we call Fourth Generation war, or 4GW, is a very difficult challenge. Almost always, state militaries have vast superiority over their non-state opponents in what we call “combat power:” technology, weapons, techniques, training, etc. Despite this superiority, more often than not, state militaries end up losing.

These state forces keep losing, mind you, to relatively untrained tribes in rural parts of the world, who have not read Lind and Thiele, and who may not have eaten a full breakfast today, or even seen—let alone used—a bench-press. How possible would it be for a government to enforce its will on the well-read, well-trained quasi-militias of the North American continent, like the Mafia, Hell’s Angels, and the Wolves?

The strength of size is subject to rapidly diminishing returns, and more rapidly diminishing in this century than in the last. The question then is about the nature of different types of political organizations, specifically as these natures relate to size. Which sort would you want to be a part of? Which size of a group would you be afraid to be in? Which would be uplifting, challenging, or lonely?

If biology has any say in the matter, it is that smaller is better.

Without white people having an interest in “white America”—not because it never existed, but because it is dead—and without the advantage of military strength, on what grounds should we call ourselves “white nationalists?” In the most semantically precise sense of the word, it may be accurate: nation, after all, refers to a people, and is separate in meaning from the geopolitical entity we call a state. But for most people, “white nationalist” means “white statist,” especially if that state happens to look similar to the United States in its current shape.

Most white people do not have the space in their heart to accommodate all other white people. We all get the math when its applied to non-whites, but there are a whole lot of other white people out there too, even when you discount the liberals and the ones with purple hair.

The feelings of patriotism and national pride that we experience on public holidays like July 4th, or on days of remembrance like December 7th or September 11th, are truly powerful things. Sometimes, it almost feels strong enough to hold the country together. In Greek city-states, they may have served exactly that purpose very effectively. But today, in a country of 330 million—of whom functionally 0% had ancestors at Pearl Harbor or the Twin Towers, let alone the Revolution—it all feels a bit commercialized and put on.

Tribes that know who we are draw us out of ourselves and transform us into the best people we can be. Taking up this responsibility is not a rejection of our ancestor’s gifts, but an acceptance of them, with the obligation that those gifts carry. Nor is participating in a tribe a rejection of the strength of a group. It is axiomatically the opposite.

Tribes are where we were born as a species. They are what we long for when we watch TV, we approximate the social feeling of a tribe in the dorms of college, which many people describe to be the happiest days of their life. Tribe is not just better; it’s human.

So why the push-back? Why do White Nationalists want to be called White Nationalists? Why did I initially balk at Jack’s rejection?

We face a common enemy today—several in fact. The left and its cancerous ideologies, the logic of an internationalist consumer ethic, and militant Islam, all variously carve away at the various components of white civilization. These are non-state actors of the worst kind, far more difficult to deal with than a tyrannical state, and are not subject in the same way to the strategies and tactics of 4th Generation Warfare. We should all be concerned that failing to hang together against these threats may mean we all hang separately. It is on this matter, I think, that the importance of the question of “white nationalism” rests.

Adapting a tribal, barbaric—or 5th Political Theory—identity is not antithetical to joining together against a common enemy. Forming alliances is among the oldest of human strategies for winning conflicts, and a loose, decentralized alliance among right-wing, identitarian groups is not only possible, but stronger than forming a single, cohesive organization. We can see this strength in application just within the last few years.

You don’t need to care about or play video games to care about #GamerGate. All you need to care about is that a loose group of gamers decided to take on Academia, the media, and a significant portion of the game development community at the same time. They fought a culture war, won it, and laid the groundwork for the Trump social media campaign that was to follow a year later. They did this all without leaders, without structured organization, or formal alliances. In other words, they fought a 4th Generation War against the business equivalent of a state actor. And they won.

Why shouldn’t whites do the same?

Towards this end, whites should work at a local level to establish healthy and functional communities: tribes that challenge and enrich each others lives. They are agile, adaptive, and bring out the best in their members, from whom they derive their strength.

In pursuit of defeating the common enemies, whites should also adapt a code of behavior—a sort of political etiquette, really—so as to make our nation as inhospitable, as annoying, and as dangerous as possible for our enemies, through the all-to-human power of intergroup cooperation.

The following is a very rough list of rules for the success of New Right organizations. It is by no means complete, but just a head-start for the sort of code of etiquette we will need to be successful. I have designed them to emulate Jante Law and Vox Day’s 16 Points, in that they are non-binding, but descriptive, and should facilitate cohesion and cooperation among discreet and different groups in a new political order:

  1. Remember your enemy. Other groups on the right may be competition and rivals, but they are not your enemy. The tribal new right is composed of independent and different groups pursuing separate goals and ideals. Some of our ideals will be at odds with others, but this does not make us enemies. The only enemy is the one who does not want any of us to be able to live in our own way.
  2. Condemn others; get condemned. Our strength as a movement, as well as our freedom, comes from our decentralized structure. Disagreements between groups are inevitable and positive, but using these differences to appeal to our enemy is corrosive and treacherous. If you denounce other right-wing groups to the left, you will be disowned and ostracized. If a group denounces another, you have a duty to and interest in mocking, denouncing, and ostracizing that group.
  3. Tridents catch more fish than spears. Different methods of persuasion and lines of reasoning will appeal to different people. Do not disavow certain strategies on the sole basis of personal incredulity or aesthetic distaste.
  4. Do not talk to the enemy. Do not talk to the left and their proxies in public except within the mindset of combat. Dialogues approached as a game of rhetoric and persuasion by skilled speakers is the equivalent of battle in a 4th Generation War. You will not receive good-faith arguments in public, so do not open your own group or other groups to their attacks. Anything you say can and will be used against you, or twisted until it can be. Talk to the enemy – especially the media – and you put your group and others’ at risk.
  5. Represent your group. Strength, courage, and competence of the individual reflect the same in the group and the broader movement. So do weakness, cowardice, stupidity, and hypocrisy. Our success as distinct tribes and as a New Right will depend upon the virtues of the individuals who comprise them; they lead to success on their own, and attract quality members to us. Hold other members of your group to account, and be accountable.

To Jack Donovan, we may owe an apology. But to our people, and to our children, we owe a community that they can be a spirited part of; a gift that they can be proud of and can call home. We owe them, and we owe ourselves, a tribe.

Laws for the Tribal New Right

The following is a list of guidelines for the success of New Right organizations. They are designed to emulate Jante Law and Vox Day’s 16 Points: they are non-binding, but descriptive, and should facilitate cohesion and cooperation among discreet and different groups in a new political order:

  1. Remember your enemy. Other groups on the right may be competition and rivals, but they are not your enemy. The tribal new right is composed of independent and different groups pursuing separate goals and ideals. Some of our ideals will be at odds with others, but this does not make us enemies. The only enemy is the one who does not want any of us to be able to live in our own way.
  1. Condemn others; get condemned. Our strength as a movement, as well as our freedom, comes from our decentralized structure. Disagreements between groups are inevitable and positive, but using these differences to appeal to our enemy is corrosive and treacherous. If you denounce other right-wing groups to the left, you will be disowned and ostracized. If a group denounces another, you have a duty to and interest in mocking, denouncing, and ostracizing that group.
  1. Tridents catch more fish than spears. Different methods of persuasion and lines of reasoning will appeal to different people. Do not disavow certain strategies on the sole basis of personal incredulity or aesthetic distaste.
  1. Do not talk to the enemy. Do not talk to the left and their proxies in public except within the mindset of combat. Dialogues approached as a game of rhetoric and persuasion by skilled speakers is the equivalent of battle in a 4th Generation War. You will not receive good-faith arguments in public, so do not open your own group or other groups to their attacks. Anything you say can and will be used against you, or twisted until it can be. Talk to the enemy – especially the media – and you put your group and others’ at risk.
  1. Represent your group. Strength, courage, and competence of the individual reflect the same in the group and the broader movement. So do weakness, cowardice, stupidity, and hypocrisy. Our success as distinct tribes and as a New Right will depend upon the virtues of the individuals who comprise them; they lead to success on their own, and attract quality members to us. Hold other members of your group to account, and be accountable.

This post will be edited and refined as new ideas, criticisms, and comments improve upon it.

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.