Men and Women, Mods and Rockers

In previous articles, I’ve been too harsh on the people who want to define a woman as ‘an adult human female’, and probably too harsh on people who genuinely want right-wing ideas to flourish. This time, I want to focus on the beliefs of the modern left and rather than attack them outright, provide an analogy that hopefully makes things easier for the right to understand where they’re coming from – I’ll leave the attacking to you at that point.

Despite the refusal of this publication to use a certain word, a refusal I helped in writing and a refusal I still stand by – when words are created or used there’s often a reason for it. The speaker, at the very least, feels a need to distinguish this specific thing from the stuff that came before it. And there is something different about the modern left than the left of the past – although the difference is one of intensity, rather than of content. The trend of Western societies from the French revolution onwards has been an insistence on a harsh dualism between the external material world, and the internal world of the self. The material, by its nature, has no moral character. Few Western societies today affirm a creator, and in insisting on that creator: a rhyme and reason to the way the world is. After all, if God exists and designed our world – the fact there is day and there is night suggests that some ultimate Being who judges us had a reason for creating such a cycle, and we can go from observations in the material world to moral statements by resolving those statements to that Being.

The secularism of modern life has fairly resolutely burned that bridge. Today, we rely on appeals to notions of reason to affirm or deny moral statements. This marks a change not just in how we consider the nature of morality, but the nature of our very existence. Whereas before there was some notion of the absolute which subsumed not just the material world, but each subjective experience of that world. Now there is just a sterile material reality, with internal projections of order onto that reality that we call morality. In the former case, limitations on the subjective experience with reference to the material are to be expected. After all, both are facets of a wider design. In the latter case, limitations on the subjective experience with reference to the material are not only absurd, but denials of the necessarily free internal world of the self.

Perhaps this is all too philosophical and abstract. Perhaps it is easier for me to refer to sentiments you’ve likely heard before. One such sentiment would be the notion that being a woman means different things to different people. Another would be that being a woman is nothing more than identifying as a woman. Both of these presuppose the aforementioned harsh binary between a physical, material, world that (in and of itself) tells us nothing about how it should be described, and an internal world of the self that projects descriptions onto it. We can provide descriptions which allow us to make predictions, and that’s what we call science – but what exactly we ought to predict, and the emphasis we place on those predictions is not something that can be resolved to the material world. 

For example, nothing about the fact we can describe the human species as male and female for the purposes of reproduction suggests that human reproduction is good (this is what anti-natalists believe,) or that we should assign clothing, roles, attitudes, separate changing rooms/sports and beliefs to those categories (this is what Queer Theorists believe.) With this disconnect, gender becomes something that has no coherent reference to the material world. We can associate them if we please, but nothing about that association is absolute. At best, it’s the general aggregate of behaviours that come about due to biological impulses – which would suggest that anyone who imitates those behaviours and makes themselves resemble the biological makeup of who they wish to be, is in effect whatever they want to be.

When understood this way, it’s more accurate to understand the conception of gender from the modern left as being closer to a subculture than an unmoving category that one falls into and cannot escape. You can become a woman as easily as you can become a goth. Wear the right things, act the right way, listen to the right music and call yourself a goth and what right does anyone else have to deny you of that? The same is true in modernity of womanhood. A woman is whoever says they are a woman, and just as a goth remains a goth when they listen to classical instead of metal, when they wear no make-up instead of eyeshadow, or take out their piercings instead of wearing them: a woman remains a woman without wearing dresses, acting feminine, or having certain body parts.

Of course, this is me speaking from the perspective of the modern left – but it also demonstrates the convenience of wants between the modern left and capital. It’s easy today to find an endless number of businesses selling masculinity as a product, but why stop there? With an ever-increasing number of genders, there’s plenty of business to be had in creating unique modes of dress for each new grouping. The term “transtrander” got some usage for a while, but missed the mark. People don’t just become trans because being trans is trending, but because transitioning is a trend in and of itself.

The Boomers spent their time transitioning from being a hippy to being a mod, the zoomer transitions from queer, to genderfluid, to man, and back to woman. Each one has their own flag, set of styles, and modes of dress and ways to act and behave. In many respects, this is self-expression taken to its most extreme end, a self-expression which demands not just to express an unchanging identity, but to express the changing nature of identity itself as an extension of self-expression.

“Man cannot remake himself without suffering, for he is both the marble and the sculptor.”

Alexis Carrell

If modernism was the recognition of man as sculptor and creator, and the affirmation that there is no ultimate sculptor and creator to guide his hand, post-modernism is the recognition of man as both marble and the sculptor, and extends the unbounded freedom of self-expression not just to the individual, but to the nature of individuality said person emerges from.

Photo Credit.

The ‘Lines in the Sand’ Myth

The idea that European colonialism is the original cause of modern day political strife in the Middle East is a popular one both in academia and amongst large sections of the general public. It originated in political science literature in the 20th century but has been ham-fistedly revived in the 21st, particularly in the context of the Syrian Civil War.

The narrative goes that the region was greedily carved up by the British and French empires following their victory over the Ottomans in the Great War. Bumbling colonial administrators drew straight lines in the sand, bounding territory arbitrarily and mixing peoples with arrogant disregard for differences in culture, ethnicity or religion. The resultant states were thus internally divided, unstable and weak – and it’s our fault. While it might be funny to point out the worrying implications this might have for our own enthusiastically multi-cultural society, it’s easier and more effective just to point out that it’s false. In actual fact, the states created by the much-maligned Sykes-Picot agreement have their roots in the pre-war Middle East and were starting to take shape in the 19th century as a result of various Ottoman attempts at reform.

Ironically, most who blame colonialism and Sykes-Picot for strife in the modern Middle East are doing a ‘Eurocentrism’ (a term you’ve certainly heard if you’ve spent any time as a humanities student) by exaggerating the impact of European empires and downplaying the importance of the Ottoman Empire. It’s high time we decolonise our thinking and give deserved credit to the Ottoman Empire for sowing the seeds of destruction in the fields of Iraq and Syria.

Syria, or ‘Suriyya’ as it was then known, began to take shape as a political entity in the mid-19th century as a result of a series of infrastructure improvements that connected previously isolated highlands with the cities of the coastal area of Bilad al-Sham. The creation of the Beirut-Damascus highway by French entrepreneurs encouraged more European commercial activity in the region as Beirut became the link between a significant portion of the Ottoman empire and the industrial economies of Europe.

Prior to the creation of the highway, Syria’s dismal transportation infrastructure left the region fractured and much of its population isolated. Improvements connected people in isolated hinterlands to participate in the economies of the wider region, uniting diverse and divided peoples together and forging a regional (and later national) identity. This infrastructural development occurred parallel with the aforementioned intellectual development that created ‘Suriyya’ out of Bilad al-Sham and the surrounding area. In 1863 local administrative boundaries were redrawn and the province of Suriyya was made concrete for the first time.

Syria was not the only state with a formation that predates Sykes-Picot, either – Iraq developed similarly. Iraq in the early 19th century was even more of an infrastructural backwater than rural Syria. While the main artery of 19th century Syria was the road, in Iraq it was the canal. Steamships in the 1860s cut the journey time from Baghdad to Basra down to just ten days while before it had been four weeks. Just as the Beirut-Damascus highway connected Syria to the world and to European trade, canal routes through the Persian gulf were what connected Iraq.

Although Iraq was never unified as a single province under the Ottomans like Syria was, the group of territories it comprised were referred to commonly by Ottoman administrators as ‘Iraq’ from as early as the sixteenth century. The skeleton of an Iraqi state can be seen also in the actions of the army, which was often organised in Iraq as a separate unit of its own with a headquarters in Baghdad, irrespective of the boundaries of local government. Despite the existence of religious and ethnic differences in both of these nascent states, importantly, all Iraqis rose up against British rule in 1920 as Iraqis and all Syrians rose against the French in 1925 as Syrians.

So we’ve established that Syria and Iraq, at least, were not entities made up by imperialists for their own convenience but rather nations that had formed organically out of a period of upheaval and transformation. However, the 19th century created a lot of disunity as well as unity in the region.

From the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries, poor infrastructure, low literacy rates and the relative remoteness of much of the Middle East meant that religious doctrine could not exert as commanding an influence as it could elsewhere and there was significant blurring and admixture of local communities. In the most isolated areas, lines between Christian and Muslim, and Shia and Sunni communities were blurred such that it was difficult to distinguish between them.

However, Ottoman constitutional reforms – known collectively as the ‘Tanzimat’ (‘reorganisation’) – crystallised this distinction by granting non-Muslims full legal equality with Muslims. The removal of the privileged position of Muslims in the Ottoman empire came at a crucial time of increasing European commercial dominance and penetration. Some Muslim textile workers thus began to resent Christian counterparts who, they felt, were gaining the upper hand on them thanks to connections with Europe and the preference of European merchants to do business with Christians. Local elite, who sought to preserve their power by opposing the Tanzimat were then able to use this to their advantage by framing their opposition to reforms in ethnoreligious terms, fanning the flames of sectarianism. The starkest example of this phenomenon reaching boiling point is the 1860 Damascus riots in which between 5,500 and 8,000 Christians were killed.

In this we can see clearly patterns of sectarianism and a political landscape that is very similar to what we have today. The only thing preventing large-scale violence from occurring up until the 20th century was the existence of the Ottoman state and the authority of the Sultan. However, the Ottoman Empire had territorially been in slow retreat since 1683 and modernisation – attempts to create a Western-style Weberian state – had repeatedly failed or achieved only partial success. The truth is that the importance of the Sykes-Picot agreement and the post-WW1 colonial settlement in the Middle East is massively overstated in comparison to the events of the mid-to-late 19th century, which are massively understated.

The problem isn’t so much that a common misconception exists – history is full of them and this is by no means one of the most egregious – it’s that this falsehood is used in bad faith as a political weapon. It’s a narrative that fits nicely into a far-Left view of the world wherein the shadow of colonialism still lies over the whole world and is responsible for all evil and conflict. It is used to bash British people over the head with guilt so they take responsibility for all that goes wrong in the Middle East, particularly with regard to contentious topics such as asylum seekers, foreign aid and military intervention. ‘It’s our fault, you know,’ they say. It’s pernicious and ultimately ahistorical.

Photo Credit.

Deconstructing Samurai Jack

Samurai Jack was an American animated TV series that premiered on Cartoon Network in 2001 and ran for, eventually, five seasons. The story follows the adventure of an unnamed samurai travelling through a dystopian future governed by a demonic wizard named Aku. What makes Samurai Jack unique is the moral paradigm that can be read into the central premise of the plot, neatly summarised by the tagline of the opening sequence: ‘Gotta get back, back to the past, Samurai Jack.’

The world that the samurai fights to destroy – a world corrupted at every level by Aku’s evil – is unambiguously modern in character. When he is cast through a time portal at the end of the first episode, he falls out into the squalid depths of a futuristic inner city ghetto. He drops out of the sky into a world of towering black skyscrapers, massive electronic billboard advertisements and sky-streets jammed with flying motorcars. The thunderous roar of the city’s traffic disorients and terrifies him.

After barely surviving his dramatic entrance, he is greeted by some locals who give him the name ‘Jack’ and speak to him in what is easily recognisable as a modern urban patois. ‘Yo, Jack! That was some awesome show!’ ‘Word! Jack was all ricochetically jump-a-delic!’ Their manner of speech contrasts heavily with Jack’s own old-fashioned and deliberately measured standard English. When Jack hesitantly asks where he is, he is told by these odd strangers that he is in the ‘central hub’ of Sector D. This is a placeless place, devoid of history or culture and labelled a ‘hub’ of a ‘sector’ in familiarly modern and soulless bureaucratic fashion.

Jack then stumbles into a seedy nightclub where he becomes even more distressed than before. He holds his hands to his ears, desperate to block out the loud, thumping techno music, and looks around wild-eyed at a room full of scantily-clad dancers and hideous aliens with bionic body parts. This new world is too bright and too loud for Jack. The world he came from is tranquil, soft and full of flower-filled meadows, rolling hills and beautiful snow-topped mountains. Aku’s world is vulgar, harsh and obnoxious. Jack is a man out of time, questing through the future in order to return to the past. He fights to turn the clock back in order to prevent the world around him from ever existing and to save the world he once knew. The tale of Samurai Jack is a reactionary, luddite Odyssey.

The first scene of the first episode is like something out of a bad psychedelic trip or a nightmarish fever dream. Everything is uncanny – the sun and moon are too large, the landscape is barren and red and the lone piece of flora in the scene is a twisted black tree. The giant moon eclipses the sun, shooting red lightning through the sky as the tree twists and morphs into the demon Aku. This terrifying moment, complete with deliberately unsettling sound effects, masterfully introduces the show’s main antagonist. It is also a prime example of Tartakovsky’s use of the environment instead of dialogue to evoke emotion and convey information about his characters.

Aku is able to see Jack through a magic mirror at all times, he can shapeshift endlessly and is immune to all physical weapons. Aku is more than a demon wizard – he is a malevolent god. He is informed instantly of Samurai Jack’s arrival in the future by his informant network that, throughout the show, seems to extend into every nook and cranny of the universe. Aku’s armies are inexhaustible, dwarfed only in size by the intergalactic mining operation he employs to sustain it. The entire universe is in the grip of an Orwellian state in the service of a quasi-Gnostic demiurge. The central premise of the show itself implies the extent of Aku’s dominance – dominance so complete as to be completely insurmountable, and able to be defeated only through time travel. Genndy Tartakovsky’s finest creation is a kids TV show set in a world that is incomprehensibly awful, where the main character faces completely hopeless odds and the main antagonist is all-powerful. Jack stands alone, armed only with a magic sword and the power of righteousness, and yet it somehow feels as though Aku fears him more than he fears Aku.

For the first four seasons Jack is an unchanging constant as the setting around him is repeatedly changed in line with his journey. Dialogue and character development are conspicuously limited in contrast to many other shows, but this speaks to the genius of Samurai Jack’s unique formula. The relationship between the main character and the setting are reversed – Jack is the unchanging stage. The story takes place around him but he stays the same, dressed in his characteristic white robes, forever a fish out of water. The only exceptions to this rule are the first episode, where Jack’s character is established, and the final season on Adult Swim, which takes a different and more mature tack.

Genndy Tartakovsky’s work for Cartoon Network is understandably constrained by limits of what is appropriate for children to watch before school, but when the show was moved to Adult Swim it became free to explore darker themes. For the first four seasons, Jack turns his deadly sword on his robotic and demonic enemies only. This allowed Tartakovsky to showcase Jack’s skill, defeating hordes of enemies that sometimes cover the entire horizon, without any graphic violence. The fact that Jacks opponents until the final season remain the minions of Aku, which are overwhelmingly robots, rather than the flesh-and-blood inhabitants of his fallen world is another way in which Aku and his evil are made to seem industrial in character, in opposition to noble, agrarian Samurai Jack.

The entire show is hand-drawn without outlines so that characters blend into their backgrounds. Lineless drawings give the animation a rudimentary, child-like appeal as well as greater flexibility with regard to proportions so that all of the characters’ movements feel powerful and dynamic. Action scenes are one of the great strengths of Tartakovsky’s cartoons – evident in Star Wars the Clone Wars (2003) earlier in his career right through to Primal, which aired just recently in 2019. All of this combined with the use of comic book-esque screen framing make the series feel more like a graphic novel come to life or an anime series than a Western kids cartoon. What’s more, Samurai Jack accomplishes this without sacrificing childish entertainment value.

However, what makes Samurai Jack stand out in a sea of well-animated cartoons is the story. Jack is a unique character that represents a sentiment not often explored in visual media – the sense of longing for a world you’re not even sure exists, or ever existed. The world around Jack is fetid and evil – but the world he remembers, was it ever truly as good as he remembers it to be? Was the world that was ever free of the corruption and evil that so disgusts him about the world – the ‘world that is Aku’ – that he fights to undo? Jack’s sense of alienation is deeper than that of a stranger in a strange land – he is a man trapped at the wrong place in time entirely. Not only is the world foreign, but everything is laced with and governed by Aku’s evil. The very ground on which he walks, the air through which he moves, is hostile to him. In our world where seemingly nothing can escape the plastic-coated grip of modernity, this cartoon asks whether it really is so crazy to feel like you’ve gotta get back, back to the past, Samurai Jack.

Photo Credit.

Against the Rationalists

I had forgotten why I wrote ‘Against the Traditionalists’, and what it meant, so the following is an attempted self-interpretation; for that purpose, they are intended to be read together.

The Preface of Inquiry:

God hath broke a motley spear upon the lines of Rome,

When brothers Hermes masked afront Apollo’s golden throne.

The Aesthetics of Inquiry:

Metaphors we hold in mind, those scenes with their images and progressions, are of the fundamental sense that orders our perceptions and beliefs, and from which everything we create is sourced; for metaphors are dynamic and intuitive relations; and they emerge from the logic of the imagination—let us have faith that our logic is not cursed and disordered, in its severance from the Logos. The phenomenologists would be amply quoted here if they weren’t so mystical and confused—alas, one can never know which of the philosophers to settle with as they’re all so sensible, and they can never agree amongst themselves, forming warring schools that err to dogmatism since initiation—so it is to no surprise that ideologies are perused and possessed as garbs regalia, and for every man, their emperor’s new clothes.

If brevity is the soul of wit, then genius is the abbreviation of methodologies. Find the right method of inquiry, for the right moment: avoiding circumstantial particulars, preferring particular universals; even epistemic anarchist, Feyerabend, would prefer limited, periodical design to persistent, oceanic noise. One zetetic tool of threefold design, for your consideration, might be constituted thusly: axiomatic logistics—Parmenides’ Ladder, founded, stacked and climbed, with repeated steps that hold all the way; forensic tactics—Poe’s Purloined Letter, ontologically abstracted over to compare more general criteria; panoramic strategy—puzzling walnuts submerged and dissolved in Grothendieck’s Rising Sea, objects awash with the accumulated molecules of a general abstract theory. Yet, do not only stick your eye to tools, lest you become all technique, for art, in Borges, is but algebra, without its fire; and let not poor constructs be ready at hand, for the coming forth a temple-work, in Heidegger, sets up the world, while material perishes to equipment, and equipment to its singular use.

Letters of Fire and Sword:

A gallery of all sorts of shapes, and symbolic movements, exist naturally in cognition and language, and such a gallery has it’s typical forms—the line and circle, for example, are included in every shape-enthusiast’s favourites—though Frye identifies more complex images on offer, such as mountains, gardens, furnaces, and caves—and, most unforgettably, the crucifix of Jesus Christ. I’d write of the unique flavours of languages, such as their tendency to particular genres, to Sapir and Whorf’s pleasure, yet by method I must complete my first definition—now from shapes, their movement. The cinematographic plot of pleasing images adds another dimension to their enjoyment—moving metaphors, narrative poetry, being the most poetic; their popular display is sadly limited to mainly the thesislike development of a single heroic journey, less so the ambitious spiral scendancy, or, in the tendency of yours truly and Matt Groening, disjointed and ethereally timestuck episodes in a plain, imaginary void. The most beautiful scenes, often excluded, are a birth and rejoice, the catharsis of recognition, and the befalling ultimate tragedy and its revelation to universal comedy—these stories hold an aesthetic appeal for all audiences, and that’s a golden ticket for us storytellers.

If memory is the treasurehouse of the mind, then good literature is food for the soul. In the name of orthomolecular medicine, with the hopes that exercise and sleep are already accounted for, let your pantry be amply stocked and restocked with the usual bread and milk, with confectionary that’s disappeared afore next day, and with canned foods that seem forever to have existed—as for raw honey, a rarer purchase, when stored right it lasts a lifetime, and eversweet. I’m no stranger to the warnings against polyunsaturated fats by fringe health gurus, but I think I’ll take my recommendations from the more erudite masters of such matters; and I’m no stranger to new and unusual flavours, provided they’re not eaten to excess. The canonical food pyramid of Western medicine, in its anatomical display of appropriate portions, developed from extensive study and historical data, places the hearty reliables en masse at its foundations, and the unhealthiest consumables at the tiniest peak, so that we might be fully nourished and completed, while spared of the damage wreaked on our bodily constitution by sly treats of excess fats, sugars, and salt. Be rid of these nasty invaders, I say, that’d inflame with all sorts of disease; be full of good food, I say, that’d sharpen the body’s workers to good form. Mark the appropriateness of time and place when eating to the same measure; a diet is incomplete without fasting—let your gut some space to rest and think. And note the insufficiency of paper and ink as foodstuffs, and the immorality of treating friends like fast food—the sensibility of a metaphor must be conducive to The Good as well as The Beautiful, if it is to be akin to The True. Aside, it is the most miserable tragedy that, for all the meaty mindpower of medieval transcendental philosophy, they did not explore The Funny—for the Gospels end in good news, as does good comedy.

Bottom’s Dream:

Shakespeare—The Bard of whom, I confess, all I write is imitation of, for the simple fact I write in English—deserving, him not I, of all the haughtiest epithets and sobriquets that’d fall short of godhood, writes so beautifully of dreams in Midsummer’s Night’s, and yet even he could not do them justice when speaking through his Bottom—ha ha ha, delightful. “I have had a dream, past the wit of man to say what dream it was: man is but an ass, if he go about to expound this dream. Methought I was—there is no man who can tell what. Methought I was, —and methought I had, —but man is but a patched fool, if he will offer to say what methought I had. The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dream was. I will get Peter Quince to write a ballad of this dream: it shall be called Bottom’s Dream, because it hath no bottom…”, Nick Bottom, from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. At the end of Act IV, Scene 1.

Intermission, The Royal Zoo:

A Prince and three Lords did walk in the garden, and they sauntered about for the day.

The soon-to-be-King became awfully bored and inquired what game they could play.

“Perhaps, Sire, it’d be best to prepare”, they said, “for life’s duties that approach”.

“It is proper to train for a life’s work”, said they, “lest that debts’ hunger encroach”.

“Consider the rats”, said the Money Lord, “how they scavenge and thrift for tomorrow”.

“For their wild life is grim, and tomorrow’s tomorrow, so take what you can, and borrow”.

“Consider the lions”, said the Warrior Lord, “how they prowl and sneak for a bite”.

“For the proud life is hearty, strong conquers weak, lamb shanks easiest sliced at night”.

“Wise, yet consider the spiders”, said the Scribe Lord, “for they outwit both lion and rat”.

“To scavenge is dirty and timely, and hunting so tiring, better cunning employed to entrap”.

The Prince, unsatisfied by his Lords, summoned a Squire to ask of him his opinion:

“Squire, what do you do, not yet enslaved by your profession, that maketh life fulfilling?”.

“I play with whom I play, and with whom I play are my neighbours, my friends”, said Squire.

For that, said The Prince, “I will live not like a beast”, “I will live like a man!”,

And three Lords became three furnaced in fire.

“Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labour the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun.”, Ecclesiastes 8:15, KJV. Amen.

The headstar by which we navigate, fellow Christians, is neither Athens nor Rome—it is Christ. “Be sure [Be careful; Watch; See] that no one ·leads you away [takes you captive; captivates you] with ·false [deceptive] and ·empty [worthless] teaching that is ·only human [according to human traditions], which comes from the ·ruling spirits [elemental spiritual forces (demons); or elementary teachings] of this world, and not from Christ.”, Colossians 2:8, EXB. Amen.

A Note on Opinion:

It is common sense, in our current times, that the most opinionated of us rule popular culture. Without a doubt, the casting, writing, directing, etc, of a major cinematic production project is decided in final cut by ‘the money’—so I speak not of the centrally-planned, market-compromised popular-media environment—but it is by the algorithm of the polemic dogmatist that metacultural opinions, of normative selection and ranking and structuring, are selected. One must be at the very least genius, or prideful, or insane, to have the character of spontaneously spouting opinions. It is an elusive, but firmly remembered anecdote that ordinary, healthy people are not politics-mad—ideologically lukewarm, at the very least. Consider the archetypical niche internet micro-celebrity: such posters are indifferent machines, accounts that express as autonomous idols, posting consistently the same branded factory gruel, and defended by their para-socialised followers over any faux pas, for providing the dry ground of profilicity when sailing the information sea. Idols’ dry land at sea, I say, are still but desert islands—houses built on sand. Now consider the archetypical subreddit: ignoring the top-ranking post of all time either satirising or politicising the subreddit, and the internal memes about happenings within the subreddit; even without the influence of marketing bots, the group produces opinions and norms over commercial products and expensive hobbies, and there is much shaming to new members who have not yet imitated and adopted group customs; essentially, they’re product-review-based fashion communities. Hence, the question follows: if knowledge is socially produced, then how can we distinguish between fashion and beauty—that is, in effect, the same as asking how, in trusting our gut, can we distinguish lust and love? How can we recognise a stranger? Concerning absolute knowledge, including matters of virtue and identity, truth is not pursued through passion’s inquiry, but divinely revealed. “Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.”, John 8:58, KJV. Amen.

A Note on Insanity:

It is common for romantic idealists to be as dogmatic as the harsh materialists they so criticise. All is matter! All is mind! One ought to read Kant methinks; recall Blake’s call to particularity: there needs be exceptions, clarifications, addendums, subclauses, minor provisions, explanatory notes, analytical commentary, critique, and reviews—orbiting companion to bold aphorism; Saturn’s ordered rings, to monocle Jupiter’s vortex eye, met in Neptune’s subtle glide. Otherwise, the frame is no other than that which is criticised: arch-dogmatism. If we’re to play, then let us play nicely; it is not for no reason that Plato so criticised the poets, for the plain assertions of verse do not explain themselves, and so are contrarywise to the pursuit of wisdom in a simple and subjectivist pride—selfishly asserting its rules as self-evident. Yet, they might be wedded, for truly there is no poetic profession without argumentative critics—no dialectic without dialogue. And so, if I must think well, and to accept those necessities, then questions of agency be most exhaustive nuts to crack. If all is matter, then all is circumstantial—If all is mind, then all is your fault; if all is reason, we’re bound by Urizen’s bronze—if all is passion, we’re windswept to fancy. Unanswered still, is the question of insanity. And even without insanity, what is right and what is wrong so eludes our wordy description. “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”, James 4:17, KJV. Amen.

Endless curiosities might unravel onwards, so shortly I shall suggest a linguistic idealist metacritique of mine own, that: to make philosophy idealistic, or to naturalise the same, are but one common movement, merging disparate literatures representing minds, of the approach to total coherence of the human imagination; such that might mirror the modal actualism of Hegel, a novelist who was in following, and ahead of, the boundless footsteps of short story writer, Leibniz. To answer it most simply: for four Gospels, we have fourfold vision, so if one vision is insufficient, then two perspectives are too—all-binary contradiction is the workings of Hell, but paradox and aporia, is, as exposited by Nicholas Rescher and Brayton Polka, the truth of reality. This way we might properly weigh both agency and insanity, by taking the higher ground of knowledge and learning. Recall Jesus’ perfect meeting of the adulterer—when he saw the subject and not the sin.

A Note on Disability:

There is potential for profound beauty in the inexpressible imagination, such that would make language but ugly nuts and bolts, if it didn’t also follow that we cannot absolutely explicate language either. Then, it seems even if our words do not create the world, but are representations, we can still know and appreciate facets of reality without their full expression—our words construct models, or carve at the joints of the world, but the good and beautiful expression is true proof of God; to recognise truth is intuitive, perhaps being that mental faculty which is measure sensibility. Hence, let us first pray that we are all forgiven for our sins, ignorant and willing, and second, that the mentally disabled, and lost lambs without dreams, can know Him too. Amen.

Photo Credit.

Conservatives can learn from modern art

You’re probably already baulking at the idea that there could be anything to learn from modern art. You’re not wrong that art and architecture today are often hideous, lazy, cheap, unconsidered, and, well, artless. It won’t help that I myself am still not completely concluded on what there is to learn. Alinskyite tactics of making the enemy live up to their own rules? Did Duchamp just encourage the wrong kind of person and end up making things worse? More on this later.

But there is something in modern art worth considering, it’s not a total waste, you must take wisdom wherever you can find it. There is so little wisdom going. You can’t afford to waste any. Your opponents in the progressives are powerful, rich, and vicious, in all senses of that word. Many, many, many are also group-thinking chasers of convention, out of touch, fearful, vain, and insecure.  They don’t believe in the truth, something eternal, irrespective of them, they believe in their truth, as if it emanates from themselves. A pretentious way of saying they want to express their feelings? Perhaps. But truth for them is decided by consensus and fitting in. Yup, that’s the art scene progressives for you.

That’s good, that’s a massive weakness. How do you exploit it? How do you handle these people? It’s risky, but people who stand out, do not follow the crowd, have the self-confidence to go their own way, and the actual knowledge and mastery to do it competently, are cool. A big part of what the art scene progressives want to do is fit in and be cool. The risk is that what’s cool, or even just true, for them is decided by consensus, not reality.

Art, religion, politics, Rob Henderson’s luxury beliefs. What’s the overlap and what can you learn from one to the other? Dismiss all of modern art, if you like, but at least keep one artist. So much which comes after him is basically derivative and misses the point. Let’s follow a master, see what he did and why, and draw out the lessons. You too will make progressives clutch their pearls and faint, or pop their monocles, and exclaim “harumph, why, that is most unorthodox!”

Marcel Duchamp. He is exactly the right kind of figure to look at. Where to start exactly?

Marcel Duchamp is a tricky sort. You could say he was a total troll and he would often go out of his way to obfuscate history by making things up when asked about his work. He was a bit of a prankster, and he liked tinkering with all the new mediums of his day. He was unpredictable.

And modern art. Where to start exactly with that? Not all contemporary art is synonymous with modern art. If that’s not quite difficult enough, it’s not fair to describe all modern art as crap. At least you might concede it’s not all crap in precisely the same way. It’s a low standard, but a place for you to start.

It’s kind of like memes. They’re often highly context dependent, assume some level of preceding knowledge, are trying to say something to the person who sees them, and some memes are better than others.

Similarly, Duchamp is a man of his time. He was clearly interested in technology, and why wouldn’t he be? He’s around at the time of the wireless, new elements and other discoveries coming out of Marie Curie’s laboratory, the invention of cinema, and x-rays. New materials, new mediums, new ways of getting a different insight into the world around you. New ways of thinking. In physics and mathematics Einstein displaces Newton, non-Euclidean geometry bursts forward, the first thoughts about different dimensions. And it’s all happening around WWI, the ends of empires, the international rise of America, and the replacement of Europe’s monarchies.

What is analogous to any of this today? The internet, AI, social media, NFTs, space? New possibilities, new technology, new materials, new politics, it forces people to question things.

Nude Descending a Staircase, No.2

Duchamp’s first important piece: Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2, an example of cubism, with caveats, because it upset some people.

Some context. Let’s quickly look at the Italian futurists in the 1910s, which started with Marinetti.

The futurists were pretty hard core right wingers (Marinetti co-wrote Il manifesto dei fasci italiani di combattimento), who were obsessed with technology and machinery. They wanted to scrap museums, libraries, forget the past, in favour of a world dedicated to speed, and strength, and the future. Is this what made the trains run on time? Anyway, artistically, they were interested in capturing energy and motion in two dimensions. And it was looking to have something to say. What a lot of people don’t fully appreciate about modern art (you were warned this would get pretentious), is that it involves audience participation. If you’re saying “WTF am I looking at here?”, you are saying a response to the piece.

Before modern art, you have realistic art. Actually, realism, which is what it sounds like. Technology by the 1910s keeps getting more and more advanced, and you have more cameras, and photos, and films, at the time artists were beginning to question the point of a realistic painting. Modern artists were rising to that challenge.

Whether it’s futurists, or dadaists, or surrealists, which all emerge around this time, they’re trying to deal with the paradigm shifts of their day. What are the artists of today up to? How many of them are energised and engaged with the paradigm shifts of our day?

The point is, a lot of art, especially modern art, is contextual, just like a lot of culture, whether it’s stories or music, movies, etc. to fully appreciate its impact you really have to be there and part of it. This goes beyond art, well into politics. How do you explain the world pre and post 9/11 to those who weren’t there? The New Atheism movement made more sense in the face of religious extremism, whether that was muslims like bin Laden or evangelicals like Bush.

Modern art emerges amid two world wars, and the blossoming of progressive democracy and its three fruits; communism, facism, and liberalism.

The futurists believed that war is the world’s only moral hygiene, a chance to start anew, that art gets shifted into the new world it brings forth. And then rather a lot of them died in WWI and that was more or less that.

Now, here comes a particularly important thing. A bunch of these art movements would come with manifestos. That is, instructions for how art is and isn’t supposed to be. Rules for what you could and couldn’t express and in what way. The simultaneous scrapping of the past, obsession with what’s new, a certain reverence for violence and domination, and replacement with a new hierarchy. No rules, and also rules, and lots of angry people. Does that sound familiar to you at all, duckies? Have progressives been the same for a hundred years, maybe more?

Well, when art comes with rules, and particularly about what it is supposed to say to people, that is almost certainly propaganda. Oscar Wilde might have had something to say against this (The Picture of Dorian Gray), or Kim Il Sung in favour, as Juche art is supposed to carry a moral, political element to it.

Can we forgive the futurists? They were working before the full, crushing horror of the progressive 20th Century.

Anyway, Duchamp’s Nude changes the art movement of his time, challenges it, mocks it. The full saga of the Nude takes place over a couple of years. He presents it at the pretentiously named (the progressives are all very self-congratulatory aren’t they?) Salon des Indépendants where the cubists reject it. Remember that art is supposed to be full of rules? Cubism is supposed to be about multiple dimensions portrayed simultaneously. Futurism is supposed to be about motion. The Nude is both. Oh no, what a disaster! Most unorthodox!

So, in 1912 some exhibits were supposed to happen at the Salon des Indépendants. The futurists came first, that was all lovely, and the cubists were supposed to come after. Some of the smaller cubists came together to do their own thing and have an “art movement”. Duchamp was having none of it.

The first thing the cubists had a problem with was the title, but Duchamp puts the title right in the painting, so it can’t be hidden, removed, changed, disguised. Total troll. He’s also trying to play with language. It was originally titled “Nu descendant l’escalier” in the literature, and “Nu” is ambiguously male. Worse still, nudes are supposed to be painted lying down, like one of your French girls. Nudes aren’t supposed to be descending stairs. What’s more, the only place naked women were likely to be descending stairs in Paris was at brothels or Mallard Chairman Jake Scott’s mum’s house.

All round, the hanging committee (not as ominous as it sounds) for the exhibit were totally scandalised. Have a look at the painting again. Yup. Duchamp was told to change it, the title was wrong, the painting was too futurist, too Italian, just no good, so he left and removed himself from the show. Something similar then gets repeated in 1913 at the Armory Show in New York.

So much for artists being open-minded or intellectual. Then again, are you surprised that there’s a lot of snobby arseholes in the art world who get bitchy?

Still, Duchamp had the last laugh. Who else out of the cubists exhibited at the Salon is remembered as well today? In Duchamp’s own time, at the Armory, the next year, he was peer level with Picasso as a cubist, and other artists such as Matisse, Delauney, Kandinsky, Rodin, Renoir, and others.

The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even

Alright, so where can Duchamp go from here? His next piece, The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even, is an even further descent into top notch trolling.

Duchamp really wanted to get into the idea of the fourth dimension with Bride, in the geometric, not temporal sense.

In three dimensions, you can imagine a point within a three dimensional cube and create a coordinate for it along width, height, and depth. A fourth dimensional point would sit in relation to all three of those – it might be like if you could see all sides of the cube and its inside at the same time. And if this four dimensional shape could cast a shadow, it would be a three dimensional shadow, just like a three dimensional object casts a two dimensional shadow on a wall, for example.

The idea was that if you could put three dimensional reality into two dimensions in a painting, what is a three dimensional piece a step down from? You can’t seem to make it real, exactly, so you have to sort of imagine it instead. Can you imagine a tesseract, the fourth dimensional equivalent of a cube? Here’s a representation of the concept.

For a two dimensional painting, it should come very naturally to you to understand what three dimensional object or scene it represents. For any of you duckies who have spent time thinking about non-Euclidean geometry, perhaps Bride might come a bit easier to you.

Or not. But it’s a commendable attempt at trying something new from Duchamp.

So, yes, you will definitely look at it and think WTF is this, but this is very much by design. Though he started the piece in 1915, and it would go on exhibit 12 years later in 1927, he would later publish notes in 1934 as an accompaniment. He did not want a purely visual response.

How did this take him so long to complete, you ask? His patrons said they’d pay his rent until he finished.

Now, at this point you’re probably asking a very justified question. How much is Duchamp really just a bullshit artist? Well, that’s a kind of art too. He’s at least a little funny, a little clever, and a little daring. Can the same be said for progressives?

Duchamp at this point is experimenting. He’s playing with chance. Art is usually done very deliberately, but is it possible to create something through other methods? Are you limited in your materials? Is it possible to use abstract concepts themselves to make something? Is it sometimes more interesting to achieve something that you didn’t exactly set out to do?

There are a few replicas of Bride. The original in Philadelphia is broken, it broke on its way to the original exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. The ones in Sweden and Tokyo are not broken, and are a different experience. They’re also all getting a bit worse for wear. Duchamp didn’t necessarily make things to last. That wasn’t important. His personality itself is perhaps more the figure, more the legacy, than any of his works.

Disposability and personality? He would have been perfect in today’s world of memes, social media, and reality TV. Self-belief, showmanship, fake it til you make it, bullshit artistry. Politicians are memed into success these days. This kind of chaos, flexibility, fun, unpredictability, is not open to the progressives. They have a hegemony to conserve. You have a hegemony to subvert.

You could do worse than to learn from Duchamp.


Oh boy. Duckies, if I haven’t lost you already, this one might do it.

Duchamp is in America at this point. America, unlike Europe, has no real history at this time. Plus ça change. (French. You were warned this would get pretentious). Are there lessons to learn here about the internet and the internet generations? Not sure, perhaps you can think about that one.

Anyway, a lot of artists go to America because of the war and Duchamp is asked to run a show. The New York art scene wants to replicate the show Duchamp’s Nude was kicked out of. The Americans want to have a go at their own Independence. How derivative. So, two of the conditions for the show was that there was to be no jury and no prize. It’s like the Oscars. There are no winners. “And the award goes to…”. You can’t have winners. That would imply some people are better than others. No, jury, no prize, nothing is better than anyone else, but it’s still a selective hoighty toighty art show. All the artists who kicked Duchamp out of the 1912 exhibit will be there. Duchamp detects an opportunity.

He takes a urinal, signs it R Mutt and, sure enough, it is kicked out of the show. But it gets photographed.

Duchamp is making another mockery, running another test here. Why can’t a nude descend a staircase? Who made these rules? Who makes art rules? A lot of the audience had never even seen a urinal before, which makes it even funnier.

Duchamp is working with context. Everyone sees a toilet every day. Even prissy art snobs. You can’t look at one in an art exhibit? Why exactly? It’s extreme, sure, and you wouldn’t be impressed with it, duckies, but you’re not pretending to be progressive and egalitarian and open and free or whatever. Duchamp puts a toilet right in the middle of a fancy shmancy art show for all the people who are up themselves for reasons they don’t understand and they lose their minds.

And to this day, people are still debating whether it’s art. In today’s digital economy, when so much is abstracted – social interaction, work from home, shopping, entertainment, etc, – this debate is as relevant as ever.

Really this is about the governing classes, who today are the progressives. If you don’t understand three things by now, you really ought to. First, the ruling class don’t care about the rules in the same way many of the governed do, because they make them, know why they’re there, and what they’re trying to do with them, for power. Second, a lot of the governed really don’t know why their rules are there, but follow them anyway, for many reasons, and only care about the rules at the surface level. Third, a big chunk of the middle class gets up itself precisely because they’re not in the ruling class, are close enough to sniff it, can see it, want it, but aren’t truly in it, and don’t fully understand it.

The most important thing about Fountain is that Duchamp has a sense of humour. It’s even funnier that there was only one photo at the time, the Fountain now is just a replica, and nobody has even seen the original for 50 years. We don’t actually know if Duchamp was making everything up.

Duchamp used to make stuff up in TV interviews. Performance artist? Certainly an early iteration of it. It’s not just enough to subvert the progressives in your work.

You must live it.


Well, one in particular. L.H.O.O.Q., which is basically a meme.

The readymades were more or less mass manufactured products which Duchamp sort of took, made a few alterations to, and declared pieces. Yup, that’s a meme. Fair use!

L.H.O.O.Q. is a picture of the Mona Lisa with a moustache and goatee drawn on. Factory produced graffiti? This is 40 years before Warhol, and how long before Banksy? L.H.O.O.Q. was only possible because of advances in technology.

The readymades are a tension between art and not art (pretentiousness continued) – you can go to a museum, look at an exhibit with a urinal set with a sign saying “do not touch” then go into the bathroom and do rather a lot more than touch. The question for you is why is one thing there and not the other? The Mona Lisa (the real one) is there because it obviously should be there?

The answer is “yes”, btw.

Duchamp here is mocking style, taste, and aesthetics, he’s asking questions about reverence, perhaps even worship, but Duckies, don’t rankle. Duchamp is forcing the protection of what’s valuable, of what’s genuinely accomplished and beautiful. There is something to defend in the rules set around beauty conventions. Just not the progressive ones where the rule is that there are no rules, but there are rules, and they’re the ones who control them. If there’s one thing you should recognise about progressives it’s that they don’t exactly care what they’re telling you to do as much as they care that they are the ones telling you to do it.

Duckies, don’t rankle at Duchamp attacking hierarchies in art. This is good when the hierarchy is intolerably corrupt. Duckies, you are against the status quo.

Duchamp basically agrees with the audience that trash is not really art.

What’s next?

If the 20th Century was about the great democratisation of technology, and all the chaos and opportunity that it brought (Twitter?), perhaps the 21st Century can be about the great ordering of technology with stable command. (Twitter + Elon?).

The last piece Duchamp does is Étant donnés. It’s a great big installation piece now at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. You could be forgiven for missing the most important part. It’s only visible through two peepholes in a door. And what you see looks like this. A nude, reclined against a landscape backdrop, what you might call a “real painting”, a real life piece, not readymade crap.

Duchamp kept this a secret between two girlfriends and his wife, only revealing the work after his death, and 25 years after he had apparently retired from art to play competitive chess.

Is this what Duchamp believed about art all along?

Duckies, relax, keep yourself in check, and stay cool. Let people enjoy themselves. There’s no real need to get snobby about other people’s tastes.

But also know your own. Do your thing. Let the progressives get on with theirs. They have all sorts of rules and ideas and it’s all built on sand. #Walkway? Disengage, do your own thing. They can do their thing. You’re going to do something cool that doesn’t care about their rules. In turn, your thing will show up theirs, passively. Show, don’t tell. Let them be ridiculous by comparison. Let it come naturally and not because you’ve driven them there.

Or maybe it’s all a load of rubbish? Duchamp used elements of luck as his materials in creating Bride. Jackson Pollock still came along as if he was doing something new with his drip period 20 years after. Andy Warhol still came along 40 years later with his prints as if the readymades hadn’t basically done the same thing before. And contemporary art keeps going.

Duchamp didn’t make anyone realise how ridiculous they were.

Did you just read this entire piece for nothing?

Photo Credit.

Government Versus The Family

Over the past few decades, it has become the norm that when a person is in trouble they rely on the state and not their family. When a man is in financial trouble he is infantilised by the state as he turns to universal credit. When a man has personal troubles, he feels more confident in turning to a stranger qualified as a ‘therapist’ than to find comfort in the arms of his loved ones. When a man needs education, he turns to the state-approved curriculum in a run-down, crowded comprehensive school rather than carrying on his father’s trade or learning for himself. The state has effectively become the parent.

Now, this is not to say that there aren’t situations in which individuals may need support outside their family; there are times when getting help from the community is important. The average person is stuck between two ideas: that families shouldn’t be dependent on the state and that we shouldn’t let children suffer because of their family situation. However, the default in modern society is to turn to the state first and the family second. Regardless of how altruistic the intent is, the state has incentivised such behaviours by creating a system where children are more dependent on the government than their parents. This, in turn, incentivises single-parent households and mothers to enter the workforce; needing to spend less time at home thanks to state-provided childcare. Whether that be providing free childcare or encouraging women to pursue careers through promoting university, the government has encouraged mothers to leave their children to go to work. This was especially seen under Blair’s government which provided free part-time nursery places for all three and four-year-olds or targeting 50% of the population to go to university. 

As stated by Peter Hitchens: 

“The whole idea of public policy towards childhood now is that children should spend as much time as they possibly can away from their mothers. I am taxed so that children can be put in nurseries so their mothers can go out and work in call centres.”

Of course, this is not to say that women should not go to work. However, through these policies, the government has incentivised women to put work in front of their family. This has led to major negative effects for children such as a significant rise in mental health problems over the past few decades. 

The family, and by extension the community, should offer a support system. When a person is in need, relying on family is much more reliable and rewarding than government benefits. Family tends to be much more reliable than the impersonal government that changes every few years. And when there are times where the family fails, private charity is there as a safety net for the most vulnerable of society. 

In addition, the government deprives families of the responsibility to give to charity as society trusts the government to show their altruism by providing welfare for those in need. By removing individual responsibility through government enforced philanthropy, community connections are withered. 

However, our current system means that the support many children receive is from faceless civil service workers rather than seeing the generosity of their neighbours. During the last decades of life, our elderly receive their support from state pensions instead of their family. Their earnings in their working life have been taxed, with the government using their money on projects that don’t benefit them or their loved ones. Due to this, they’ve not been able to build up wealth to pass on to their children. In addition, the state creates a division between generations, as the young are forced to pay for an increase in social care through the national insurance increases which creates disdain between the young and old. The state deprives the family of its role – it incentivises disconnect between generations and a reliance on the state rather than those closest to you.

A strong family creates happiness, security and prosperity. It helps each generation learn from the last and grow. It allows children to grow up as individuals with diverse perspectives and ideas, not just the taught lessons from state education. It allows children to have an identity within the family while retaining their individuality. This isn’t something that can be replaced by faceless bureaucrats. The family should come first, not the state.

Photo Credit.

The Whitewash – A Review of ‘War on the West’ by Douglas Murray

To begin, it’s worth saying I owe something of a debt to Douglas Murray. He brought me to many of the positions I hold today, and while my overall impression of ‘War on the West’ was disinterest, it is only upon looking back at my own political journey I’m beginning to understand why I felt that way.

‘War on the West’ follows ‘The Madness of Crowds’ and the ‘Strange Death of Europe’ as Murray’s third book discussing the state of political affairs in the Western world. Murray’s thesis is best laid out by Murray himself:

“People began to talk of “equality”, but they did not seem to care about equal rights. They talked of “anti-racism”, but they appeared deeply racist. They spoke of “justice” but they seemed to mean revenge.”

Herein lies the problem with ‘War on the West’, and why I moved away from Murray in my own life: there is no examination of what equality is to mean, what anti-racism is to look like, or what kind of justice is to be enacted, if any. The primary objection Murray has to the armies waging a war on the West is that their vision is not a classically liberal one. Explicitly antagonising white people with terms like ‘white fragility’, ‘white tears’, or ‘white privilege’ is bad because it racialises things Murray believes to have been deracialised by the Civil Rights Movement and other changes that occurred between the 1950’s to early 2000s. In his previous work, Murray uses an analogy of a train of equality pulling into the station, only to careen off down the tracks at a greater speed than ever before without allowing its passengers to get off. Throughout Murray’s work is an unexamined liberalism, that at best, is only ever criticised for being too pure. Liberalism, by its nature, criticises social orders for creating barriers for individuals. The many freedoms the West has provided have always come at the expense of the social orders liberalism eroded. Freedom for women came with the erosion of a patriarchal social order, and took with it the benefits such a system provided – such as the ability to raise a family on one income, a high degree of social trust, and a defined relationship between the sexes. It was inevitable that liberalism would eventually critique itself, and many of the authors Murray cites, from Kendi to DiAngelo, often build on those drawing on Herbert Marcuse and Theodore Adorno. The former was given money by the Rockefeller Foundation, and even worked for what would become the CIA. In many ways, it was Western liberalism with its free flow of capital and revolving door between the academy and influential roles of state that enabled these theories to promulgate.

In his interview with the Telegraph promoting the book, Murray states:

“As long as people are armed with the right facts and the right arguments, I just don’t see how the cultural revolutionaries can win. I don’t know about you, but I’m not spending the rest of my life cringing and being told I’m guilty of things I never did. Not doing it, not guilty.”

This really begs the question of how exactly we got to this position to begin with. What’s most striking about ‘War on the West’ is that it does read almost like a recap of a war. Battlefields are specified, different players and their decisions are named, and Lord knows there are a huge number of casualties in the culture wars Murray describes. But, were the people who permitted things to reach this stage simply incapable of posing arguments against it? In one chapter, Murray notes that claims that America is founded upon stolen land are self-refuting because the many tribes of America stole the land from one another. Are we to believe Americans are so ignorant of their own history that this argument has never been made? Murray himself notes in the conclusion that outlets such as MSNBC and the New York Times will deny that Critical Race Theory is taught in schools, but acknowledge that it exists when forced. There are no arguments that can be used against such a thing.

Left out of ‘War on the West’ is any truly systemic analysis of the problem. The aforementioned New York Times moved to a paywall model in 2011, and from that point forward, the focus on things like ‘racism’, ‘sexism’, ‘homophobia’, and ‘transphobia’ increased many times over. Around this time, legacy media was dying slowly. So newspapers moved from selling papers to many people to selling stories to a niche audience. The niche audience of the New York Times is the kind of cosmopolitan liberal who is very interested in niche identitarian trends, and in pitching themselves as radical while at the heart of the very system they claim to dislike. Despite this being a veritable War on the West, according to Murray, the emergency powers of war are never called upon. There are no calls to take decisive action to halt or prevent these systemic changes that led to this point. And in the conclusion, he defends the same economic system of capitalism that gave the New York Times its power, and forced it to change its business model to appeal to a niche audience of people hostile to Western people.

This attachment to a liberal historiography, in which individuals are given The Arguments and Make The Case, with spontaneous and emergent bottom-up change coming about as a consequence blinds Murray to the economic and legal realities that influence and shape this War on the West. Multiple universities are stated as battlegrounds for this war, but there is not a single mention of the fact universities are public authorities under the Equality Act (2010). That they have an ‘equalities duty’ to publish routine equalities reports, and must legally keep permanent members of staff dedicated to pushing this anti-Western message.

The only law Murray appears to mention in this vein is the Civil Right Act, which he defends as an example of the kind of good equality that he desires. Yet it was the Civil Rights Act which created the Civil Rights Commission, which in 1973 wrote to the Civil Service Commission and had them drop the standards for algebra in order to allow them to hire more non-white civil servants. Similar acts can be found in the UK. The Race Relations Act of 1973 (which performed the same anti-discrimination function as the Civil Rights Act he praises) created the Commission for Racial Equality. Today, the Race Relations Act has been assimilated into the aforementioned Equalities Act, and the Commission for Racial Equality has become the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which forces compliance with the Equalities Duty. There is a clear through-line from the civil rights legislation both in the USA and the UK, to the situation we are in now. The back of ‘War on the West’ reads as follows:

“The anti-Western revisionists have been out in force in recent years. It is high time we revise them in turn…”

Fundamentally however, there isn’t much of a revision of dominant left-wing narratives within ‘War on the West’ at all. Instead, it seeks to remind leftists that their own heroes, from Marx, to Foucault are also not spotless figures. This can only go one of two ways: either they ignore this, and nothing changes, or they recognise this, and move away from those figures, and as a consequence have doubled down on their principles of removing any and all unsavoury figures from public life. Regardless, none of this is at all revisionary, nor does it fundamentally challenge the values and beliefs of the cultural revolutionaries. A truly revisionist view of things would challenge the dominant understanding of things like the Civil Rights Movement, which was not (as Murray describes) people ‘making the case’ for rights, that the American public was so blown away by that they accepted and endorsed. Academic studies like that done on Rosedale show the side of desegregation that was forced upon people, and came at the cost of schools, neighbourhoods, communities and lives. Rosedale was a segregated community, but desegregation and the tensions that came with it made it difficult for authorities to maintain peace. The result was that many of the former residents who didn’t move out of their homes, found themselves the victims of racial violence by those who moved into the area, and had no regard for the police, who stopped policing the area out of fear of creating tensions. When Brown v. The Board of Education ended the desegregation of schools in America, and people protested, the national guard was sent in to disperse the crowd at gunpoint.

All of these changes were not the natural unfolding of human progress. They came today as they did in the civil rights movement, through force. Eisenhower and the national guard did not make the case for desegregation in light of Brown, they imposed it down the barrel of a gun. Whether that was right or wrong is irrelevant, that fact alone disproves the notion Murray insists upon in his recent public life – that the train of equality was chugging along gently, and only recently got out of hand. Equality is not a train chugging along set tracks, it is an amorphous blob that seeks to desacralise everything and dissolve all boundaries between all things. It does not progress in one direction alone, like a train, but expands in all directions and infects all things, including our supposedly right wing public figures.

In light of this, I still see some utility in Douglas Murray. Challenging double standards and hypocrisy is a cheap tactic which ultimately will not defeat those Murray opposes. Yet it is often the first chink in the armour for many people. I know I first came to move away from liberal beliefs because I found them to be contradictory, it was only in time I rooted out my own inherently liberal views, and ultimately moved to the political views and positions I hold now. In this respect, Murray is useful – he can confirm people’s suspicions about the modern left, and give them comfort that there is a public figure who opposes these things. It’s incumbent upon people with more bravery and introspection to take that one step further, and marry it with a systemic analysis of the situation, and propose and action a plan to undo these things and institute something new in its place.

Photo Credit.

Slavophilism: The Russian Model for Anglo Conservatives

The idea is like a pair of glasses on our nose through which we see whatever we look at. It never occurs to us to take them off

Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations

We are all Blairites now. It is a horrible thought, especially to those of us who despise the Blairite constitutional project: from gutting the Lords to the creation of the devolved assemblies, and the paradoxical tension between the move towards localism and the edictal erasure of British ways of life. The sad reality is that we live in Blairite Britain, more than we live in Thatcherite Britain. 

Such a thought, as uncomfortable as it is, must be the starting point of all conservative discussions, whether they are concerned with strategy, identity, or even over what we aim to ‘conserve’, because we can only begin to know where to go by knowing where we are. David Foster Wallace once gave a talk to a graduating class in which he told the following story:

There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “morning boys, how’s the water?” and the two young fish swim on for a bit and eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes, “what the hell is water?” 

The story is intended to remind us of a simple truth: that the most obvious realities are the hardest to talk about, because they are so essential and taken for granted in our daily lives. Blairism is the cultural water we swim in, and the current that drives us inexorably towards the next crisis we cannot resolve, because Blairism holds the conflictual beliefs that government should be in every part of our lives, but that it should be so completely and utterly impotent. Think about how difficult it is to do anything in modern Britain, but that you absolutely must do it whilst holding the hand of the government. 

Regardless of Blairism’s inherent contradictions, we must not ignore the tide, even if only to swim against it. How do we do this? In Modern Culture, Sir Roger Scruton wrote that we cannot

 return to a pre-Enlightenment world because the Enlightenment is so inherent to how we think about society, Man, government, culture and so on. Even those of us who are believers in faith must accept that the draperies were torn down; but only by realising they were torn down can you put them back up. So, rather than deny the legacies of the Enlightenment, Sir Roger says, we must accept that they are with us, and instead ‘live as if it matters eternally what we do: to obey the rites, the ceremonies and the customs that lend dignity to our actions and which lift them above the natural sphere’. 

The philosophical movement that took this lesson to heart the most, in my opinion, was the Romantics. They did not pretend that the legacies of the Enlightenment were so easily eradicable nor so easily deniable; instead, they accepted that they lived in a changed world, but sought to use that change to re-suture man’s relationship with himself, to correct the deficiencies of the Enlightenment and the empty rationalism that it loved so irrationally. 

The Romantic movement, by virtue of its own logic, was not universalist. The Enlightenment sought to be universal, to find laws and rules that governed Man in every circumstance and every place; but Romanticism, in reaction, favoured particularism, rootedness, and the cultural significance of place and people. In fact, so many of the nationalist movements of the nineteenth century owed more to the Romantics than they did to the Enlightenment (but again, only in the sense that the Enlightenment showed us that all humans are deserving of dignity and respect, they just choose to express that dignity in varied ways). 

One such example of Romanticism that has always fascinated me emerged in Russia in the 1830s, more than anything because I believe that Russia then holds a multitude of lessons for Britain now. Early-nineteenth century Russia experienced what could only be described as an existential crisis: the Napoleonic Wars had damaged Russia’s understanding of herself as the great military power of Eastern Europe, and brought many ideas of universal brotherhood into contact with a society that did not even have the intellectual framework to accommodate such thoughts. But the crisis went deeper: as much as one hundred and fifty years before, Russian society was shaken by external ideas, more than any invasion could have hoped for, under the Reforms of Tsar Peter the Great. The Petrine Era of Russia saw cultural changes from the top – governmental reforms, military reforms, and technological innovation, much of which modernised Russia and made her into a Great Power; but these changes did not go unquestioned. In fact, many of the influential groups in Russia rebelled, sometimes violently, as in the Moscow Rising of the Streltsy in 1698. 

The legacy of Peter’s reforms, however, were not felt until much later. Of course, all major cultural and social changes take time to really be felt at all, but the ‘short eighteenth century’ was a time of such rapid and dislocating change – across all of Europe, but especially in Russia – that many generations found themselves intellectually and culturally cut adrift from those who came immediately before them. Peter, pursuing a programme of Westernisation insisted, for instance, that the Russian court speak French, a language thought of as ‘intellectual’ (with good reason); dress like the Prussian court; rationalised the military along the Western European lines; built an entirely new town on a North Italian design (St. Petersburg – of course); and, in one of my favourite little quirks of history, outlawed beards in that city’s borders. 

Cultural issues grow like pearls grow – a single grain of sand works its way into a mollusk, and irritates the mollusk in such a way that bacteria and calcium grows around it. Cultural changes irritate the social fabric of the community it works into; but we don’t have bacteria to grow around it, we only have each other. Yet we can understand cultural issues in the same way as a pearl – an irritant works its way in, and we grow that irritant into a recognisable tangible entity, by coalescing around it and growing it in such a way that it becomes instantly recognisable. 

This is what led to the Slavophiles. Petrine Russia thought it was undefeatable – and from the Great Northern War onwards, it very much was – until Napoleon came roaring in. But the Napeolonic Wars did two things for Russia, both with the same outcome; the first was importing many ideas into Russia that challenged the existing understanding of Russian political and social structures; the second was, in the same way Soviet soldiers pushed Nazi Germany back into Europe, Petrine soldiers followed Napoleon back into Europe. In both instances, educated Russian men saw the way Europeans lived, and realised that their society was not the improved form that their reforming leaders dreamt of. 

Instead, the Slavophiles urged a return to pre-Petrine, Muscovite-style Russianism, an embracing of folk styles, food, clothing, language, and so on – not to petrify them into a living museum of nostalgia, but to rectify the mistakes of the previous century, and offer an alternative direction into the future.

And just as with a grain of sand in a pearl, the cultural dislocation of Peter’s reforms that had long irritated the reactionary elements of eighteenth-century Russia, was seized on by many of the early-nineteenth century intelligentsia as a means of explaining the situation in which they had found themselves. This fermented a series of backlashes, intellectual and cultural, that led to an explosion of political movements, such as the terrorists, the socialists, the populists (narodniki), and – most importantly – the Slavophiles. The Slavophiles looked at the state of Russia in the 1830s and considered the Petrine reforms to be an unmitigated failure: they had not kept Russia at pace with the rest of Europe; they had dislocated the cultural and social elites from the people over whom they ruled; and worst of all, they had severed the Russian people from their own past. Peter the Great had made the mistake of proto-enlightenment liberalism, that there were universal standards of humanity against which peoples’ behaviours, cultures and laws could be judged, and in doing so, he had not attempted to “reform” Russia’s venerable history, but deny its very existence, and begin from scratch.

Instead, the Slavophiles urged a return to pre-Petrine, Muscovite-style Russianism, an embracing of folk styles, food, clothing, language, and so on – not to petrify them into a living museum of nostalgia, but to rectify the mistakes of the previous century, and offer an alternative direction into the future. This precipitated many of the following century’s movements: for instance, the emphasis on the folk of Russia encouraged the nascent populism into radicalism; the embracing of the Russian commune form of land management gave Russian socialism a concrete model from which to work; and the idea of Russia taking an entirely unique path of development to Europe created the intellectual condition for Lenin and the communists to believe Russia could “leapfrog” past the bourgeois liberalism of the continent and move straight to socialism. This is not to say the Slavophiles were socialists – to even say so is to misunderstand the subtle relativism that denies such universalist theories in itself. Indeed, many Slavophiles were ardent absolute monarchists, with the famous Memorandum to the Tsar by Alexei Aksakov in 1831 claiming that Russia’s unique place in history stems from its Orthodox Christianity, the invitation by the Kievan Rus to the Varangians to rule them, and the steppes shaping the Russian mindset to one of boundless opportunism (something that Berdayev later used as a comparison to the American prairies and Manifest Destiny). 

The consequences of the Slavophile movement might not be palatable, but their inspiration is something that Anglo conservatives need to pay attention to. Their movement began by an important moment of clarity: the political reforming project of the previous age had failed. It is no secret that the emerging conservatism in Britain despises the Blairite consensus, and in many ways that means we are already doing as the Slavophiles did:  only by recognising that we are in Blairite Britain can we undo its disastrous effects. But we need to go further; we cannot simply throw our hands up and accept Blairism as the present condition of Britain, but we need to see it for what it truly is. It is a complete and utter separation of Britain from our past, a denial of that past’s validity, and an attempt to create a new political identity on entirely alien lines. 

Moving into the future requires acceptance of the present circumstance; one of the silliest phrases is that the clock cannot be wound back, when the truth is, if the clock is showing the wrong time, it is imperative  that you wind it back. And just as taking the wrong turn and continuing down the wrong path will only get you further from where you want to go, so too must you turn back. We are all Blairites now; and just as alcoholics have to admit they’ll never recover from their alcoholism, we have to admit we will likely never recover from Blairism, but will always “be” recovering. 

But I do not want to be defeatist; the first step of recovery is acceptance. We need to accept that we live in Blairite Britain, and only then can we begin tearing it apart. We need to start ripping out its core parts: the communications act (2003); the equality act (2010); the Supreme Court; the devolved assemblies; the abolition of the hereditary aristocracy; the fox hunting ban; the smoking ban; in short, all of the components of a foreign way of life that have been foisted upon the British people by our own misguided maniacal reformers. It is time to go to war; but you can only do that if you accept the war is already going on.

Photo Credit.

Against the Traditionalists

A Premise:

Deep, and yet deeper down, below the marsh slime and the swamp rot, even underneath poppy roots and the granite rows, Old England’s Foundations lie. While thinned and turned soils are cold and damp, the fiery Mantle warms and pulses, twisting round and circling on itself; the Core sees into itself and ponders on its shadows; to reach out into the cold and dark, hope perchance to find new wheels to turn, or perhaps not. Content, in the underworld, dreaming of the pictures of its marble face, Old England’s Foundations are buried the deepest, overwritten by thin and beaten sheets of plaster and tissue paper.

Yet, this is a fantasy: circumstantial myths of Old England, and its Foundations. Those marshes were sealed, and the swamps became roads, and the shapes and the names of the trees do not matter anymore. Accumulated plays turned in on themselves and became a meaningless fresco; the hand-me-down uniform, hoarded in poverty, with no weavers to craft anew. That Core is no form but a feeling, fleeting and shallow, giving only the image of warmth. Gawp at the statues and the towers and the gold on the wall. They were never yours.

Intermission, The Alchemists’ Folly:

Higher, and yet higher so, far reaching beyond the sea and above the clouds, up and up Nature’s Ladder, climbs a Champion. For all its power and glory. He soon received the ravenous attention of The Crow, the most cunning of all the birds. It said: “I have seen many climb, and their plans dissolved away, but wear my feather, and sing my song, and Nature’s sure to play”. The Crow put a feather on The Champion’s shoulder, and The Champion cawed until he had near reached the clouds. He looked down to measure his climb, and one cheek was slashed by The Crow’s feather; he saw many other smaller birds with more beautiful sounds and colours than The Crow, hiding fearfully away in their nests.

Higher and higher, between the feathers and the stars, up The Ladder, climbed The Champion. The clouds from below were sunlit pillars in the sky yet seemed smoke and fog inside. At once, the guiding stars were blotted out, and The Champion was frozen in the dark. He begged it clear, and The Cloud said: “Truly, Nature loves to hide, and seems at first a chaos sight, but learn its ways, obey and pay, by water’s path will light”. The Champion’s waterskin was plucked by a gale, and The Cloud gave in credit due a magic hailstone, and it magnified the light of the stars. His fingers were cold and heavy, his water was lost, and the constellations seemed more twisted than ever before; but, with the dim path seen by magic divined, The Champion waged on.

An earthquake struck, and The Ladder path fell; weathered wood, by many footsteps heeled, shattered with the turning of a generation. His bearing steers all amiss under the dizzying constellations, for the old way is no more; and The Champion loses their footing, curses the folly, and plummets into brine under the bottommost rungs; championing, no more. The Fool who works with wood and nail, at the bottom of The Ladder, did not build houses that day, for another ladder was built by him; and The Fool then propped it, already to seize the opportunity, to climb the path again. But The Cloud and The Crow remain in their Nature, as they wait between the salt and the stars.

Their Conclusion:

Hailing practice and ritual, making nothing new, and the new, ugly; what comes from a fool’s history? Yesterday’s legislation becomes today’s tradition, and old and common habits are preserved by kitsch committee. To justify what happened, because it happened, accounting to stacked sediments of past scoresheets? If that is good, then good is evil; bored eyes make nothing beautiful around our empty hands, so we make eternities of nothing, and are compassed about by our enduring appetites. With Nature as your sentimental measure, you pay tribute to accidental shadows on the wall. Where is The True, The Good, The Beautiful? God have mercy on your windswept souls.

Photo Credit.

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