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A Plague Tale: A Post-apocalyptic Light Held Aloft

Respectively released by Asobo Studio in May 2019 and October 2022, A Plague Tale: Innocence and A Plague Tale: Requiem follow siblings Amicia and Hugo de Rune through a 14th-century France being torn apart by the Hundred-Years-War, the French Inquisition, and the Black Plague. Through the stories of both games, Amicia and Hugo must try to stay alive while maintaining hope in the things worth living for, all while searching for a way to save Hugo from a yet unknown sickness, the ‘macula.’

Having in my twenties platinum ranked several Metal Gear Solid games and The Last of Us, I felt right at home in A Plague Tale. However, inspired by, in addition to other post-apocalyptic games like TLOU, titles like ICO and even a Studio Ghibli film, the games’ stealth, buddy tactics, and progression of unlockables mesh the elements of several genres into an excellent gaming experience that goes far beyond formulaic stealth-action. Indeed, when not sneaking around guards, players must puzzle their way through swarms of rats with torches held aloft in what becomes the central motif of the franchise.

The two games form a unified whole, in my opinion, with the denouement of Innocence leading directly into Requiem; thus, if not explicitly specifying one or the other, when referencing A Plague Tale I will henceforth mean both games together. While an outstanding work on its own, with few areas that really stretch the player outside of the higher difficulties and character revelations too significant for merely the last third of a single game, Innocence is clearly a preparation for something larger in both gameplay and story. Fulfilling the expectation, Requiem increases the franchise’s breadth in length, map layouts, tools accessible to players, and the dynamic roles of side characters in both plot and puzzle. And yet, while changes are, of course, made between the two games (not all positive, in my opinion), the core narrative elements are consistent through both.

How the games tell the story is their best attribute, and one that was a major focus of Asobo Studio: they incorporate most of the plot-driving dialogue and characterization in the midst of the stealth and puzzle scenes. In previous-generation stealth games, one sneaks through a certain area and is rewarded with a cutscene or discovery that advances the story. This could often cause the stealth sections to become a bit utilitarian, with the back-and-forth between action and narration feeling like switching between two halves of the brain—not the best for maintaining story immersion or emotional investment. 

However, with its use of furtive commentary and context-specific actions from side characters, A Plague Tale incorporates the narrative into the gameplay so seamlessly that the tension of the sneaking and action enhances the tension of the story conflicts, both external and internal, thus  maintaining story immersion and blending all into a level of aesthetic experience I had rarely experienced. The tension as Amicia protects but also relies on Hugo and others with different sources of light as they traverse fields of dark, writhing rat swarms builds the sense not just of fear of failure, but of connection among and investment in the characters. This narrative aspect, alone—this integration of action and narrative—is enough reason to play the games, in that they show how modern games can tell a story in a new, verisimilar way that invests one in the increasingly layered characters more than just passive watching or trophy-focused strategizing might. 

Leaving more thorough gameplay reviews to others (or, better, to players who will experience the games for themselves), I will focus below on the stories of each game. Each game has elements one doesn’t always encounter in today’s media and which make their plots deeper and more dynamic than are many other current post-apocalyptic, female-centric games. (Also, needless to say, spoilers ahead).

Innocence: ‘You can run…but no one can escape their own blood.’

A Plague Tale: Innocence’s opening chapter, titled ‘The De Rune Legacy,’ immediately places the game in terms of both aristocracy and historical context, motifs that thread throughout both games. Through the initial tutorial scenes of main deuteragonist Amicia walking the De Rune estate with her father, we learn that, a noble family in fourteenth-century France, the De Runes are beset by the wars afield with Plantagenet England and the steady growth of a new plague at home. We also learn that, due to the boy’s strange sickness, the macula, Amicia’s five-year-old brother, Hugo, has been kept separate from his fifteen-year-old sister for most of his life, with Amicia being closer to their father due to their mother’s being focused on healing the cloistered Hugo. 

In the same sequence, Amicia and her father discover an obscure underground menace plaguing the forest, and the family estate is raided by the Inquisition in search of Hugo. Soon separated from both parents, the two estranged children must make their way to the boy’s doctor, secretly an alchemist, discovering along the way that the menace beneath the ground are actually floods of rats that literally pop up whenever the two children—specifically Hugo—undergo stress.

From the start it is apparent that Innocence is a story of children of good aristocrats thrust into a world falling apart. As often happens with such stories of upending times, the changes necessarily involve and are bound up with the aristocrats, themselves, their being the holders and maintainers of their culture’s values. Foreshadowed by the heightened rat activity whenever Hugo has his debilitating headaches, it is revealed that the plague of rats destroying France is somehow connected to the macula inherited through Hugo’s family line. 

Thus, threaded through this story of siblings trying to survive is the subtext that the conflict involves their bloodline—the children’s aristocracy. Like countless other stories of chosen children of unique birth thrust from comfort into a world of flux, Innocence becomes a bildungsroman of learning to survive in a world that, because of their bloodline, is suddenly suspicious of and antagonistic towards them, and which may be falling apart because of them. Implicit in the story is how much blame they should assume for the heritage they did not choose and know little about. 

Besides the ubiquitous rats, Amicia and Hugo’s major antagonist is the Inquisition. While the trope of ‘ackshually, big church bad’ is tired, at best (and usually unbelievable for anyone with a working knowledge of history), in the game’s fantasy world the Inquisition works excellently, without breaking immersion with an anti-church bias too common in modern works. A quasi-official sect focused not on pursuing heretics but, rather, on harnessing and using the plague, the Inquisition actually serves to illuminate Hugo’s condition for the children and players. 

The Grand Inquisitor Vitalis Benevent—ironically named, his being a decrepid old man of failing health—is a typical but no less excellent character, and his Captain of the Guard, Nicholas, has easily one of the best character designs I’ve seen in a while. Together they concretise an archetypal threat to young nobles: those who would use them and their blood to amass power. This is only made more insidious when the innocent and naive Hugo comes to the forefront for a section of the game.

Thus, as is common to such stories of a time of shifting values and structures, the question of who is friend and who is foe is foremost, and Amicia and Hugo must learn to be circumspect about whom they trust, a theme that will continue into the next game. Yet, at the same time, Amicia must balance exposing Hugo to the world’s dangers with maintaining his innocence; one of game’s most charming yet unnerving dynamics is the double layer of Amicia’s vigilance for possible threats and Hugo’s playful ignorance of their danger—as well as Amicia’s suggesting such things to distract Hugo (and herself) from their plight. It is through this interplay—the need to maintain innocence as a resistance against the darkness around them while facing and surviving it—that the siblings get to know each other and the story is told.

Added to the moderating effect Hugo’s youth has on the usual nihilistic brutality of such games, the world of Innocence, as well as of its sequel, does not come off as a standard postapocalyptic setting. The greatest reason for this is the studio’s choice of its historical place, which lends it a paradoxical undertone of familiarity. Whether or not players have a ready knowledge of the Justinian Plague which serves as the background for the game’s sickness, we’ve all heard of the medieval Black Death. We know it was horrible. We also know it was survived—and served as the threshold of the Renaissance. 

Placed in this context not of annihilation but of survival, the games implicitly lend themselves to a conservative undertone. Horrible times have happened, and horrible people have made them worse, but so long as one can keep a localized light burning, the seeds of civilization will survive even in the smallest communities. Exactly this happens in one of the game’s many poignant images, that of the De Rune children and their by-then found family of vagrants living, growing, and learning to thrive in a broken down castle. 

Furthermore, the growing relationship between Amicia and Hugo hinges on the implicitly conservative principle of personal responsibility and moral agency—especially regarding the exigencies of circumstance and one’s relationship to power, especially over those closest to us. A theme not uncommon in post-apocalyptic stories is whether or not a rupture of society justifies a full abandonment of morality and regard for life. Throughout the story, Innocence’s answer is ‘No.’ Amicia’s killing to protect Hugo is suffused with hesitancy, sorrow, and apology—a motif established in Innocence and explored much more fully in Requiem. Hugo’s parallel relationship with violence—with the possible loss of innocence it entails—has the added complexity of his being a child, but the impetus to control himself is no less present and upheld.

Indeed, unlike other post-apocalyptic characters who grow increasingly solipsistic and nihilistic (*cough* Joel *cough*), it is Amicia and Hugo’s task to maintain moral responsibility and innocence in their respective ways when all others around them seem intent on dispensing with such things out of ambition or expediency. Virtue does not change, howevermuch the world around us seems to, nor does change relieve us of our basic nature as individual moral agents whose choices have real effects. 

Although not an explicitly named theme, it is only by superceding their circumstances and instead placing themselves within a broader historical context of their aristocratic family line, while drawing closer to each other—that is, by accepting their aristocratic heritage and actively manifesting it in the present through corresponding behavior—that Amicia and Hugo are able to overcome the game’s conflicts. And, in the end, what remains is the very image that started the story: that of a family, native and found, drawing together to keep lit and held aloft sundry moments of innocent joy in order to humbly produce a better future.

Requiem: ‘Stop trying to be so tough. You might learn something.’

Picking up roughly six months after Innocence leaves off, A Plague Tale: Requiem finds the De Runes and their alchemist companion Lucas continuing their journey to heal Hugo of his macula. As signaled by the game’s opening chapter, ‘Under a New Sun,’ the sequel’s problems will seem different from its predecessor’s, but only on the surface. The Inquisition is behind them, but the deeper conflict remains—the need to treat Hugo’s macula before it reaches the next ‘threshold’ and further overtakes the boy while also avoiding pursuit from those who might try to stop or manipulate them. 

After the game’s tutorial and introduction, the group visits a town in Provence to meet Magister Vaudin, another alchemist who might be able to help heal Hugo. However, Vaudin soon becomes a wedge in the relationship built through the previous game between Amicia (and the player) and Hugo. Foreshadowed previously by the minor dialogue of the tutorial, this and other events bring to the fore the question of whether or not the deuteragonists should trust potential allies. 

In Innocence the core conflict was simply to protect Hugo, which, considering the siblings’ shaky relationship, was rightly not undercut by a serious questioning of motives and methods. However, in Requiem Amicia becomes so focused on protecting Hugo that she ends up pushing away potential help, not only the questionable alchemical order but even their mother and companion, Lucas. Amicia’s arguable overprotectiveness shows itself in two ways, a growing comfortability with violence and an inability to judge friend from foe (or visa versa).

In the game’s best element of complexity, the suspicion of allies is eventually turned on the increasingly violent Amicia, herself, who sees her growing willingness to kill yet cannot seem to mitigate it. The theme of protecting Hugo becomes, in a game about a pathogen, a psychological pathology in Amicia—her own sublimated macula that, like Hugo’s literal one, can just as easily be misused to disasterous effect should she blindly give herself over to its prejudices. 

This type of storyline—that of the strong female suspicious of all purported help, especially from men, and whose toughness is altogether good and an end in itself—is, by now, nothing new. Those sympathetic to it will find many things to admire in Amicia, and can probably play the game without sharing my interpretation (a mark of a good work of narrative art in any medium). However, Requiem is, thankfully, not merely a story of a girlboss teenager giving the proverbial middle finger to allies who seem to hinder her in protecting Hugo. To be sure, despite admonitions from friends and family, Amicia does follow this arc—until the siblings fall in with Arnaud.

A mercenary whose soldiers have previously been thinned out by Amicia, the mercenary Arnaud pursues the De Runes at different portions of the game. However, Arnaud eventually saves the siblings from the uncontrollable effects of their own actions. Whereas the still childlike Hugo trusts Arnaud relatively quickly (Arnaud’s role as father figure for the siblings is a layer I don’t have time to examine here), Amicia remains skeptical—understandable, considering the concussion and remaining scar on her forehead he’d previously given her. However, implicit in the interactions between Amicia, Hugo, and Arnaud is the irony that by too bluntly rejecting Arnaud’s help in order to protect Hugo, Amicia might ruin the very innocence she has tried to preserve—a theme that has been there from the game’s beginning.

Perhaps more significant, the game thus reverses the ‘male allies = implicit enemies’ trajectory of many recent female-driven plots, instead arguably justifying Hugo’s trust rather than Amicia’s distrust. The game dares to introduce the complexity of an enemy actually turning out to be an ally—not unheard of in today’s stories, but rarely involving an older male. 

Arnaud’s place in the story is by no means clear-cut, nor is Requiem a mere reactionary tale of an overweening teenage girl being cut down to size (which would, itself, be formulaic, simplistic, and boring). Nonetheless, the fact that he is allowed to add complexity to Amicia’s development—in a way that highlights her shortsightedness—is refreshing in that it keeps Amicia from falling into the prescribed tropes and, by now, chauvinistic stereotypes of recent heroines. Rather, through his similarities and differences with her, Arnaud serves to highlight the capacity of the untutored, rash Amicia to go overboard. 

While, like the other side characters, he remains in the background for long portions of the game, the mercenary nonetheless continues to shift the story’s moral center away from Amicia, thus paradoxically allowing her to grow in how she responds to her own impulses. Inn my opinion the story could have used more of an explicit admission on Amicia’s part that Arnaud might have been right about a few things. Nonetheless, the mercenary adds a welcome complexity in that his presence—and the themes he concretises—keeps the story from falling into the simple formulae of other current media—something I, and many others, have been asking for for our female characters

The De Rune Legacy

By layering the themes of its predecessor with a variety of new elements and subsequent possible interpretations, Requiem more than fulfills the setup of Innocence, and it secures both parts of A Plague Tale at the top of the post-apocalyptic genre. Both show what games are capable of and are well worth playing by both stealth veterans and those looking for a unique and involved aesthetic experience.

Furthermore, as with Innocence, Requiem expands the tropes it employs. Added to the recurrence of civilization’s rise and fall (which could have just as easily been the topic of my commentary on the game) is the localization of such vicissitudes in the individual Amicia, herself. Parallelling Hugo’s literal macula, Amicia’s choice of whether or not to give over to her wrathful passion and lose perspective and self control—really, the classical virtues of Prudence and Temperance—is that upon which the future will hinge. 

Thus, whether intentional or not, for those willing to see it the games offer an implicitly conservative iteration of the post-apocalyptic setting. Considering that conservatism’s basic function involves, to paraphrase Mahler, the protection and preservation not of ashes but of flame—of that which we have and love, especially things like innocence, historical humility, and family connection, this is a fitting and timely nuance. The games are by no means simply ‘based cons do the apocalypse,’ but the inclusion of such elements does show how stepping from the path of prescribed ethos and character alignments can create an enriching work of art that will satisfy players of many stripes. With such diverse and complex elements—and, more importantly, the depth of immersion with which Asobo pulls them off—the franchise, itself, instantiates the very light that forms its central image, offering an implicitly brighter experience amidst a genre usually plagued and darkened by cosmic ambivalence and moral nihilism.

Photo Credit.

Conservatives Just Don’t Get It

This article was originally published in April 2020.

“It is always said that a man grows more conservative as he grows older; but for my part, I feel myself in many ways growing more and more revolutionary” – G.K. Chesterton.

One should never attempt to fight the enemy on his home turf. Unfortunately, conservatives have been doing exactly that for the past 60 years. The changes to the social fabric that have occurred over decades, courtesy of the left’s dominance on the cultural front, have been nothing short of extreme. Such changes are paramount to an intergenerational sociocultural revolution, one which many “conservatives” refuse to acknowledge the significance of, either due to ignorance, arrogance, or cowardice.

Some would rather indulge in the rather fashionable practice of vacuous contrarianism, insisting that the concept of “Culture War” is trivial; imported for the sake of disruption rather than anything important. I can assure you, it’s not. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, our politics continue to no longer be defined by the material and the necessities for survival. Nor is it defined by the intricate details of policy papers. Rather, it is fundamentally cultural; it is an existential conflict, one which has emerged amid the increasingly different ways we define who we are. Far too many conservatives underestimate the importance of this fact. Far too many conservatives just don’t get it.

Defining the Enemy

The most common understanding of the left is the left-wing party. Naturally, in Britain, the Labour Party comes to mind. It’s those socialist maniacs who want to raise your taxes, bankrupt the country, and bring back the IRA. To some extent or another, this may or not be true. Some may be (correctly) willing to push the boat out and incorporate other parties such as the Liberal Democrats and the SNP into this understanding. Whilst they incorporate different ideological strands into their party platforms (i.e. liberalism, Scottish nationalism, etc.) they are still understood as belonging to the broadly progressive, left-of-centre bloc of British politics. Of course, this excludes the Conservatives themselves, not because they’re right-wing, but because they are not ‘officially’ seen as such.

However, specifically in the scope of culture, “the left” has historically been encapsulated in (as one in the midst of China’s own cultural revolution would put it) the hatred of “old customs, old culture, old habits, and old ideas”. It is the movement which not only holds these things in contempt, but has artificial over the course of several generations, actively sought to undermine them, and supplant them with placeholders. Whether it is branded as liberation or social justice, deconstruction or decolonisation, the motive is the same: the eradication of Britain’s true understanding of itself. It is the removal of a nation’s identity, onto which another one can be projected; one that serves the interests of the revolutionaries, who have long since been assimilated into positions of officialdom. Tradition, in all its forms, is not a milestone of progress to these people, but something which stands in its way. Tradition are markers of oppression, bigotry, and other devalued soundbite terms that have long infested modern politico-cultural discourse.

This outlook, when put into perspective, is hardly contained within the confines of mainstream political parties. On the contrary, the most ardent advocates and enforcers of these ideas do not have a seat in parliament or hold a party membership card, yet they still wield extraordinary amounts of influence over the public realm, either as well-known figures or grey eminences. If conservatives are to get serious about conserving, they will have to think outside the party-political box and engage with the wider political arena; the Labour Party is merely one of many heads of the progressive hydra that has been wreaking havoc on our country.

The Conservative Problem: The World Moves On

So often, mainstream conservative figures evoke the Devil-like image of Marx, whose communist ideals linger within the minds of leftists. This is often done with the hope of incentivizing the public to steer clear of such people. This poses two problems. One is that most people (especially young people) really don’t care about the “threat of communism”. They may find the CCP distasteful, they may prefer the USA as the world hegemon, but people (again, especially young people) don’t have a potently adverse reaction to communism. Keep in mind, this general sense of apathy is also felt towards other historically charged political forces, such as the IRA, Hamas, and Venezuelan Socialism. Indeed, one could say the same thing about National Socialism, but I digress.

Too many conservatives fundamentally misunderstand of the type of left we are up against, not just in the party-political sphere but in all nooks and crannies of every institution of society. If you want to understand the grotesque and underhand nature of modern leftism, you’re better off the intellectual descendants of Marx, rather than Marx himself. Whilst Marx called for the proletariat to revolt against their bourgeoisie oppressors, Gramsci fixated on the issue of cultural hegemony – that economic transformations can only occur if a society is preconditioned with the necessary cultural values; it is these cultural values that justify whatever economic system is in place, and by extension, the specific nature of economic redistribution. Conservatives can hardly hope to win if they can’t even recognise the type of battle that’s being fought which is, first and foremost, one of a cultural nature.

Politics is Downstream from Culture

Supremacy in Parliament is important; it is the sovereign legislature after all. However, conservatives must remember that power, in all its forms, transcends the walls of Westminster; capturing the building where legislation is made must be combined with capturing the institutions that shape our nation’s political “Overton Window”. It is this framework that inspires the legislation that is created within it and dictates what legislation can exist. If legislation isn’t allowed to exist in a ‘culturally appropriate’ sense, then it almost certainly won’t be allowed to exist in a practical sense.

Conservatives must reaffirm themselves with the timeless truth that “politics is downstream from culture”. Politicians are important actors, but they are not the only actors. Conservatives must learn to march through the institutions as the left has done for so many years with frightening efficacy, whether it be in the classroom or the court room, the media or the civil service, the hospitals or the churches. It is victory on this front that has already altered the perceptions we have of our society, and therefore how we conduct our politics.

Currently, the products of these institutions are often laced and ingrained with progressive preconceptions and cultural attitudes. Dissenting views and sentiments are purged from the circles that produce these mass-consumed cultural products. This is not because they are wrong in any objective sense, on the contrary, many have realised that what’s said in these instances is actually pretty milquetoast (“trans women aren’t biological women, etc.). People’s politics are shaped by the environment in which they operate, and as time has gone by, the leftist-domination of seemingly neutral institutions has resulted in those who would otherwise being apolitical becoming (either explicitly or implicitly) averse or straight up hostile to conservatism. Then again, why shouldn’t cultural progressives do this? They have shown time and time again that they cannot (currently) advance their ideas via the ballot box, so instead they focus on maintaining and integrating their power where it already exists and doing what they can from there.

Conservatives are foolish if they think that they can ignore the concerns of people until they reach 30. Whilst young conservatives are more radical than their elders, they are fewer in number. Young people are far more hostile to conservatism than 40 years ago, and older people are becoming increasingly progressive themselves. The demography is against us, in more ways than one. They may not call for the workers of the world to unite, but they still hold disdain for those who hold socially traditionalist sentiments. The Conservative Party can win as many elections as it likes, but it won’t matter provided culturally conservative ideas are suppressed and forced to remain on the fringes. The electorate may not be averse to the Party, but as for the philosophy from which it draws its name, that a very different kettle of fish.

The Conservative Problem: Parliament is the Ultimate Prize

Despite all this, it is hard for many in the Conservative Party to comprehend how “the left” continues to be an existential threat to the British and our way of life. When I converse with Conservative Party members, many often exalt over “Bojo winning a stonking 80 seat majority and saving Britain from the clutches of Red Jezza”. Once again, the problem with this is that it reduces the political to party politics, electoral success, and the squabbles of Westminster and Tory Twitter. It also severely underestimates the vehicle for change an 80-seat majority could act as provided we addressed the current cultural paradigm in which the party is forced to operate. A cultural paradigm that will only continue in the favour of progressives provided conservatives get their act together.

Unfortunately, anytime someone within the ranks of the party dares to defend Britain from continuous desecration besides the safe stuff, such as the monarchy and purely liberal-democratic interpretations of Brexit, much like the spiteful and monotonous Marxist-drones thy insist to be so different from, they hound you, assassinate your character, declare you unfit for public life. To not sufficiently submit to the brand of “Conservatism” permitted by the current cultural paradigm is often nothing short of social suicide. This also goes for those who espouse their profusive love for the “broadchurch” and talk about free-thinking with impassioned vigour, like some firebrand philosopher from the enlightenment. Then again, one should expect such two-faced behaviour from careerist sycophants. For the overwhelming number of apparatchiks, patriotism is just for show.

This is not to say supporting the monarchy and Brexit are bad things. On the contrary, I am a monarchist (although, I am not a Windsorian) and favoured Brexit before Brexit was even a word. What should be noted though is that to truly prevent Britain’s abolition, we must do so much more. This “do what you like so long as it doesn’t affect my me or my wallet” mindset is deeply ingrained into our society, even in its economically downtrodden state, inhibits the political conscience we require for national renewal.

Of course, there have been “attempts” by “culturally conservative” minded individuals to engage in cultural discourse. Pity they rarely talk about anything cultural or conservative. Normally its either some astroturfed rhetoric about the wonders of free-market capitalism and individualism, and the menaces of socialism and big-government. When they do, it’s nothing more than them desperately trying to prove to their left-leaning counterparts that they’re “not like those other nasty Tories” or that it “it’s actually the Left that is guilty of [insert farcical modern sin here]”. I look forward to living in the increasingly cursed progressive singularity in which leftists and “rightists” are arguing over who’s more supportive of drag-queen story time, mass immigration, and open-relationship polyamory. What’s more, attempts to indoctrinate the youth into becoming neoliberal shills could be more forgivable if their attempts weren’t teeth-grindingly cringey.

The Mechanics of Political Discourse

The mainstream media, for example, is one of many institutions dominated by cultural progressives, has long perpetuated the façade of meaningful politico-cultural discourse. How many times have we seen a Brexiteer and a Remainer go head-to-head on talk shows and debate programs only for it to be a session of who can come across as the most liberal and globalist? “Brexit is a tragic isolationist, nationalist project” pathetically weeps the [feckless and unpatriotic] Remainer. “No no, it is THE EU that is the isolationist, nationalist project!” righteously proclaims the [spineless and annoying] Brexiteer. These people talk as if the British populace have all unanimously agreed that therapeutic-managerialism is currently the best thing for their country. As much as the grifters and gatekeepers might like to ride the “reject the establishment, stand up for Britain” wave to boost their online clout, they’re just as detached from the concerns and problems facing Britain as “those damn brussels bureaucrats” and “out-of-touch metropolitan lefties”. As a Brexiteer you’ll have to forgive my mind-crippling ignorance, but I am highly suspicious of the idea that most Leave voters sought to accelerate the effects of economic and cultural globalisation. Brexit, by all measures, drew the battle lines between the culturally conservative Leavers and the culturally liberal Remainers (individual exceptions accounted for).

This influence must not be taken lightly, even the most authoritarian regimes must rely on some consent and co-operation from forces beyond the central government. Not the people of course, but those who assist it in the government’s ability to govern; an all-encompassing apparatus through which a government may be permitted to assert its influence; comprised of NGOs, QUANGOs, the civil service, the mainsteam press, and various directly affected sections of society with vested interests in the form of corporate monopolies, universities, and devolved bodies. Without support and co-operation from these institutions, a government’s ability to exert influence is drastically limited. It is from these non-parliamentary sources of influence that have come to possess substantial (and practically unaccountable) amounts of power over the politico-cultural discourse. They decide what questions exist, what topics are taught, how issues are discussed, what viewpoints get publicity, what projects receive funding, what subjects’ officially matter… they decide what’s funny, and what’s not!

The cultural values at the top of society, and therefore endemic to society as a whole, lend themselves both to the creation of a cohesive ruling class. One with capabilities so indispensable to government that even if a party were to capture power on a conservative platform, it likely wouldn’t make all or most of the necessary changes needed. It also makes those values assume a special worth that other cultural attitudes do not have. Like all such “sacred” values, they do not exist in a single place, they permeate out as both a civilisation’s assumed-to-be natural moral standards and as something which exists at the top of socio-cultural hierarchy of status.

The Conservative Problem: The Rules are Fair

Considering what is a highly restrictive discourse, many will shake their fist and declare “you just can’t say anything these days”. Total rubbish. You just say certain things. You can say that mass-immigration is a blessing. You can say we should normalise dating sex workers. You can’t say anything meaningful about the nationwide grooming gangs or “I personally believe {insert any run of the mill socially conservative view here}. If you do, you’ll end get fired from your job, or the Church of England and be forced to issue a grovelling and humiliating press-mandated apology for harbouring remnants of Christian sentiment. The New Statesman-lead character assassination of the late and great Sir Roger Scruton, a smear campaign by the media that continued even after his death, is a rather poetic embodiment of the conservative situation. The great irony of liberalism is debating whether one should tolerate those with alternative attitudes (regardless of how illiberal) or utilise the power of institutions to force those people to adopt liberal ones, explicitly or implicitly. As one would expect, vast majority of liberals in recent years have selected the latter. Openness must be secured through the exclusion of those that demand exclusion, which neccesarily narrows the scope of politics.

Unfortunately, despite cultural leftists wanting to eradicate them for political life, conservatives still see themselves as above obtaining and using power. Again, they’ll try their hardest to win an election, but when it comes to actively supporting the defence and furtherance of conservative values they’d much rather not be involved. At most they’ll shake their heads at those crazy progressives with their wacky pronouns and move onto the next Twitter controversy. Of course, power is not the only thing of value in this world, but is neccesary asset if you want your principles to actually mean something. It is hardly a sufficient response to throw your hands up and declare yourself above the fight. If anything, it’s the acknowledgment of this reality that makes people conservatives in the first place.

On Counter-Revolution

A cultural counter-revolution is possible. However, it will require conservatives coming to terms with their new roles, not as protectors of the status quo, but as those who are reacting to the increasing perversity, corruption, and sclerosis of the new order. The struggle will be long but that it is the only way it can be. Efforts to conserve our future must begin in the present, even if we look to the glories of the past for inspiration.

Many will not stand as they do not have a conservative bone in their body and are in themselves part of the problem. Others will be defiant about taking a stand at all. They will self-righteously declare:

“I’m not choosing a side. I want nothing to do with this. It’s got nothing to do with me!”

Unfortunately for them, the choice to be apathetic about the destruction of your civilisation is still a choice. Many haven’t clocked that politics is not only a never-ending war, but an unavoidable one; one which we are losing, with consequences mounting with every generation.

Of course, a lot of conservative activists are like me. We are not just Conservatives in the sense of party membership, we are instinctually conservative. We came to the Conservative Party because, despite the self-interested careerists and the severe shortcomings in policy in recent years, we recognised that the party itself serves a fundamental role in making our voices heard. As much as liberals in the party would like to throw us out by the scruff of our necks, one can only deny social conservatives their rightful place within the Conservative Party for so long.

Although I must say, I was hoping that a party with an 80-seat majority would have more vitality than a freshly neutered dog. Far too many Conservatives would prefer the party to be an over-glorified David Cameron appreciation club, or the parliamentary wing of the Adam Smith Institute, rather than the natural party of Britain. A Conservative Party that supports conservatism will not alone be enough, but it will be necessary, The Conservative – Labour/Liberal dichotomy is so ingrained in British politics that an alternative right-wing is likely to fall flat, even when there may be demand for one.

I am sure we are not small men on the wrong side of history. However, should I be wrong, I have the benefit of being young and naïve. I have come to terms with being an argumentative, nationalistic Zoomer and I’m far too stubborn to give up on my ideals, especially at this stage in my life. The fire of counter-revolution must not be extinguished, it must be passed down.

My fellow rightists, you can continue leading the life of a cringe, narrow-minded normiecon; begrudgingly submitting to apparatchiks, gatekeepers, and controlled opposition; parroting every stale, uninspiring, mass-produced talking point to inoculate against the turbulence of politics. Alternatively, you can break your chains and take Britain’s destiny into your hands.

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Every Field and Hedgerow?

For several years now, we’ve been told the British political class is solely concerned with the pursuit of wealth, choosing to prioritise GDP above every other consideration. We’ve been told immigration is in our nation’s interest because it grows the economy, the dissolution of the nuclear family is necessary to boost productivity, and MPs are itching to pave over Every Field and Hedgerow with soulless newbuilds, concrete monoliths, and glass skyscrapers.

It is true that mass immigration is an irremovable component of Britain’s post-war political orthodoxy, one which is continuously propagated by supposedly serious economists and journalists. Even people considered economic radicals by the political mainstream, such as former Prime Minister Liz Truss, wanted to significantly increase immigration during her historically short period in office, making her popularity with the Conservative grassroots, and even sections of the anti-Tory right, all the more bizarre.

Next to Net Zero – a loose amalgamation of targets and reforms to overhaul consumption habits to lower Britain’s carbon emissions, especially in large cities – the UK government’s flagship policy has been Levelling Up – a loose amalgamation of targets and reforms intended to grow the national economy, especially regional economies outside of London.

However, this perspective has experienced pushback in recent years. Specifically, it is increasingly argued the establishment’s support for immigration is moralistic as well as economic, with a hegemonic left-wing sensibility playing a more important role than any technocratic justification.

Likewise, there is truth to this perspective. After all, it is an observable fact that Britain’s economy is stagnant, and no less than 30 years of mass immigration hasn’t made a discernibly positive impact on our national economy, leading to the suppression of wage growth for those on lower incomes and giving monopolists a steady supply of cheap labour.

If Britain’s political class were narrowly obsessed with prosperity, wages wouldn’t be flatlining, productivity wouldn’t be at a standstill, and basic necessities wouldn’t be borderline unaffordable to many. Therefore, it is concluded by some that Britain’s political class is not obsessed with economic growth, but seemingly indifferent to it, with swathes of the establishment showing considerable sympathy for the aspirations of the Degrowth movement.

Herein lies a contradiction which I have yet to see addressed: if the political class cannot be characterised as growth-obsessed due to Britain’s worsening economic conditions, how can they be characterised as eco-paranoid zealots if our environment also continues to worsen?

Given a cursory glance, the British establishment is staunchly committed to the natural world. Environmental organisations can sue the government over its self-imposed obligation to achieve Net Zero by 2050, the planning system prevents power lines being built in an energy crisis, and ULEZ expansion has been implemented, despite its intense unpopularity with the affected communities; a move which has activated several little platoons of anti-surveillance activists, who are shown no quarter by the police, unlike the eco-activists who block roads and vandalise artistic masterpieces with impunity.

Based on these facts, one would assume Britain’s environment is in pretty good shape, that whatever problems we may be facing, Britain’s wildlife is more than protected from harm. However, we needn’t assume anything – the results of our leaders’ ‘efforts’ lie before us and they’re far from satisfactory.

Britain’s stringent, cack-handed regulation of development hasn’t resulted in a safer or richer environment. On the contrary, much of our wildlife remains on the brink of extinction, the quality of our water is some of the worst in Europe, various forms of animal cruelty go unpunished, and conservation organizations routinely deviate from their stated purpose.

Considerable ire is directed towards the localist cadres and uppity bureaucrats who obstruct housing developments in the name of protecting hedgehogs, yet little-to-no attention is directed by right-leaning wonks and commentators towards the significant decline in Britain’s hedgehog population. Sad!

We can debate the sincerity of the NIMBYs’ convictions all day, what matters is the hedgehog population is declining and the sooner a solution to this environmental problem can be incorporated into a radical political agenda, the less we will have to pedantically scrutinize the intent of others. I needn’t labour to ‘prove’ that rewilding is a Blairite psy-op or a Gnostic conspiracy. If I accept the definitive principle is good, I am free to support it in to whatever form or extent I choose, and why shouldn’t we rewild Britain?

It is the height of Metropolitan liberal hypocrisy that Alastair Campbell can walk to and from his recording studio without being stalked by a hungry lion. Indeed, the life of every failed statesman-turned-podcaster is worthless compared to the life of a happily rewilded beaver.

This said, we mustn’t satisfy ourselves with half-measures. It goes without saying that rewilding beavers into unacceptably dingy water is like selling a rat-infested apartment to a young couple. Just as trains are viewed as a symbol of progress, water is a symbol of life itself, and any political movement which can portray itself as taking on corrupt monopolists and their spree of sewage dumping will be popularly received by literally every section of British society, especially when the damage of such dumping threatens to increase water prices in an already uncomfortable economy.

Contrary to what some claim, dumping raw sewage, molten slag and microplastics over a raft of otters without second thought doesn’t make you a progressive Victorian industrialist, it means you’re spiritually Azerbaijani. Bee bricks aren’t a well-informed method of helping bees, but the idea is more good-natured than relishing a sense of superiority derived from conscious indifference.

Since leaving the EU, Britain is no longer beholden to its rule of unanimity. As such, it is within Parliament’s immediate and sovereign power to crack down on live imports/exports, vivisection, and battery farming, yet it has not done so. The government banned American Bully XLs after a brief online campaign yet shelved legislation to prevent an obviously cruel and unnecessary practice, one which exists solely to benefit the bottom-line of multinational corporations, run by who think they can treat animals as inanimate property.

The idea Britons must subsist on cheap and nasty processed slop from overseas is a bare-faced lie. Politicians, wonks, and commentators are waking up to what we nationalists have been saying for years – outsourcing energy production is politically stupid. If they can understand that gutting your domestic capacity for energy production doesn’t necessarily make it cheaper or more secure, they should learn to accept the same logic applies to food production as well.

After all, food prices aren’t rising because of “Anglo sentimentalism” or anti-cruelty laws. On the contrary, food prices are rising despite Britain’s laissez-faire approach towards such practices. Indeed, if prices correlated at all with Britain’s love of animals, prices would be way higher than they are currently!

This is because “Anglo sentimentalism” is the most powerful force in the world. Britons collectively donate tens of millions to The Donkey Sanctuary on an annual basis, money which could fund a private military to topple the government, yet few in our circles see this as a power worth harnessing. Consequently, those who have managed to harness this power are using it to ride roughshod over everything the average patriotic Englishman holds dear.

The National Trust, which markets itself as a conservative membership-based organization dedicated to repairing manor houses and protecting historic woodlands, spends its time and resources promoting Gay Race Communism. There are efforts within the National Trust to steer the trust in a more conservative direction, and I’m sure a few of our guys could lend them a helping hand in one form or another. That’s certainly preferable to dismissing the mission of custodianship altogether.

When environmentalists say Britain is in crisis, they’re unironically correct. When the Anglo sees global pollution erasing Britain’s native species, he sees the erasure of himself. Just as his philosophy of life is held together by a pearl of poetry, his existence is held together by a drop of sentiment; one which tells him that to be has an inherent value. This sentiment has birthed his capacity for entrepreneurism and his love for emerald pastures; it has given him cause for confidence in his own self-worth and an eagerness to apply himself to something greater than the merely and immediately convenient, doing so without a hint of contradiction, despite those who accuse him of being an intrinsically anti-intellectual creature.

Our leaders may not be ruthless mammonists, but they’re not unyielding naturalists either, and their record is more than sufficient proof. Beneath their apparent gormlessness, their way of thinking about matters of great importance is foreign to the average Briton, and the sooner this fact is realised by would-be reformers of the British state, the better.

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Towards the Radical Scrutonians

I was recently gifted a copy of the revised edition of Sir Roger Scruton’s Confessions of a Heretic. I must admit that Scruton is one of those authors of whom I have currently read too little, and that shall change in time, but I am well aware of the value and salience of his oeuvre. He was one of the last men of letters given to us by the twentieth century and we are fortunate that he produced so much of a legacy made tangible by the written word. The logical question now is what to do with it all. This matter of maintaining Scruton’s legacy has been addressed by Henry George in The Salisbury Review, but with a conclusion that only finds his use in arresting the leftwards gallop on the continent. I do not intend this article to be a direct response, rather a development which can reach a conclusion about Scruton’s fate amongst the novel elements of the right in this country and the broader Anglosphere by applying some basic truths of the present situation.

First, it is worth remembering that Scruton was an outsider for virtually his entire career. He was not writing from a liberal or neoliberal persuasion, so he was shunned by the party that farcically shares a name with his philosophy. He was concerned with the ill-effects of modernity whereas most wanted to further them. His evident wisdom existed in incidental opposition to the recentring of Conservative Party ideologies and historical memory around Margaret Thatcher. His isolated position from the political establishment is observable just in the titles of the two posthumous volumes of his work, the aforementioned Confessions of a Heretic and Against the Tide. Although he set out his ideas in a considered and respectable way, too many were simply unwilling to engage with them in a likewise manner. Many still respond to Scruton with acrimony, whilst the Conservatives have only performed a cursory lip service to particular aesthetical ideas since his death out of some feeling of guilt for unjustly defenestrating him.

If describing Scruton as a heretic is apt, as Douglas Murray argues in his introduction to the revised edition of Confessions, then what is stopping us from deeming him a radical? Dispel the mental images of students with red banners and flags, for their ever-shifting political positions are the restless present’s fashion. Instead, compare Scruton’s traditional and conservative worldview with the society of today. To bring about Scruton’s desired “oikophilia,” that being to restore the family and a sense of place as vital pillars of binding individuals together in a genuine national community, would require the total upending of the existing political order and its most cherished pieces of legislation. Just removing the cosmopolitan precepts and infiltrations would necessitate the abrupt end of the Blairite paradigm and either the liquidation or assimilation of our European Union regulatory inheritance, which recent governments have only attempted piecemeal.

Scruton may not have written his works like an aggressive demagogue, yet neither did many of the other thinkers younger and more innovative minds are now referencing as they attempt to synthesise solutions to the present’s manifold problems. These minds’ ostensible radicalism would not embroil the Anglosphere in a quasi-Trotskyite permanent revolution since comparisons to a ruling progressivism, whereby a commonly regarded normal reality is suspended as a roadblock to progress, render the majority drastically desynchronised. With most of the canon of this civilisation having been dismantled by the same forces, it is almost expectable that the novel elements in the right today germinate from disparate ideas and thinkers. Moreover, their realisation of political conflict is partly a reflection that any intellectual developments made nominally on the right will be met, as Scruton was during his career, with ferocious hostility by those of an opposite political disposition. In fact, the reaction to Scruton’s 1985 book Thinkers of the New Left is a clear example of this, in that his identification of the destructive tendencies of New Left and postmodernist thinking saw it hounded out of print and Scruton barred from any further academic career.

Yet what is to become of these British “Young Scrutonians,” with whom the recently relaunched Salisbury Review identifies itself? It is laudable that Scruton’s ideas have found their way into several continental governments and possess substantial European academic interest, but it seems they will not materialise here so easily. I doubt the Conservative Party will ever embrace him, regardless of the outcome of future elections; the machine selects for loyalty whereas Scruton was no sycophant. If we accept Scruton was comparatively a radical during his career and treated as such, then the home of “Young Scrutonians” is within the broad and vibrant spectrum of ideas which rest firmly within the bounds of sanity yet have been rejected by the narrowly modern liberal political parties as heresy.

I do not describe a “marketplace of ideas,” which some classical liberals delude themselves about, rather a dazzling crucible of the fruits of over two thousand years’ worth of human minds. Scruton is certainly within the intellectual traditions making up this space and has the potential for his works to have quite the voice in determining what emerges from the crucible in the coming months and years. One side of this is obviously the sheer volume of Scruton’s work and within that the diverse range of topics he discussed at length. The other side is those who are willing to defend his work, apply it, further it and so on to maintain his legacy. It seems a good number are interested in those tasks, whether through the Roger Scruton Legacy Foundation or as a result of personal discovery. There is perhaps an exclusive potential for the next generation of men of letters and anti-academic intellectuals to arise from the novel elements of the right, Scruton being a great springboard and role-model for those in the future who might arbitrate the paradigm shift this country so desperately needs. In that case, the only question is whether aspiring individuals can maintain a similar level of willpower to him to fulfil such duties.

In other words, the barrier to a deserved flourishing of Scruton’s thoughts amongst the British right is insignificant. Those in the party machine will remain unperceptive, but beyond lies an audience with more commonalities to these “Young Scrutonians” than they might first realise. Their intellectual journey towards becoming radical Scrutonians is only a nominal one, for a simple analysis of the situation shows their worldview is already radically against the ruling paradigm. This cannot be shied away from, since embracing Scruton’s place within such a wealth of other fascinating seams of ideas should only prove beneficial for all who are positively engaged with them. Scruton provided an undeniable depth and purpose to his conservatism, thus it is on his proponents to make the fullest use of them in the philosophy he contributed to and ultimately in changing society for the better.

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The Betrayal of Lampedusa

“At midnight tonight her borders will be opened. Already, for the last few days, they’ve been practically unguarded. And I’m sitting here now, slowly repeating, over and over, these melancholy words of an old prince Bibesco, trying to drum them into my head: The fall of Constantinople is a personal misfortune that happened to all of us only last week.” – Jean Raspail, Camp of the Saints, Epilogue (1973).

Within the last 48 hours, the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa, once host to 6000 Italians, has been overrun by upwards of 18,000 African migrants, the vast majority of whom are military-age men. Some of them have been shipped to Germany, but they continue to vastly outnumber the native population.

Since their arrival, the migrants have taken to fighting amongst themselves, struggling over the island’s waning and already limited resources, with local officials struggling to maintain control. As every astute observer of politics and history will know, violence within the in-group is typically remedied by violence against an out-group, making the possibility of further and more severe chaos, far from a hamstrung hypothetical, a very real threat at this time.

In no uncertain terms, Lampedusa is experiencing an invasion, one which has been instigated without any formal declaration of war between nations yet will afflict the island in much the same way.

Given the nature of this event, I am reminded of Jean Raspail’s The Camp of The Saints, the final words of which provide the opening to this article. The author grimaces as the last outpost of European civilisation, Switzerland, is forced to capitulate to the ‘rules-based international order’, having been outcast as a rogue state for closing its borders amid a continent-wide migrant invasion.

Lampedusa is symbolic of the transformation which has occurred in towns and cities across all of Europe. From England to Italy, from Spain to Poland, from France to Germany, from Sweden to Greece, mass immigration from Africa and the Middle East, as well as Eastern Europe to a lesser and more regionalised extent, has radically transformed the essence of many European settlements, altering them in such a way not seen since Antiquity.

In England, in this year alone, we’ve become well-acquainted with the dire consequences of mass immigration. From rising tensions between the Blacks and South Asians in Peckham to ethnoreligious violence between Indians and Pakistanis in Leicester, divisions which the established order has tried to dilute by promoting anti-white rhetoric in the name of intersectional social justice.

Amid this litany of troubling events, it is easy to forget our European friends face many of the same problems, and that such problems are not an idiosyncratic quirk of the British state.

Unfortunately, similar to such cases, many will not feel sympathy for the people of Lampedusa. Some of native descent in Europe will remark on the inevitability of this ordeal, as if it was apolitical in nature or without a realistic alternative. Erstwhile, some of foreign descent will wryly remark that such an invasion is deserved; if not ‘deserved’, then a change for the better, and if not a change for the better, then negligible happenstance unworthy of press coverage.

Our leaders have known about Lampedusa’s troubles for no less than 20 years. However, instead of preventing such activity, they have spent decades trying to transform illegal migration to a standard bureaucratic procedure. If you can’t beat them, join them!

Since the early 2000s, Lampedusa has been a prime transit point for African and Middle Eastern migrants seeking to enter Europe. Migrants have been paying smugglers to ship them to the island, from which they are transported to the Italian mainland for processing.

Not that any of the processing matters of course. Those without the right to stay, even under Europe’s distinctly liberal asylum laws, continue to live on the mainland, as their deportation orders are barely enforced.

When the Italian government struck a deal with the Libyans in 2004, obliging the latter to accept African immigrants deported from Italian territories, the European Parliament condemned the agreement, and the ensuing repatriations, as unconscionable, unworkable, and quite possibly, illegal.

In 2009, roughly 2000 migrants overwhelmed the island’s asylum facilities. Only capable of accommodating 850 people, the migrants started to riot. How dare the people of Lampedusa be so unprepared for their completely unscheduled, unsustainable arrival!

Catching word of the riot, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) quickly issued a condemnation; not of the traffickers, not of the authorities, or the migrants, but of the Italian people.

In May 2011, roughly 35,000 migrants had landed on the island since the start of the year. By August, the number had increased to roughly 50,000, with most of the arrivals being men in their 20s and 30s. Compared to the recent arrivals, it is clear things have not changed in this respect either.

Following the 2013 Lampedusa Disaster, in which a boat carrying over 500 migrants, mostly from Eritrea and Somalia, sank off the coast, resulting in at least 300 deaths, Pope Francis prayed not for the natives, but those complicit in a criminal operation to illegally enter their home.

In 2015, from January to April, over 1500 migrants died on the route from Libya to Lampedusa, making it the deadliest migrant route in the world, and just as was the case two years prior, efforts went towards making the trafficking network more legal, more safe, and more efficient, rather than ending the practice altogether.

Consequently, boats needn’t travel far off the coast of Africa to be brought to the mainland by the EU or the UN. The prevailing political mentality is that migrant deaths in the Mediterranean are best averted when the EU, the UN, or some other official organisation does the traffickers’ dirty work for them, showing little-to-no consideration for the domestic consequences of their precious so-called ‘humanitarianism’.

In the case of Lampedusa, the idea that an island of one community should become an island of two, lacking a tangible sense of common belonging, situates both groups into a state of war, and such a war is unjust, both in the sense it is unnecessary, and in the course which it is likely to follow, assuming it is not dealt with in a fitting manner.

From the Pelagies to the Aegeans, every island in the Mediterranean is the first in a trail of dominoes, each of increasing size, intersecting at every European capital, with every tremor created from their fall being more forceful than the last.

I do not want what has happened in Lampedusa to happen tomorrow, the day after, next week, next month, next year, or ever after. It is the height of political and moral arrogance to plunge an entire community of people, overnight no less, into such existential uncertainty.

To subject anyone, native or foreigner, to such sordid and egregious indignity is to betray every metric of justice, and anything short of mass deportations, the immediate defunding of complicit NGOs, and the destruction of every treasonous convention and law, will amount to nothing but betrayal, a betrayal of Lampedusa and all the peoples of Europe.

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Richard Weaver: A Platonist in the Machine Age

“Modern man is a moral idiot.” – Richard M. Weaver. 1948. Ideas Have Consequences. 

The American cultural critic Richard Weaver (1910-1963) is unfortunately an obscure figure. However, I can’t conceive a thinker whose message would be of greater interest or novelty for the contemporary world. Weaver bewails the decadence and hopelessness of the twentieth century as much as Oswald Spengler or Jose Ortega y Gasset. Yet his account of their causes is far more philosophical: his explanation of the “dissolution of the west” is that it has abandoned its classical heritage.   

For Weaver was a latter-day High Tory. A Platonist who thought ancient Greek mores were still alive among folk in the rural American south (his first work was on this very topic, see: The Southern Tradition at Bay). Already an oddity in the 1930s, he was the sort of conservative that has barely existed in the mainstream Anglophone world since the nineteenth century.

Weaver’s great work is Ideas Have Consequences, from 1948. It carries a single thesis from beginning to end. Europe’s mental decadence began at the close of the Middle Ages. It was then that the English churchman William of Ockham decided to abandon a doctrine almost universally held before him. A doctrine common to Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics. A doctrine believed by Catholics, Jews, Orthodox, and pagans. This doctrine is realism

This is my partial review and partial meditation on Weaver. His prose is vast, so I can only chew over a selection of what it covers. I shall focus on three issues which stand out to me: fragmentation, the spoiled child psychology, and what Weaver calls the “great stereopticon”. 

Realism is the view that abstract entities exist. For example, if I see the sun, a basketball, and a balloon, and call these all “spheres”, that word “sphere” refers to something separate from my mind. When I say, “All these things are spherical”, that term “spherical” describes a real feature of how the world truly is.  

It was the widespread opinion of ancient and medieval people that such concepts as “redness”, “roundness”, “catness” and “humanity” were the basic building blocks of reality. These were the patterns that individual things conformed to, to make them what they are. Each one acts like the blueprint for a building. In the same way a pile of bricks isn’t a dome unless it has roundness, a pile of bones and organs isn’t a dog unless it has “dogness”. That is, unless it conforms to the pattern of an idealised dog.

Realism then allows for nature to have a sort of duty inherent to it. For, if to be a dog is to conform to the pattern of an ideal dog, then this pattern is what dogs should be. A dog that doesn’t eat meat, doesn’t play fetch, and doesn’t wag his tail fails to be a proper dog; and so, we call it a “bad” dog. Likewise, to be human is to embody the ideal pattern of “humanity”. Good people embody it better, and bad people embody it less. 

This means morality is a simple movement from how we are to how we ought to be if we fulfilled our ideal. Beings come into the world imperfect. They only arrive at their proper pattern through hard training and discipline. Moral rules like “don’t steal” and “don’t lie” are guides to help us get from one point to the other by telling us what being an ideal human consists of. Just like “eat meat”, “play fetch” and “wag your tail”, are commands telling the dog how to be a proper dog. This understanding is what, for example, informs Stoicism. Marcus Aurelius insists that the good man is virtuous regardless of what others do or say to him. Because his goodness consists of fulfilling an ideal pattern of conduct, which doesn’t change with the words or actions of others.  

What if we deny all this though? What if, like William of Ockham, we declare this all superstition, and say general terms only refer to our own thoughts? This would make us nominalists, a word derived from the Latin nomen meaning “name”. We’d be saying abstract terms are mere names in the mind; conventions for grouping things together, which truly have nothing in common. This is where Weaver is true to his name and weaves us the consequences. 

First, nature goes from how things should be to how things just are. Without ideals for things to aspire to, it becomes impossible to talk of imperfection. If there’s no ideal dog, for example, then there’s no such thing as a deficient dog. Dogs come in many shapes and sizes, some eat meat and live to fourteen, others never eat, and they die at one. But all are equally natural and morally neutral.

Applied to people, this causes the death of virtue. For, without an ideal human personality type, all our instincts, inclinations and desires also become morally neutral. Nature produces some people with an extreme hunger, and others with almost none. The human mind and body go from something that must be cultivated to meet an ideal, to a machine that runs on automatic. Passions just happen and calling them flawed now seems ridiculous. Weaver writes, “If physical nature is the totality and if man is of nature, it is impossible to think of him as suffering from constitutional evil”.

Fragmentation results from the loss of an ideal to hold knowledge together. For, where the ideal concept of a thing is lost, there’s no one principle to explain its parts. The blueprint of a house, once in my mind, makes everything about it understandable at a glance. But without the blueprint, the atrium, room, and corridor lose all meaning (imagine explaining what a corridor is to someone without any notion of a house and what it should look like). Since, from the realist perspective, the ideal is what determines knowledge, the long-term consequence cannot be but the elimination of truth. 

As Weaver then says, modern man, “Having been told by the relativists that he cannot have truth, (…) now has “facts.”” Gentlemen of the Middle Ages to the eighteenth century, he notes, had a broad humanistic knowledge. They had it because they were schooled in a classical worldview. The gentleman of Ancien Regime Europe sought not pedantic obsession, but to know how ideals relate to each other. So he was like an architect, having the whole plan of the building before him. He could then inform the more expert workmen how best to make this plan a reality. 

 The gentleman has been gradually replaced by the specialised technocrat as the ruler of western societies. Every field (biology, economics, architecture, etc.) becomes isolated from the rest, and presents itself as the unique solution to all problems. Those who practice them, the technocrats, are each busy making the world in the image of their chosen subjects. The technocrat asks neither why, nor wherefore, but only how. This is, for Weaver, the “substitution of means for ends”. Since, having lost the plan which gives purpose to learning, the tool now becomes the aim. Statecraft becomes a competition between obsessives, who each advance only their own segregated hobbies because they no longer serve human nature. 

Modern man is a “spoiled child” according to Weaver. The path to this is indirect, but obvious when seen. Once ideals are denied, everything that seems fixed and permanent becomes liquid. The cosmos is a machine which we can take apart and reassemble to our own fancy. A cat, for example, isn’t a natural type which ought to have four legs, meow, eat meat, etc. It’s a pile of flesh and bones just so arranged into cat-like shape. We can therefore change it as we see fit. And since humans ourselves have no ideal pattern to conform to, what we see fit is anything whatsoever. This is what Francis Bacon, the father of modern science, sets out to do when he says nature should “be put on the rack”, for our benefit.

Our own goodness, in other words, has come apart from any natural limit. This means goodness is now limitless pleasure (pleasure being the only thing remaining when all purpose is removed from nature). So, man becomes a “spoiled child” because he demands the fabric of reality itself be bent to his delight. Science goes from the quest for wisdom to the slave of indulgence. Progress now means destroying whatever stands in the way of comfort and convenience. The masses get used to thinking of nature not as what exists, but as an enemy that must be overcome. Rights without duties are the inevitable result. 

Here Weaver, the abstract metaphysician, makes a practical point. The spoiled child endlessly consumes, because he sees no limit to his pleasure, and appetites grow with the feeding. Yet production means enduring discomfort for the sake of an end, and hedonists are averse to this. The hardest worker is the person who believes work improves him; the one who thinks the human ideal is fulfilled by work. But “The more [modern man] is spoiled, the more he resents control, and thus he actually defeats the measures which would make possible a greater consumption”. 

Nominalism is the philosophy of consumption, but realism is the philosophy of production. A nominalist culture thus runs the risk of collapse through idleness. 

A stereopticon, or stereoscope, is an old-fashioned machine used to look at three-dimensional stereoscopic images; the ancestor of 3D glasses. Weaver likens mass media in nominalist societies to a stereopticon because its aim is to maintain an illusion. For, Weaver thinks, the above modern project of specialisation, hedonism, and progress at all costs is fated to fail. If ideal concepts truly exist outside the mind, then all attempts to ignore them will end badly. They shall re-assert themselves at every attempt to destroy them, and thwart whatever projects are built on their denial.

As the ideal drops out, society fragments into myriad groups with incompatible perspectives. Like the blind men in the Buddhist proverb, each one touches the elephant and calls it a different animal. The biologist, the head of a social club, the accountant, and engineer; each fails to see the higher truth that unites his vision with the rest. Modern states face, then, the problem of getting these specialised obsessives to agree to a common action or set of beliefs. Thus, it presses mass media for this purpose. Radio, cinema, and television spin a narrative where endless consumption makes people happy, and progress is irresistible and unrelenting. Journalists and directors adopt a single “unvarying answer” to the meaning of life: pleasure, aided by technology and consumption. 

Weaver believes the effect is to re-create Plato’s cave through media. The prisoners, chained in a cave, are forced to watch the parade before them: vapid film stars, gung-ho newsreels, advertisements for cars and coffee makers. They are spiritually and mentally starved yet believe the cure to their trouble is the shallow, materialistic life portrayed on the cave wall. This is not grand conspiracy according to Weaver. Rather, a society with such bloodless aspirations is forced to use propaganda. The unhappiness it causes would otherwise be too obvious for people to bear: “They [media] are protecting a materialist civilization growing more insecure and panicky as awareness filters through that it is over an abyss.”

Such a propagandised civilisation, our author warns, will suffer cyclic authoritarian spasms. Conditioned to think progress is relentless, modern man “… is being prepared for that disillusionment and resentment which lay behind the mass psychosis of fascism.” Long gone are the gentlemen who could move us from how we are, to how we ought to be, if we fulfilled our ideal. When the stereopticon fails, the public looks to anybody who can impose duties on them. These tend to be thugs fed on the same materialism as everyone else. 

In conclusion, Weaver paints a picture of a culture undergoing a long, agonising death, yet clinging to the fantasy of its own life. Societies whose false idols are failing cope like a balding man whose hairs retreat ever more. He compensates with a combover until there’s nothing left to comb. Nominalism creates a contradictory culture. Glorifying pleasure, it expects heroism. Fragmenting the sciences, it expects wisdom. Destroying a common ideal, it expects its citizens to form a common front. 

The treatment is polemical, and not a replacement for reading philosophers themselves. As a Platonist, Weaver unnecessarily denigrates Aristotle at times, blaming him for the decline of the medieval worldview. Yet some authors of similar politics to Weaver (like Heinrich Rommen or Edward Feser) would dispute this. He also glosses over Enlightenment projects like those of Rousseau and Kant without much analysis (Charles N. R. McCoy criticises them in much more satisfying detail). But for one wanting an overview of how a single wrong turn can doom a whole culture, Weaver’s clarity is unparalleled. His work is especially good as a locus classicus, with which to compare current trends against. Seldom, in my reading, do I find Weaver has nothing to say on a given topic.

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The Dualism of Contemporary Archaeology

Time Team was an amazing programme. It was educational yet accessible, undeniably British and true to its discipline. Really, it was everything one could wish for from a television programme. Beyond the screens, it was just as successful in blasting a hole into the ivory tower of academic archaeology, the programme’s lack of gatekeeping and obfuscation opening a realm previously exclusive to university departments.

In 2006, its presenter claimed Time Team had published more reports on its excavations in the past decade than every university archaeology department combined, whilst criticising the shortcomings of the activity (or somewhat lack thereof) within the academic establishment. From the passion of the assembled historians and archaeologists in each episode, it is not difficult to believe this may have been the case.

Broadcaster politics and the pursuit of demographic ‘relevance’ destroyed this British staple rather swiftly in the early 2010s. In retrospect, it was the last hurrah for British archaeology before it wholly sank into the same cultural strife engulfing the rest of modern academia. However, it would be unwise to discard contemporary archaeological activities as nonchalantly as one might do with the rest of the humanities. Due to its fundamental characteristics, a unique dualism now exists within the discipline which merits some attention.

Readers will likely be able to guess many of the negative consequences contemporary culture has imparted onto academic archaeology, chiefly since they are the same as in other humanities subjects. These are focussed on the interpretations made beyond excavations in published writing, thus in the part of the discipline which is closest to modern history’s general malfunctioning. Both disciplines suffer from a homogenous progressive politics amongst academics, so generally hegemonic outcomes of that sort are all but guaranteed for the foreseeable future.

This renders discussion of certain historical subjects completely taboo, even when the tangible evidence is revealed by archaeologists, lest academics be seen to support a supposedly ‘toxic’ mindset about the past or something similarly in contravention of their worldviews. History is neither a story of progress, nor a proof of progressive values’ precedence and inevitability, but such facts are amongst those ignored by a paradigm of deconstruction.

Perhaps more disturbingly, for people of any political persuasion, archaeology can prove civilisations are not immortal and can fall in a wave of decisive violence in the right conditions. The anonymous archaeologist Stone Age Herbalist covered the flaws of contemporary academic archaeology in greater detail in an article for UnHerd last year, which I certainly recommend.

As for the other side of contemporary archaeology, the discipline remains defined by recovering tangible evidence of the past from nature, in other words a bedrock of empirical objectivity. If one puts aside the declining rigour of historical interpretations, the basic role of an archaeologist remains vital for our understanding of the past and its transmission to future generations. The past archaeologists excavate is less ‘living’ than, for instance, an extant Tudor manor, but is still has ample potential to animate the mind about how our ancestors once lived and contributes a great deal to our verifiable knowledge of history.

A couple of examples worth praising are in order. First, the ancient city of Pompeii should be at least vaguely known to all readers. After all, it is one of the most impressive archaeological sites in the world, accompanied by the allure of its dramatic demise to Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. About a third of the city remains unexcavated, but is generally off-limits from further work in favour of extensively conserving previously unearthed buildings.

However, excavations restarted over the last few years in areas last dug over a century ago have brought forth a wealth of new discoveries, and digs on a new insula (city block) to relieve pressure on exposed walls have been widely reported for a fresco depicting something reminiscent of a pizza. The story of Pompeii is only growing richer as a result of this new archaeology. Second, a lot less readers will know about cuneiform, let alone be able to read it. Globally, only a few hundred people can competently translate the oldest known form of writing used by the Sumerians and Akkadians, whereas archaeologists have found some half a million clay tablets inscribed in cuneiform. Digitisation projects in recent years have aided the accessibility of these artefacts, but the scarcity of scholars yet hampers our recovery of that past.

Therefore, a paper published in May discussing a new project to translate Akkadian with neural machine translation might revolutionise our knowledge of ancient Mesopotamia. In essence, it uses similar technology to Google Translate to render Akkadian cuneiform as meaningful English phrases or sentences. Accuracy is far from ideal, as formulaic texts are translated with some skill by the program whereas literary texts are practically out of the question, but the prospect of substantial usefulness in the future exists without making Akkadian scholars redundant.

What does all this tell us? Contemporary archaeology derives an ultimately negative trajectory from its academic overseers, but this is indistinguishable from the rest of academia in the current deconstructive paradigm. Whilst the discipline is buttressed by an inherent tangibility and objectivity which still produces new discoveries, it should not be overlooked when discussing a restoration of academia towards renewed sense. Indeed, such a project will start from a better basis in archaeology than any other subject in the humanities.

I severely doubt archaeologists will begin grinding artefacts into dust which reinforce uncomfortable facts about human nature, but similar effects can be achieved more subtly by the custodial institutions. Archives and museums increasingly see their collections through a far more reductive and essentially monochromatic lens, with all the nuance therein of a medieval executioner by trading in absolutes. These institutions have developed culturally modish tactics to bypass their natural approach to tangible history and enable presentism to abound, removal to storage being the bluntest. One should not need to remind readers how much poorer the world will be in terms of future maintained knowledge the longer this persists.

We are almost lucky contemporary archaeology possesses characteristics that cannot let transient perspectives fully dominate. They may become the only tools left in the humanities to fight the entropies of this age, until such time as we remake the others ourselves.

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Stop Pigeon Hate

Why is the pigeon so hated? Is it due to his availability as a target? After all, he is a common sight in our towns and cities, so common he can seem like an omnipresent nuisance.

Maybe it’s his appearance? Admittedly, he is less stunning than other birds; his generally grey countenance is far less pleasing than the radiant scheme of a kingfisher or the sparkled wings of a starling.

Perhaps it’s his stature? Small and stout, he’s certainly an easier target than any bird of prey, lacking the brawn of an eagle or the sleekness of a falcon.

Whatever the case, the pigeon does not have a good reputation. Recently, he has faced criticism for a variety of reasons, from trying to liberate mankind from its self-imposed enslavement to mass media, to taking over a house after the landlord made the avoidable mistake of leaving the windows open for four weeks.

In my view, the public’s attitude towards pigeons can be best summarised with a well-known, albeit not entirely original, comment from Ken Livingstone, former Mayor of London: “pigeons are rats with wings.”

Now this is simply not true. Given the opportunity, the pigeon shows himself to be a considerate and upstanding member of our society, which is certainly more than can be said for many of its human participants.

Naturally, some nuance is required. After all, there are many different types of pigeon and there is no strict distinction between a pigeon and a dove, the latter of which has marginally better connotations, such as being a symbol of peace and salvation.

The largest and most common pigeon in the UK is the woodpigeon. Shy and tame, they are mostly grey with white patches on its neck and wings. Although primarily found in rural areas, they can also be found in more urban areas.

Due to their sizeable presence, you’ve definitely heard their call, especially if you live in suburban England. The soundtrack to a gloomy Sunday evening, their gentle cooing stirs a sense of melancholy in the local children, reminding them they have got school tomorrow.

Secondly, there is the collared dove, which gets its name from the black mark which stretches around the back of its neck. Pale brown, with reddish eyes and feet, unless there’s a buffet on offer, they’re almost exclusively seen on their own or in pairs.

Indeed, the collared dove’s unwavering monogamy is arguably more defining than the mark to which it owes its name. Wrapping only half-way around it’s neck, hence it’s comparison to a collar, when united with another collared dove, it becomes a full matrimonial ring. How’s that for nature’s poetry?

Then, there are rock doves. Also known as the feral pigeon, they are ancestors of domesticated pigeon. Coming in a diverse range of colours, from dark blue to black, from pale grey to white, from a rustic brownish orange to a brick-red.

These are the urban sprawl of pigeons. Whilst all creatures are innocent until proven guilty, should you find a stray blob of poop on an inner-city pavement, he’s going to be your prime suspect. When people speak of rats with wings, they think of the cooing greaseball known as the rock dove.

Similar to rock doves, stock doves have darker feathers, especially on their rump and wings, a distinct green neck patch, and a pink chest. Concentrated in the English midlands and southwest, becoming rarer in northern Scotland and Ireland, the UK is home to over half their European population.

However, unlike the rock dove, the stock dove is less likely to be seen in urban and suburban areas, preferring farm life to big city living. This is because he is generally shyer and more averse to humans than his cosmopolitan cousin.

Finally, the turtledove is the runt of the flock, being only slightly bigger than a blackbird. Arriving in the UK in spring and leaving for Africa in winter, its feathers are a distinctive mottled mix of a black and golden brown, with a white-rimmed black tail.

Unlike his relatives, the turtledove is a picky eater, choosing to indulge on cereal grains, oilseed rape, and chickweed. Unfortunately, due to his refined tastes, the turtledove has been in decline since the mid-90s, largely due to a lack of his favourite delicacies.

Given this, we can see that the pigeon is not merely a rat with wings. All at once, the pigeon is a sensible everyman, a young lover, a boisterous yuppie, a country bumpkin, and a persecuted aristocrat. They are diverse and endearing creatures with varying personalities and habits, reputations and interests, but much of the public want to exterminate him over a few measly droppings.

Every bird defecates, but the pigeon is solely hated for doing so. It’s for this reason I militantly oppose anti-pigeon architecture. Every public building in Britain is glazed with spikes, ruining their appearance in the name of protecting it.

On several occasions, I have sat in York station, waiting for my train home, with a quiet emotional investment in pigeons looking for somewhere to perch, watching them steer clear of the spikes, mentally cursing the communist station master who had them installed.

I’d prefer railway staff clean up bird droppings than behave like members of the Cheka, indulging their pathetic power fantasies by shouting at people for standing less than a country mile behind the yellow line. Mate, mate, mate. Health and Safety, yeah?

Following the riots of Oxford Street, which included looting and violent clashes with the police, one left-wing academic suggested the chaos could’ve been avoided if the rioters had access to public swimming pools.

As most people realised at the time, this suggestion is ridiculous on a number of levels. For one, unlike animals, humans have an innate tendency towards evil. It is easy to imagine machete brawls between illiterate migrants and fake bomb threats by TikTok pranksters overrunning such places.

However, it raises an important, if only loosely related question: why are there so few public birdbaths?

Despite his reputation as a feathered hobo, the pigeon is quite a cleanly creature, taking every chance he gets to fastidiously groom himself.

We have a birdbath in our garden, and we have many regulars, our most well-known being an especially rotund and fluffy woodpigeon, whom my mother affectionately refers to as Fat Wilbur.

I do not see this ‘winged rat’ Livingstone speaks of. Wilbur makes his stop, does what he needs to do, takes in the atmosphere, before moving on his way, not wanting to overstay his welcome. Should other pigeons accompany him, he makes room, as they do for him, and all is well.

The idea that such tranquillity could emerge in a society as presently low trust as ours is simply absurd. Of course, being a pigeon, it’s unlikely he does this for any pretentious, perception-based reason. Indeed, his fixation must be rooted purely in the value of cleanliness itself!

However, contrary to pervasive anti-pigeon sentiment, the pigeon is not only a cleanly creature, but a clever one too.

It can be hard to accept that pigeons, creatures known for flying into windows and pecking at cigarette butts, can distinguish between Picasso and Monet, but they can. In fact, according to the scientific research we have, pigeons are amongst the most intelligent birds in the world, showing a variety of relatively complex cognitive abilities.

Of course, whilst it is undeniable that humans are much smarter than pigeons, we do not use our superior faculties particularly well.

Whilst humanity may be threatened by the whims of idiots or a lack of imagination, hindering our ability to innovate and develop, our kind is similarly threatened by overthinking.

As a result, we deny ourselves the ability to be authentic, we shun risks in the name of avoiding embarrassment and pain when such risks could just as easily bring us laughter and joy. In the words of Paglia: “consciousness has made cowards of us all.”

As such, we should not be surprised when pigeons manage to be funnier than us. Just by being what they are, pigeons are funnier than basically every living comedian. Every wannabe BrewDog-sipping funny man, with his safe-edgy humour and hashed-out irony, fails to be more amusing than a random birb going about its business.

Walking around in circles, sporadically pecking the pavement, stopping occasionally to exhibit his dumbfounded ‘the lights are on, but nobody’s home’ expression, bobbing its head like its listening to a really good song, it is a grave fault in our being that a character as innocently absurd as this is considered less amusing than James Acaster.

Even the mere idea of a pigeon is funnier than most human attempts at humour. Go ahead, in your mind, visualise a pigeon (don’t worry, the cops can’t do anything… yet). You see that? Now that’s comedy. If you deny this, you Just Don’t Get It. Not much I can do about that.

Looking at these odd creatures, has nobody once thought: what are they up to? What’s their game? Why did they peck there and not there? Why did he take flight for seemingly no reason? Is there some secret pigeon meeting he needs to get to? What’s his schedule? Does he have time for an interview?

Yet, despite his apparent gormlessness, it is clear pigeons are far more sensitive than the average human.

If you’ve ever commuted anywhere via public transport, you’re no doubt familiar with the hectic nature of it all. From the loud noises to the chaotic stampedes, from the excruciating delays to the dodginess of certain folk, commuting isn’t exactly what most people would call an enjoyable experience.

Of course, whilst we might find certain aspects of commuting more annoying than others, we all agree on one thing: the worst part of commuting is other people.

Compare this to the pigeon, who shows consideration for personal space, does not play loud music, doesn’t try to con you out of your money, and generally minds its own business, preferring to get out of your way, rather than get into it.

If what Sartre says is true, that hell is other people, perhaps heaven is to be in the company of animals. More to the point, who is better company on a long commute than a pigeon?

Undoubtedly, the pigeon is not a faultless creature, and the shortcomings of us and other beings cannot excuse or undo this fact. That said, any fault which can be found with the pigeon can easily be remedied by human custodianship. We must spare him from the misguided disdain of busy adults and the clumsy tyranny of misbehaved children.

Pigeons are not flying rats, nor are they government spies. They are our friends and we should treat them as such. Stop Pigeon Hate!

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Soundbites Over Sound Ideas

‘It’s a no to NOS.

We will ban nitrous oxide, also called laughing gas, putting an end to the littering of empty canisters and intimidation in local parks.’

This tweet by Downing Street earlier this year tells you everything you need to know about its policies. In an attempt to curb antisocial behaviour and littering, the government wants to ban nitrous oxide, more commonly known as laughing gas.


Ok, is it the worst policy in the world? No. It’s probably one that most people would agree with. The problem is that the government has said that banning it would end the issues described. It’s a plaster on a stab wound.

That’s what the government likes to do. It likes to offer pretty promises that won’t do anything to curb real issues.

Anti-Social Behaviour 

Anti-social behaviour is evident in our communities. The elderly may grumble about how ‘kids in my day had more respect’ and to give them credit, they’ve got a point. 

Society has a lot to say as to why this is. One reason given is the destruction of the nuclear family, especially fatherlessness. Studies have shown that children who grow up in single-parent families, particularly those without a father present, are more at risk of becoming criminals. Others point to a lack of discipline in the home and school. Scottish teaching unions warn that teachers are at risk of dismissal and unfair treatment when disciplining children. 

Banning nitrous oxide will not solve the problem of anti-social behaviour. They will still drink and smoke weed and cause chaos. They will continue because they know that they can get away with it. The government and other authority groups are yet to actually come up with a solution to these problems. If they continue to allow criminals to get away with things, then they will.

Labour often blame the Conservatives for this. The usual line is that the Tories have slashed funding for youth and community centres, which encourages crime and anti-social behaviour. This is an argument many refute. Many live in areas with parks and swimming pools and leisure centres. These are free and accessible activities. Bored kids don’t go out and rob. These are kids with no discipline or regard for other people. It’s easy to find something to do these days. Instead, lack of discipline and glamourising such a lifestyle fuels this epidemic. 


The Welsh government has unveiled plans to restrict 2-for-1 deals, multibuys and other deals on ‘unhealthy’ foods. They have argued that it will help decrease obesity and diabetes.

The English government did a similar thing in 2022, banning sweets and junk foods from being displayed near tills. 

The logic behind them is as follows: it will stop people impulsively buying junk food and will prevent kids from begging their parents for treats at the till. Suddenly, obesity and diabetes will drop.


Obesity is more than just junk food. Firstly, perhaps the government should acknowledge that a lot of parents and people in general have a thing called self-control. They can easily avoid sweets or just tell their children ‘no.’ Sure, some may fall into it, but many can resist temptation.

Secondly, people will also still go down the sweet aisle. They will still get treats, even if they’re a little further down.

Thirdly, the government can bog off controlling lives. 

In a cost of living crisis, one would think making things more expensive is just a bad idea. If the government was to actually tackle costs, then maybe healthier food would be easier to buy and make. They cannot get rid of convenience, but it would be nice if prices were better. With more and more people feeling the squeeze, the idea of affordable good food is a tempting one indeed. 

One must also factor in things like exercise. Eating alone does not solve health problems. Once again, our elders will complain that kids don’t go outside because they’re glued to a screen. I don’t like to give it to them, but again, how often do you see a toddler being pacified by a tablet? 

Both indoor and outdoor sports are easily available. It does not even have to be organised- anyone can have a kickabout in the park. Perhaps we could encourage more PE and sports at school. It’s not just kids either- we should all move about a little more. 


Once again, the government wants to ban something. This time, it’s oil boilers that are on the chopping block. The plans would see those not connected to the gas grid be forced to find a new source of heat. 

Having new boilers and heat sources installed is not cheap- it can cost up to tens of thousands to replace. That is money not many people have. Add that to high heat and energy bills, mix in the cost of living crisis, and you have a terrible policy.

The plan is a clear attempt to win over environmentalists. Politically, it’s extremely stupid. Most hardcore environmentalists won’t vote Tory anyway. Secondly, rural areas are usually Conservative. Annoying your voters is not a great idea, especially when you’re lagging in the polls.

It’s a policy that is not only politically useless, but it’s actively hurting people’s finances. Once again, the government claims to know best. It’s a pretty soundbite policy, but not a solution.

Once the government decides to find actual solutions- or even just stick their noses out- things could actually improve a bit. Instead, they just focus on nice graphics and soundbites sent out by their press officers. It’s idealism and stupidity in equal measure. 

Political spin seems to be the in thing. They tell us what they think we’d like to hear as opposed to using their limitless powers to help. If they are going to get involved in our lives, then let it be for the better. 

Soundbites don’t work and the second the government realises that, then progress can be made.

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Immaturity as Slavery

“… but I just hope the lad, now in his thirties, is not living in a world of secondhand, childish banalities.” – Sir Alec Guinness, A Positively Final Appearance. 

The opening quote comes from a part of Alec Guinness’ 1999 autobiography which greatly amuses me. The actor of Obi Wan Kenobi is confronted by a twelve-year-old boy in San Francisco, who tells him of his obsessive love for Star Wars. Guinness asks if he could do the favour of “promising to never see Star Wars again?”. The lad cries, and his indignant mother drags him away. Guinness ends with the above thought. He hopes the boy is weaned from Star Wars before adulthood, lest he become a pitiful specimen. 

Here enters the figure of the twenty-first century man-child, alias the “kidult”. He’s been on the radar for a while. Social critic Neil Postman prophesies the coming of “adult-children” in The Disappearance of Childhood from 1982. American journalist Joseph Epstein calls this same creature “The Perpetual Adolescent” in a 2004 article of the same name. But the best summary of this character I’ve yet found is by the writer Jacopo Bernardini, from 2014, to which I can add but little.

The kidult is one who lives his life as an eternal present. As the name suggests, his life is a sort of permanent adolescence. He is sceptical of traditional definitions of adulthood, so has deliberately shunned milestones like marriage and childbearing, in favour of an unattached lifestyle which lasts indefinitely. His relations with other people remain short and shallow; based entirely on fun and mutual use (close friendships or passionate love-affairs are not for him).  

Most importantly, the kidult doesn’t change his tastes or buying habits with age. The thresholds of adolescence and maturity have no bearing on the things he likes and purchases, nor how he relates to these things. Not only does he like the same toys and cartoons at thirty as he did at ten, but he continues to obsess over them and impulsively buy them like when he was ten. Enjoying childhood fare isn’t a playful interlude, but a way of life which never ends. He consumes through instant gratification, paying no thought to any long-term pattern or goal.

Although it must not strike the reader as obvious, I think there exists a link between Guinness’ “secondhand, childish banalities” and a kind of latter-day slavery. To see the link needs some prep work, but once laid, I think the reader will see my point. 

First to define servility. I believe the conservative writer Hilaire Belloc gave the best definition, and I shall freely paraphrase him. The great mass of people can be restricted yet not servile. Both monopolistic capitalism and socialism reduce workers to dependency, but neither makes them entirely slaves. Under capitalism, society retains an ideal of freedom, enshrined in law. Even as monopolists manipulate the law with their money, the ideal remains. Under socialism, state ownership is supposed to give all citizens leisure to do what they want (even as the state strangles them). In either case then, freedom is present as an ideal in theory even as it ceases to exist in practice. Monopolistic and socialist states don’t think of themselves as unfree.  

Slavery is different. A slave society has relinquished even the pretence of freedom for a large mass of the working people. Servility exists when a great multitude are forced to work while having no productive property, and no economic independence. That is, a servile person owns nothing (or effectively nothing) and has no choice whatsoever over how much he works or for whom he works. Most ancient civilisations, like Egypt, Greece, and Rome were servile, with servility existing as a defined legal category. That some men were owned by others was as enshrined by law as the ownership of land or cattle. 

Let’s put a little Aristotle into the mix. There are two kinds of obedience: from a free subject to a ruler, and from an unfree slave to his master. These are often confused but distinct. For while the former is reasonable, the latter involves no reason and is truly blind. 

True authority is neither persuasion nor force. If an officer argues to a soldier why he should obey, then the two are equals, and there’s no chain of command. But if the officer must hold a gun to the man’s head and threaten to execute him lest he do his duty, this isn’t authority either. The soldier obeys because he’s terrified, but not because he respects his superior as a superior. True authority lies in the trust which a subordinate has for the wisdom and expertise of a superior. This only comes if he’s rational enough to understand the nature of what he’s a part of, what it does, and that some people with knowhow must organise it to work properly. A sailor understands he’s on a ship. He understands that a ship has so many complex functions that no one man could know or do them all. He understands that his captain is a wiser and more experienced fellow than he. So, he trusts the captain’s authority and obeys his orders. 

I sketch this Aristotelian view of authority because it lets us criticise servility without assuming a liberal social contract idea. What defines slavery isn’t that the slave hasn’t chosen his master. Nor that the slave doesn’t get to argue about his orders. A slave’s duty just is the arbitrary will of his master. He doesn’t have to trust his master’s wisdom, because he doesn’t have to understand anything to be a slave. That is, while a soldier must rationally grasp what the army is, and a citizen must rationally grasp what society is, a slave is mentally passive.

Now, to Belloc’s prophecy concerning the fate of the west. The struggle between ownership and labour, between monopoly capitalism and socialism, which existed in his day, he thought would result in the re-institution of slavery. This would happen through convergence of interests. The state will take an ever-larger role in protecting workers through a safety net, that they don’t starve when unemployed. It will nationalise key industries, it will tax the rich and redistribute the wealth through welfare. But monopolies will still dominate the private sector. 

Effectively, this is slavery. For the worker is protected when unemployed but has entirely lost the ability to choose his employer, or even control his own life. To give an illustration of what this looks like in practice: there are post-industrial towns in Britain where the entire population is either on welfare or employed by a handful of giant corporations (small business having ceased to exist). To borrow from Theodore Dalrymple, the state controls everything about these people, from the house they inhabit to the school they attend. It gives them pocket-money to spend into the private sector dominated by monopolies, and if they want to work, they can only work for monopolists. They fear neither starvation nor a cold night, but they have entirely lost their freedom. 

This long preamble has been to show how freedom is swapped for safety in economic terms. But I think there’s more to it. First, the safety may not be economic but emotional. Second, the person willing to enter this swindle must be of a peculiar mindset. He must not know even a glimmer of true independence, lest he fight for it. A dispossessed farmer, for example, who remembers his crops and livestock will fight to regain them. But a man born into a slum, and knowing only wage labour, will crave mere safety from unemployment. Those who don’t know autonomy don’t long for it.

There now exist a troop of companies that market childish goods for adult consumption. They typically do this in one of two ways. First, offering childish products to adults under the guise of nostalgia. The adult is encouraged to buy things reminding him of his childhood, with the promise that he will relive it. Childish media and products are given an adult spin, and remarketed. Toys are rebranded as collectibles. Children’s films get unnecessary, adult-oriented, sequels or remakes (what Bernardini calls “kidult movies”). Originally child-friendly festivals or theme parks are increasingly marketed to childless adults.   

The second way is by infantilising adult products. Adverts, for example, have gradually replaced stereotypical busy office workers and exhausted housewives with frolicking kidults. No matter how trivial, every product that is not related to Christmas, is now surrounded by giddy, family-free people engaged in play. The message we’re meant to get is that the vacuum cleaner or stapler will free us to act like children. By buying these things, we can create time for the true business of life: bouncing and smiling with one’s mouth open. 

I believe infantilism to be a kind of mental slavery. In both the above examples, three elements combine: ignorance and mass media channel anxiety into childishness. This childishness then binds the victim in servitude to masters who take away his freedom while robbing him in the literal sense.

An artificial ignorance created by modern education is the first parent of the man-child. Absent a proper and classical education, the kidult’s mind is an empty page. Lack of general knowledge separates him from the great achievements of civilisation. He cannot seek refuge in Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, or Dante, for he has never heard of these. He cannot draw strength from philosophy and religion for the same reason. Neither can he learn lessons from history, for the world begins only with his own birth. Here is a type of mental dispossession parallel to an economic one. Someone utterly ignorant of the answers great people have given to life’s questions will seek only safety, not wisdom.

The second parent is anxiety. Humans have always been terrified of the inevitable decay of their own bodies, followed by death. The wish for immortality is ancient. Yet the modern world, with its scepticism, creates a heightened anxiousness. When all authority and tradition has been deconstructed, there is no ideal for how people ought to live. Without this ideal, humans have no certainty about the future. Medieval people knew that whatever happened, knights fought, villeins worked, and churchmen prayed. Modern man’s world is literally whatever people make of it. It may be utterly transformed in a very short time. And this is anxiety-inducing to all but the most sheltered of philosophers.

Add to this the rise of a selfish culture. As Christopher Lasch tells us, the nineteenth century still carried (in a bastardised way) the ideal of self-sufficiency and virtue of the ancient man. Working and trading was still tied to one’s flourishing in society. Since 1960, as family and community have disintegrated, the industrialised world has degenerated into a Hobbesian “war of all against all”. A world of loneliness without parents and siblings; lacking true friends and lovers. When adulthood has become toxic and means to swim in a sea of disfunction, vulgarity, substance abuse and pornographic sexuality; it’s no surprise some may snap and long for a regression to childhood. 

Mass media is the third condition. It floods the void where education and community used to be. The space where general knowledge isn’t, now gets stamped by fiction, corporate advertising, and state propaganda. These peddle in a mass of cliches, stereotypes, and recycled tropes. 

My critique of kidults isn’t founded on “good old days” nostalgia, itself a product of media cliches. Fashions, customs, and culture change; and the citizen of today doesn’t have to be a joyless salaryman or housewife to count as an adult. Rather, the man-child phenomenon is a massive transfer of power away from the small and towards the large. The kidult is like an addict, hooked on feelings of cosy fun and nostalgia which are only provided by corporations. These feelings aren’t directed to the good of the kidult but the organisation acting as a dealer. The dealer controls the strength and frequency of the dose to get the wanted behaviour from the addict.     

Now we see how kidults can be slaves. First, they’ve traded freedom for safety (false as it is) like Belloc’s proletarians made servile. Unlike the security of a traditional slave, this is an emotional illusion. The man-child believes that there’s safety in the stream of childish images offered to him. He believes that by consuming these the pain of life will cease. Yet man-children get no material or mental benefit from their infantilism. Indeed, they’re fast parted from their money, while getting no skills or virtues in return. The security is merely psychological: a Freudian age regression, but artificially created. 

Second, while authority in Aristotle’s sense means to swap another’s judgement for your own, for the sake of a common good you understand; here you submit to another’s judgement for the sake of their private good, which you don’t understand. Organisations seeking only profit or power impose their ideas on the kidult, for their benefit. An immature adult pursues only pleasure, lives only for the present, and thinks only in frivolous stereotypes and cliches implanted during childhood. He’s thus in no position to understand the inner workings of companies and governments. He follows his passions like a sentient puppet obeying an invisible thread, leading always to a hand just out of sight. 

In the poem London, William Blake talks about “mind-forg’d manacles”. These are the beliefs people have which constrain their lives in an invisible prison of sorts. For what we think possible or impossible guides our acting. Once mind-forg’d manacles are common to enough people, they form a culture (what’s a culture if not collective ideas on how one should act?). Secondhand childish banalities are such mind-forg’d manacles if we let them determine us wholly. Their “secondhand” nature means the forging has been done for us, and this makes them more insidious than ideas of our own creation. For if what I’ve said above is true, they threaten to make us servile. If enough people become dependent on secondhand childish banalities, as the boy who met Alec Guinness, then the whole culture becomes servile. Growing up may be painful, but it’s a duty to ourselves, that we remain free.

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