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Liberalism and Planned Obsolescence

Virtually everyone at some point has complained about how their supposedly state-of-the-art phone, tablet, laptop, or computer doesn’t seem quite so cutting-edge when it either refuses to work properly or ceases to function entirely after a disappointingly brief period of time. This is not merely the grumblings of aggravated customers, but a consequence of “planned obsolescence.” The term dates back to the Great Depression, coined by Bernard London in his 1932 paper Ending the Depression Through Planned Obsolescence, but a practically concise definition comes courtesy of Jeremy Bulow as “the production of goods with uneconomically short useful lives so that customers will have to make repeat purchases.” Despite being an acknowledged (and in some cases encouraged) practice, it is still condemned; both Apple and Samsung have faced legal action on multiple occasions for introducing software updates which actively hinder the performance of older devices. In the face of all this, planned obsolescence isn’t going anywhere so long as there is technology, nor does anyone expect it to. It is, as death and taxes are, one of the few certainties of life.

As the title of this essay suggests, I do not intend to delve any further into the technological or economic ethics of planned obsolescence. Interesting as they may be, I want to focus on how the concept appears in a political context; more specifically, in liberalism.

One of the core tenets of liberalism is a belief in the “Whig interpretation of history.” In his critique of the approach, aptly titled The Whig Interpretation of History, Herbert Butterfield outlined the Whig disposition as being liable to “praise revolutions provided they have been successful, to emphasize certain principles of progress in the past and to produce a story which is the ratification if not the glorification of the present.” To boil it down, it is the belief that history is a continuous march of progress, with each successive step freer and more enlightened than the last. A Whiggish liberal is dangerously optimistic in their opinion that history has led to the present being the greatest social, economic, and political circumstances one could hitherto be born into. More dangerous still is their restlessness, for as good as the present may be, it cannot rest on its laurels and must make haste in progressing even further such that the future will be even better. The pinnacle of human development lasts as long as a microwave cooking a spoon, receiving for its valiant effort little other than sparks, fire, and irreparable damage resulting in its subsequent replacement.

The unrepentant Whiggery of the modern world has prompted scholars of the Traditionalist School of philosophy to label it an aberration amongst all other societies, as the first which does not assign any inherent value to, or more accurately, openly detests, perennial wisdom (timeless knowledge passed down through generations) and abstract metaphysical truths. In the words of René Guénon, “the most conspicuous feature of the modern period [is its] need for ceaseless agitation, for unending change, and for ever-increasing speed.” Quite literally, nothing is sacred. One of the primary causes of this is that modernity, defined by its liberalism, is materialist, and believes that anything and everything can and should be explained rationally and scientifically within the physical world. The immaterial and the spiritual are disregarded as irrational, outmoded and unjustifiable; it is, as Max Weber says, “disenchanted.”

To understand this further, we must consider Plato’s conceptions of the two distinct natures of the spiritual and the material/physical world, “being” and “becoming” respectively. Being is constant and axiomatic, characterised by abstract ideas, timeless truths and stability. Becoming on the other hand, as the nature of the physical world, reflects the malleability of its inhabitants and exists in an endless state of flux. Consider your first car, it will alter with time, the bodywork might rust and you may need new parts for it, and indeed it may eventually be handed on to a new owner or even scrapped entirely. Regardless of what changes physically, its first car status can never be separated from it, not even when you no longer own it or it’s recycled into a fridge, for it will always hold a metaphysical character on a plane beyond the material.

Julius Evola, another Traditionalist scholar, succinctly defined a Traditional society as one where the “inferior realm” of becoming is subservient to the “superior realm” of being, such that the inherent instability of the former is tempered by orientation to a higher spiritual purpose through deference to the latter. A society of liberalism is unsurprisingly not Traditional, lacking any interest in the principles of being, and is instead an unconstrained force of pure becoming. Perhaps rather than disinterest, we can more accurately characterise the liberal disposition towards being as hostile. After all, it constitutes the “customs” which one of classical liberalism’s greatest philosophers, John Stuart Mill, regarded as “despotic” and a “hindrance to human development.” Anything which is perennial, traditional, or spiritual is deleterious to the march of progress unless it can either justify its existence within the narrow rubric of liberal rationalism, or abandon its traditional reference points and serve new masters. With this mindset, your first car doesn’t represent anything to do with the sense of both liberation and responsibility that comes with being able to transport yourself, it is simply a lump of metal to tide you over until you can get a more expensive lump of metal.

Of course, I do not advocate keeping a car until it falls to pieces, it is simply a metaphor for considering the abstract significance of things which may be obscured by their physical characteristics. In the real world, the stakes are much higher, where we aren’t just talking about old cars but long-standing cultural structures, community values and particularisms, and other such social authorities that fall victim to the ravenous hunger of liberal progressivism.

The consequence of this, as with all things telluric, material, or designed by human effort, is impermanence. Without reference to and deliberate denigration of being, ideas, concepts and structures formed within the liberal system have no permanent meaning; they are as fickle as the humans who constructed them. Roger Scruton eloquently surmised this conundrum when lambasting what he called the “religion of Rights”, whereby human rights, or indeed any concepts of becoming (without spiritual reference, or to being) are defined by subjective “moral opinions” and “legal precepts.” Indeed “if you ask what rights are human or fundamental you get a different answer depending whom you ask.” I would further add the proviso of when you ask, as a liberal of any given period appears to their successors as at best outdated or at worst reactionary. Plucking a liberal from 1961, 1981, 2001, and 2021, and sitting them around a table to discuss their beliefs would result in very little agreement. They may concur on non-descript notions of “freedom” and “equality”, but they would struggle to find congregate over a common understanding of them.

To surmise, any idea, concept or structure that exists within or is a product of liberalism is innately short-lived, as the ceaseless agitation of becoming necessitates its destruction in order to maintain the pace of the march of progress. But Actual people, regardless of how progressive or rational they claim to be, rarely keep up with this speed. They tend to follow Robert Conquest’s first law of politics: “everyone is conservative about what he knows best.” People are naturally defensive of the familiar; just as an aging iPhone slows down with time or when there’s a new update it can’t quite cope with, so too will liberals who fail to adapt to changing circumstances. Sadly for them, the progressive thirst of liberalism requires constant refreshment of eager foot-soldiers if its current flock cannot keep up, unafraid to put down any fallen comrades if they prove a liability, no matter how loyal or consequential they may have once been. Less, as Isaac Newton famously wrote, “standing on the shoulders of giants”, more “relentlessly slaying giants and standing on a pile of their fallen corpses”, which as far as I’m aware no one would ever outright admit to.

You don’t have to look particularly far to find recent examples of this. In the 1960s and 70s, John Cleese pioneered antinomian satire such as Monty Python and Fawlty Towers, specifically mocking religious and British sensibilities. Now, in response to his assertion that cultural and ethnic changes have rendered London “no longer English”, he is derided for being stuffy and racist. Indeed, Ken Livingstone, Boris Johnson, and Sadiq Khan, the three progressive men (in their own unique ways) who have served as Mayor of London since its establishment in 2000, lined up on separate occasions to attack Cleese, with Khan suggesting that the comments made him “sound like he’s in character as Basil Fawlty.” There is certainly a poetic irony in becoming the very thing you once satirised, or perhaps elegiac for the liberals who dug their own graves by tearing down the system, only to become the system and therefore a target of that same abuse at the hands of others.

Another example is George Galloway, a staunch socialist, pro-Palestinian, and unbending opponent of capitalism, war, and Tony Blair. Since 2016 however, he has come under fire from fellow leftists for supporting Brexit (notably, something that was their domain in the halcyon days of Tony Benn, Michael Foot, and Peter Shore) and for attacking woke liberal politics. Other fallen progressives include J. K. Rowling and Germaine Greer, feminists who went “full Karen” by virtue of being TERFs, and Richard Dawkins, one of New Atheism’s four horsemen, who was stripped of his Humanist of the Year award for similar anti-Trans sentiments. All of these people are progressives, either of the liberal or socialist variety, the difference matters little, but their fall from grace in the eyes of their fellow progressives demonstrates the inevitable obsolescence innate to their belief system. How long will it be until the fully updated progressives of 2021 are replaced by a newer model?

On a broader scale, we can think of it in terms of generational divides regarding social attitudes, where the boomers and Generation X are often characterised as the conservatives pitted against the liberal millennials and Generation Z. Yet during the childhood of the boomers, the United Nations was established and adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and when they hit adolescence and early adulthood the sexual revolution had begun, with birth control widespread and both homosexuality and abortion legalised. Generation X culture emerged when all this was fully formed, and rebelled against utopian boomer ideals and values in the shape of punk rock, the New Romantics, and mass consumerism. If the boomers were, and still are, ceaselessly optimistic, Generation X on the other hand are tiringly cynical. This trend predictably continued, millennials rebelled against Generation X and Generation Z rebelled against millennials. All of them had their progressive shibboleths, and all of them were made obsolete by their successors. To a liberal Gen Zer in 2021, it seems unthinkable that will one day be the crusty boomer, but Generation Alpha will no doubt disagree.

Since 2010, Apple’s revolutionary iPad has had 21 models, but the current could only look on in awe at the sheer number of different versions of progressive which have been churned out since the age of Enlightenment. As an object, the iPad has no choice in the matter. Tech moves fast, and its creators build it with the full knowledge it will be supplanted as the zenith of Apple’s capabilities within two years or less. The progressives on the other hand are inadvertently supportive of their inevitable obsolescence. Just as they were eager not to let the supremacy of their ancestors’ ideas linger for too long, lest the insatiable agitation of Whiggery be halted for a moment, their successors hold an identical opinion of them. Their imperfect human sluggishness will leave them consigned to the dustbin of history, piled in with both the traditionalism they so detested as well as the triumphs of liberalism that didn’t quite get with the times once they were accepted as given. Like Ozymandias, who stood tall over the domain of his glory, they too are consigned to a slow burial courtesy of the sands of time.

As much as planned obsolescence is a regrettable part of modern technology, so too is it an inescapable component of liberalism. Any idea, concept, or structure can only last for a given time period before it is torn down or has its nature drastically altered beyond recognition to stop it forming into a new despotic custom. Without reference to being, the world and its products are left purely in the hands of mankind. Defined by caprice, “freedom”, “equality”, or “democracy” can be given just as quickly as they can be taken, with little justification required other than the existing definition requiring amendment. Who decides the new meaning? And what happens to those who defend the existing one? Irrelevant, for one day both will be relics, and so too shall the ones that follow it. What happens when there is no more progress to be made? Impossible to say for certain, but if we are to take example from nature, a tornado once dissipated leaves behind only eerie silence and a trail of destruction, from which the only answer is to rebuild.


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Politics is About Winning

In the aftermath of the 2020 Presidential Election, Joe Biden proclaimed victory with a vomit-inducing call for unity. “They are not our enemies. They’re Americans. This is the time to heal in America”. Such pleas are suspect when you’ve spent the last four years treating the other camp as enemies; deplorable Neo-Nazi maggots that need removing from society, etc. “Coming together as Americans” would be easier to do if a common American identity still existed; a concept that politicians like Biden have always felt uncomfortable talking about. Trump’s allegations of election fraud have caused outrage, but why should they? Given that his opponents have convinced themselves he’s a tyrant comparable to Hitler or Mussolini, why wouldn’t they do everything they could to remove him from office? Democracy cannot sustain itself if it allows forces perceived to be anti-democratic to gain power via the democratic process. This is when the most self-righteous defenders of democracy, discover they are not, and cannot be, as “democratic” as they first thought. If the election was rigged, Biden becomes President, and he is seen as legitimate, then I must give him props. A masterclass in the art of winning.

Nevertheless, anyone with even a slither of intelligence can see this farce; rhetoric espousing the need for unity is not only disingenuous, little more than an implicit demand that your opponents should start agreeing with you, but also contrary to the notion of democracy. Democratic politics is irremovably state of conflict. At first, this seems a rather peculiar claim to make. Democracy can be divisive perhaps, but not a state of conflict. Conflict is a word we associate with war and terrorism; it is what democracy theoretically seeks to avoid, making it hard to imagine how these words can be synonymous. Nevertheless, it is reasonable to conclude that, as Carl Schmitt said: “the specific political distinction which political actions and motives can be reduced is that between friend and enemy”. The formulation of political motives cannot be removed from the formulation of political friends and enemies. Politics is about power, and if power is the ability to actualize one’s desires, then politics is the ability to triumph over the enemy in the pursuit of an end; politics is about winning.

Democratic politics is not an alternative to conflict, rather it is an obfuscation of it. If “war is the continuation of politics by other means”, then surely politics is the continuation of war by other means, or as Mao Zedong put it: “politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics without bloodshed”. Nevertheless, whilst we may concede that democratic politics is innately adversarial, defining it as a “state of conflict” sounds hyperbolic. Democratic politics is closer to contest than conflict. Both are fundamentally adversarial, but the former is chaotic and brutish, whilst the latter implies a sense of fair play, established rules, and marks of mutual respect. So be it, politics is a contest, even if contests are about winning.

Political contestation appears in many forms. Voting, joining a party, leafleting, petitioning, protests, debate, discussion, rhetoric, making your opponent look cringe, careerism, parallel institutions, etc. are all methods of contestation. We would separate these from methods of conflict: terrorism, revolution, civil war, etc. Unsurprisingly, bribery, blackmail, and deception fall in the ambiguous twilight zone. Nevertheless, whilst methods of contestation and methods of conflict are different, they both imply adversity and the attainment of victory. If one’s goal is victory, it shouldn’t come as a shock to suggest that some methods of contestation are more effective than others. After all, victory is achieved through assertion that is skilful and effective, rather than reckless or impotent. The idea that we must choose between meaningless debate and senseless violence is a delusion.

Darren J. Beattie was correct in his analysis as to why conventional conservative rhetoric has been so weak. Mainstream conservatism (see classic liberalism injected with a bit of transmogrified Trotskyism) rhetoric falls flat is because it is inherently pacifistic; it immediately puts conservatives on the defensive. Ascendant left-wing slogans by contrast does not have this problem. Their ideas are not posed for your consideration, they are commands by which you must abide. They are not policies, they are instructions. They are not posed as potential solutions; they are prescribed as the solutions. Sir Scruton also identified this problem, whilst the Left tells us we must march forward into the future, conservatives can only advise us to hesitate. Conventional wisdom has been taking a battering in recent times, but it appears that attack is still the best defence. Power is a vacuum to occupied, not something to be left in awe at. Fill it or your enemies will.

The idea that politics being downstream from Parliament is a disease. In the context of politics, the words “winning”, and “power” will be connotated with becoming an MP and forming governments. As such, it makes this doctrine common-sense to the partisan shill and problematic to the enlightened moralist. This is one of the reasons debating has become so futile; nobody agrees on what anything means. You will find that everyone nods their head at the word “equality” but ask them to clarify what “equality” means and you will find their hands at each other’s throats. Herein lies the fundamental rule: the metapolitical defines the political. As omnipresent as they are, bickering politicians and the parties they comprise are little more than pawns in a game of cosmic chess. What shapes them? Hegemony. Our politicians are shaped by the forces, attitudes, and ideologies that are ascendant. Not popular, but ascendant. Ways of thinking that everyone is expected to subscribe to. The subjects of the Prince can argue amongst themselves as much as they please, so long as they do not anger the Prince. For the Prince is the being around which they orient themselves; the Prince is hegemonic. As Machiavelli notes, it is important that the Prince’s priority that he be feared, rather than loved.

The Centre-Ground is a concept often banded around in politics. In divided times it is portrayed as a place to which we ought to return, an alternative to clustering at the polarising extremes. What is the centre-ground specifically? We are told it is the realm of reason as opposed to the dunes of dogmatism which lie beyond its borders. Much like the holy land, it is something in need of conquering, something to be held on to, and immediately recaptured when lost. Of course, this is all rubbish. It’s the kind of fanciful rhetoric that centrists insist they don’t indulge in. Centrism is a dead meme at best and cringe LARP at worst. Nevertheless, the Centre-Ground is an important concept because dissecting it can help us understand hegemony. Look to any self-identifying centrist individual, and you will find a cosmopolitan corporate-friendly establishment wet-wipe who flaunts their “high-status” opinions like the latest expensive consumer item.

However, it must be noted that hegemony is not static. As Macron has shown in France, secular hegemony cannot sustain itself by being a vacancy of something (in this case: state religion). Rather, it must define itself as something, necessitating exclusion. A secular republic cannot tolerate pockets of Islamism if it wants to remain a secular republic. As such we now find Macron, the establishment liberal technocrat, espousing rhetoric expected of Marine Le Pen. The rules are clear: hegemony is not only necessary, it needs to be asserted or it will be lost. Hegemony, even if cannot become a totality, is obligated to move in the direction of becoming one. The irony of secularism is that, despite its portrayal as a liberating nothingness, it is no different than religions in a theocracy; it must do more than exist, it must reign like Jupiter.

Hegemony is an organic manifestation. It is subject to ascent, apotheosis, and decline. It is not immune to contest, corruption, and death. As with hegemony on the international stage, when it is decline it becomes assertive and militant to sustain itself when it is challenged by a potential alternative. This is perhaps why the rise of right-wing populism across the West has coincided with more combatant and coercive forms of egalitarianism. Politics is a contest for power, and like all contests requires a winner and a loser. Contests end in the following ways: victory, stalemate, or defeat. Defeat and stalemate, obvious differences aside, do not depose hegemony. Only by winning can the groundwork for a new order commence. The Thucydidean Trap is escaped only though victory.

Moldbug quipped: “if you can explain to me how democracy can be a good thing and politics a bad thing then… you must know something I don’t”. The effect of a politicised populous has on the social fabric is entropic. Given the array of frontiers that a liberal democracy opens for contestation, it eventually finds it necessary level of cohesion there are subjects and values which become incontestable. When everything is up for contestation, there is chaos. To avoid chaos, somethings must be made incontestable; the things to we can say we all agree upon, that which we have in common. The paradox being that what should be considered incontestable is a highly contested matter; that the apolitical is not immune to politicisation.

Marcus Rashford’s campaign to extend and expand the serving of school meals is a good recent example of how the idea of humanity is made distinct from political matters. The government’s decision was not a political one, it was display of “a lack of humanity”. What is one man’s idea of humanity is another man’s political matter. Under such circumstances, how does one engage in rational discourse? Short answer is that they don’t. What appears in the place of rational discourse? Nothing pretty. Of course, the thought of people violently clashing on the streets of London like political street-gangs in Weimar Germany over whether to tweak a school-meal policy is absurd, although it does make for some bitter squabbles. Besides, such a concept may not be so absurd if the subject matter was substituted for something for fundamental. For instance, are we comfortable to put something as fundamental as the basic essence of our civilization to a vote? Is this really something we can afford to disagree about? Life is defined by degrees of difference; some differences are trivial whilst others more severe, some differences may not actually exist, whilst others are real and downright fundamental. It is when those trivial differences exhaust themselves, in the process of becoming fundamental, is an impasse reached and conflict burdens.

When hegemony is truly challenged, a political disagreement mutates into a Manichean struggle between lightness and darkness, between the “human” and the “inhumane”. This is perhaps why the term “Taking the Red Pill”, the breaking of an illusion as seen in The Matrix, has become so prominent in dissident right circles; it implies that the sanctity of the Cathedral has become contestable. The idea of neutrality is important as it implies a lack of contestation, and therefore it is fair to say neutrality is a product of hegemony. To “win” at politics is not to win an election or win a debate, it is to achieve hegemony; it is to turn something from contestable to something incontestable, it is making whatever opinion you may hold, benchmark of neutrality; neutrality defined in your own terms.

Is losing a contradiction of the idea politics is about winning? No, of course not. Losing implies the existence of winning, and to point out someone’s loss is to concede that it was their intent to win, because it was necessary. You may win the war, but if you aren’t flying your colours by the end of it then it has all been for nothing. Nobody goes into politics to lose; what matters is that people don’t want to. Politics is a realm of contestation. If you have political desires but do not actively contest on behalf of them, then you are destined for disappointment and failure. If you don’t have political desires to contest on behalf of, you shouldn’t be in politics. The former is unaware of the nature of politics, whilst the latter reduces it to a conduit from which to extract things that, albeit are useful for achieving political end goals, are themselves not political (e.g. money, wealth, prestige); politics turns from something to be a part of to something be in. It is better to lose fighting for your ideals, than winning on the behalf of someone else.

The contradictory nature of politics is that it is both viewed as a private matter, something personal, and yet it is something which inherently concerns matters beyond just the self. The word politics comes from politiká: “the affairs of the cities”. The foundation of the City of Rome is encapsulated in story Romulus’ murder of his brother Remus, a story that summarises the ruthless nature of politics. However, as Machiavelli wrote of Romulus’ actions in The Discourses: “the end is good, it will always excuse the means; since it is he who does violence with intent to injure, not he who does it with the design to secure tranquillity, who merits blame. Such a person ought however to be so prudent and moderate as to avoid transmitting the absolute authority he acquires, as an inheritance to another; for as men are, by nature, more prone to evil than to good, a successor may turn to ambitious ends the power which his predecessor has used to promote worthy ends”.


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Fukuyama, Huntington and The New World Order

In the aftermath of the Cold War, a 45-year ideological struggle between the two major superpowers, the USA and USSR, several political scholars have offered forecasts concerning the future of conflict and the geopolitical climate post-1991. Two men rose to dominate the debate, one encapsulating a liberal perspective and the other a realist one – and in the decades since, their ideas have come to form the foundations of modern international relations theory.

The first was the political scientist and economist Francis Fukuyama. A Cornell and Harvard alumnus, Fukuyama proposed his thesis in an essay titled ‘The End of History’ (1989), and later expanded on it in his book The End of History and the Last Man (1992). Essentially, he posits that with the collapse of the Soviet Union came the resolution of the battle of ideas, with liberal democracy and free trade having emerged as the unchallengeable winners.

Society, according to Fukuyama, had reached the end of its ideological evolution – global politics has, since the fall of the USSR, been witnessing ‘the universalisation of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government’. Indeed, we’ve certainly seen a massive increase in liberal democracies over the past few decades, jumping from 35 in 1974, to 120 in 2013 (or 60% of states). Additionally, the broad adoption of free trade and capitalism can be seen as delivering benefits to the global economy, which had quadrupled since the late 1990s.

Even communist states, Fukuyama said, would adopt some elements of capitalism in order to be prosperous in a globalised world economy. For example, the late 1970s saw reformists (such as Chen Yun) dominating the Chinese Communist Party and, under Deng Xiaoping’s leadership, the socialist market economy was introduced in 1978. This opened up the country to foreign investment, allowed private individuals to establish their own businesses, and privatised agriculture – these monumental reforms have resulted in spectacular economic growth, with many forecasters predicting that China will overtake the US as the world’s largest economy by around 2028. We’ve seen further evidence of this turn away from communism in favour of capitalism and freedom: upon its founding, the Russian Federation explicitly rejected the ideology, and many former Eastern Bloc states have enthusiastically adopted liberal democracy, with many also having since joined the European Union.

Regarding the example of China, however, the suppression of freedoms and rights has also been a staple of the CCP’s rule, especially under the current leadership of Xi Jinping. This links to a broader and fairly major critique of Fukuyama’s thesis: the growth of authoritarianism across the globe. With Law and Justice in Poland, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, and Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines (not to mention various military coups, including Turkey in 2016), liberal democracy is undeniably under threat, and clearly not the globally agreed-upon best system of government (this is particularly concerning as it applies to two major powers, China and Russia). Furthermore, 9/11 and the 7/7 bombings serve as pretty hallowing examples of an ideological clash between Western liberalism and Islamic fundamentalism – more broadly radical Islamism has emerged as an ideological challenger to both the West and to secular governments in the Middle East and North Africa.

The second was the academic and former political adviser Samuel P. Huntington. A seasoned expert in foreign policy (having served as the White House Coordinator of Security Planning for the National Security Council under Jimmy Carter), Huntington laid out essentially a counter-thesis to Fukuyama’s, which first took the form of a 1993 Foreign Affairs article, and then a book in 1996, The Clash of Civilisations and the Remaking of World Order. Conflicts in the past, Huntington argues, had been motivated by a desire primarily for territorial gain and geopolitical influence (e.g.  colonial wars of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were attempts to expand the economic spheres of influence of Western imperialist powers).

However, in the 21st Century, the primary source of global conflict will be cultural, not political or economic (and will be primarily between Western and non-Western civilisations). Thanks to globalisation and increasing interconnectedness, people will become more aware of their civilisational roots and of their differences with others – they will aim to entrench and protect these differences, rather than seek common ground with other civilisations.

The Clash of Civilisations identified 9 civilisations specifically: Western (USA, Western Europe, Australasia), Orthodox (Russia and the former USSR), Islamic (North Africa and the Middle East), African (Sub-Saharan Africa), Latin American (Central and South America), Sinic (most of China), Hindu (most of India), Japanese (Japan), and Buddhist (Tibert, Southeast Asia and Mongolia).

Huntington also highlighted the possible revival of religion, Islam in particular, as a major potential issue: it would come to represent a challenge to Western hegemony in terms of a rejection of Western values and institutions. His Foreign Affairs article featured the line ‘Islam has bloody borders’, suggesting that the Islamic civilisation tends to become violently embroiled in conflict with periphery civilisations – Huntington cites the conflicts in Sudan and Iraq as major examples.

It is clear, although still a touchy subject for politicians and policymakers, that Radical Islam poses a serious threat to the safety and stability of the Western world. Aside from aforementioned terror attacks, the rise of extremist fundamentalist groups such as the Taliban in Afghanistan and al-Shabaab in Somalia represents a larger opposition to Western values. However, Huntington’s failure to consider the deep divisions within the Islamic world (especially between Sunnis and Shias) is a major criticism of his argument. Additionally, many of the civilisations he identified show little interest in a clash with the West, mainly as it wouldn’t be in their economic interest to do so (such as India, Japan and Latin America, who are all very interdependent on Western powers).

The Clash of Civilisations thesis does, however, offer a number of steps that the West could take to prevent a potential clash. It should pursue greater political, economic and military integration, so their differences will be more difficult to exploit. Just last year we saw a clear example of this, in the form of AUKUS, the security pact between Australia, the UK and the US.

NATO and European Union membership should be expanded, with the aim of including former Soviet satellite states, to ensure they stay out of the Orthodox sphere of influence. Fortunately for the West, 2004 alone saw NATO admit Romania, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovakia and Slovenia, followed in 2009 by Albania and Croatia. The military advancement of Islamic nations should be restrained, to ensure they don’t pose a serious threat to the West’s safety – a clear example of this is the 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal, reducing the nation’s stockpile of uranium to ensure it couldn’t become an anti-Western nuclear power.

Finally, the West must come to recognise that intervention in the affairs of other civilisations is ‘the single most dangerous source of instability and conflict in a multi-civilisational world’. This is a message that Western politicians have certainly not heeded, especially in regards to the Islamic world – troops were sent into Darfur in 2003, Afghanistan in 2001, Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011.

In his 2014 book Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy, Fukuyama argues that his ‘End of History’ thesis remains ‘essentially correct’, despite himself recognising the current ‘decay’ of liberal democracy around the world. Both scholars’ predictions have, at periods of time in the post-Cold War era, looked very strong and, at other times, laughably incorrect and misguided. Both Fukuyama and Huntington still offer valuable insights into global dynamics between cultures, as well as the future of global tensions and conflict. However, both theses are undercut by the modern global landscape: democracy is currently on the decline, which undercuts Fukuyama, and civilisational identity remains limited, which undercuts Huntington. Regardless of who got it right, both men have undeniably pushed the debate surrounding the international order to new heights, and will no doubt be remembered as intellectual titans in decades to come.


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Slavophilism: The Russian Model for Anglo Conservatives

The idea is like a pair of glasses on our nose through which we see whatever we look at. It never  occurs to us to take them off’ – Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Photo Credit.

We Need a New Edward Watkin

This current period of postmodernity lacks a certain idea of permanence which our forebears once possessed. So much of what this civilisation produces, if one could still deem it such in its hyper-atomisation, is ethereal and consumable in a way that amounts to a sort of permanent revolution. Even those who still build tangible things in this society risk having no legacy. One only needs to think about all the mid-twentieth century modernist and brutalist architecture we destroy, to replace with not too dissimilar glass boxes, when considering the lifespan of today’s skylines or infrastructure.

If civilisation is to thrive once again, we could do worse than looking to a great visionary in our past as inspiration for a better future. I therefore propose Sir Edward Watkin (1819-1901) as an ideal role model for both his repeated proposals of grand projects and the almost surprising feasibility of all of them. I think it is worth first to give a historical account of him, then suggest a grand project based on his ideas.

In short, Watkin was the quintessential Victorian railway baron, yet so much more. The energy he possessed during his life was nothing short of astounding and went far beyond the railways for which he is mainly remembered today, but those achievements remain a good place to start.

From his first position in the industry as Secretary of the Trent Valley Railway in 1845 until the completion of the Great Central Main Line in 1899, Watkin’s presence was felt just about everywhere. ‘The Railway Doctor’ rescued the bankrupt Grand Trunk Railway in British North America and transformed it into the then longest railway in the world. His chairmanship of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway forged a vast network of lines across the industrial North West and North Midlands. He drove the Metropolitan Railway deep into the Middlesex countryside and beyond, ultimately creating swathes of London suburbia and a bevy of other towns. He steered the South Eastern Railway through the Panic of 1866 and further expanded it through that part of England. He became director of the Great Eastern Railway in 1868 and drove it out of bankruptcy, employing the help of fellow MP Viscount Cranbourne, later the 3rd Marquess of Salisbury and Prime Minister. He advised on railways in four continents and built the last main line in Great Britain until High Speed One over a century later. I might add that this list, however impressive it might be, is not exhaustive.

The ever-restless Watkin was not content with merely the above. Whilst saving the Grand Trunk Railway, he was enlisted by the Cabinet to take part in talks to create the Dominion of Canada. This resulted in a buyout of the Hudson’s Bay Company, which he personally negotiated after the British and colonial governments refused to do so. Elsewhere, he pioneered the first public parks in Salford and Manchester, as well as the first footpath in Britain dedicated for public use going up Mount Snowdon. Watkin developed Grimsby into the largest fishing port in the world and neighbouring Cleethorpes into a major Victorian resort. In 1894, he opened a large pleasure garden with a football pitch in a rural parish where the sheep outnumbered the people called Wembley. Readers might have heard of it. Again, this list of achievements is not exhaustive, and I am omitting most of Watkin’s political work in this article for the sake of brevity.

However, Watkin’s life and works were not without their faults, of which he is best known for two. The first was the Channel Tunnel, the only link in his envisioned railway from Manchester to Paris which was not built during his lifetime. He and his French counterpart successfully tunnelled 3.6 miles out of 22 under the English Channel before the British government forbade further work in 1882. This was the point when his contemporary critics pointed and said ‘now he really has gone mad’, but Watkin proved it was entirely possible over a century before the modern tunnel commenced digging. The site under Shakespeare Cliff and his twin tunnel design were both adopted in the 1980s. When the machine drilling the current tunnel broke into Watkin’s forcibly abandoned project, the engineers found it was dry after over a century of sitting abandoned.

The second mark against his reputation was the Metropolitan Tower, intended as London’s answer to the Eiffel Tower and the centrepiece of the aforementioned Wembley Park. The winning design from Watkin’s competition was to be 1,200 feet tall, 150 feet taller than the Eiffel Tower at the time, and the tallest structure in the world until the completion of the Empire State Building in 1931. If it had been completed, it would still be the tallest building in the United Kingdom today. Unfortunately, this would-be monument to heroic materialism was scuppered by a lack of willingness from investors to fund such an extravagant speculation. The first stage was finished in 1895 at a height of 154 feet, but a redesign several years prior to cut costs had already sealed its fate. Only four of the planned eight legs of the tower were built, putting too much pressure on the ground and leading to subsidence. Watkin’s Folly, as it had become known, met its fate via dynamite in 1907. Wembley Stadium now stands on the site, with its arch rising to 436 feet to serve as the constant advertisement Watkin had once hoped for his tower.

It is safe to say that if Watkin were on the parts of Twitter frequented by many readers of this publication today, he would be regarded as a radical Anglofuturist. His manifold ambitions demonstrate an absolute faith in the United Kingdom and its future at the forefront of global civilisation. With knowledge of some of his ideas, energy and determination, one can now imagine a grandiose yet entirely feasible project to strike a course away from national stagnation and decline.

We shall call it the Great Central Railway Company, a fitting revival of a name for what one can foresee as the backbone of a coherent and comprehensive railway system for modern Britain. This cannot be a state venture as most modern railway projects have become, subject as they are to hordes of overpaid bureaucrats and special interests. The GCRC would be a private company naturally responsible for every part of its operations and with the logical aim of out-competing Grant Shapps’s reheated British Rail in every way.

It would first be useful to lay out the technical and aesthetic quirks of this company’s core railways. China has been extremely industrious in its construction of very high-speed lines over the past decade or so, thus Britain can and should do the same. Our trains would be the old British-made InterCity stock on steroids, which one shall call the InterCity 325, with a top speed of 325kmh. It might be pandering, but perhaps we should also incorporate some ideas from the Mallard steam locomotive in these trains; it relates nicely that the refurbishment program for the InterCity 225 carriages was called Project Mallard. Aside from being a rather nice shade of blue, its curved front still maintains a surprisingly modern appearance despite it being over 80 years old.

Infrastructurally, this company would not mess around with glass boxes or minor ventures. GCRC main lines would have four tracks as a minimum to separate the local and freight trains from express services. Stations would be of a two-platform island design, plus as many more platforms as needed for express and branch line services. Smaller stations would be built with a dignified but cosy atmosphere in mind, whilst the larger stations would be designed akin to a palace for the people as the Great Central Railway’s Nottingham Victoria once was. I am quite sure this would actually turn out to be cheaper and more visually appealing than doing something artsy with glass and/or steel for the millionth time.

Now for some actual railway lines, of which I shall discuss two focussed around tunnels once thought of by Watkin. We shall start with what could be called the New Eastern Main Line at Dungeness, which Watkin once wanted to turn into a resort town like Cleethorpes, and strike northwest by ‘borrowing’ a rather straight freight line across the Romney Marsh. We shall carry on until Tenterden, whence it would curve slightly to brush by the east of Headcorn and then go on to Maidstone. There would have to be some urban negotiation by viaduct, as there would be in the Medway conurbation, before emerging into the open countryside of northern Kent around Wainscott. It would then move north, go under the Thames to Canvey Island, and begin its whistlestop tour of eastern English towns. It would travel past Benfleet, Hadleigh and Rayleigh (with interchange for London), then Woodham Ferrers, Chelmsford and Great Dunmow before reaching Stansted Airport to its east. Onwards it would go to Royston, Godmanchester and Huntingdon, then Peterborough (with a complete rebuild of its station) before reaching Spalding. In Lincolnshire, it would follow several mostly abandoned lines to Boston, Louth and Grimsby before ‘borrowing’ a couple more lines to reach a tunnel under the Humber at New Holland. We shall stop discussing this line in detail with Hull, with it having achieved Watkin’s plan of connecting Hull with the south, but from there it could easily go deeper into Yorkshire and beyond.

The other line I shall discuss will be the Great Central Main Line, but with a route beyond Watkin’s achievements which shifts this project from being defined by a semi-romanticised past for the sake of the present to defining the very future of this Kingdom. I think a new terminus next door to the original Marylebone but larger is fitting, then ‘borrowing’ the London to Aylesbury line from its current custodians. It would then follow the old railway up through Rugby, Leicester, Loughborough, Nottingham, Sheffield and finally Manchester via the Woodhead Tunnels, but from there we must go further north. It would make its way through Salford and Bolton before reaching Blackburn and Preston. Then it would go in a straight a line as practical near the M6 to Lancaster, Kendal, Penrith and Carlisle before reaching the Scottish border at Gretna. The next leg of this line would see a rather straightforward journey through southwest Scotland, the only towns of note on the way being Dumfries and Newton Stewart. However, at Stranraer we must irrevocably change the political and economic trajectory of the British Isles with a tunnel under the Irish Sea to Larne and ultimately Belfast. There may be a large munitions dump in Beaufort’s Dyke which would merit some praying during construction, but the benefits of joining the two main islands of the United Kingdom, even those which are merely symbolic, cannot be understated.

One could envision the natural evolution of dozens of branch lines serving further towns and cities from just these two lines alone. Indeed, the entire national infrastructure network could reorient itself with just a handful of main lines inspired by Watkin’s vision, prompting a new era of construction which merges the functionality of technology with our primordial desire towards the beautiful. These railway lines would also give many counties much-needed economic relevance through the secondary emphasis on freight, a far more prevalent aim of the railways from Victorian times until Beeching, giving eastern counties in particular the opportunity to have purposes other than being London’s barracks or middle-of-nowheres.

All that is needed is the money and willpower to see this project through. With a new Watkin in our midst, I am sure that we can once again find the willpower, wherefrom the money would follow, to reassert our faith in this country by building something remarkable. I hope readers agree.


Photo Credit.

In a Pandemic, Anarcho-Tyranny Reigns Supreme

Towards the end of February, the general public were graced with a brand spanking new billboard from the Merseyside Police Department. Was this new billboard highlighting the good work the police department was doing? Was it highlighting new Coronavirus guidelines? Was it alerting people to a new potential criminal threat that existed inside of the county? No. The new billboard brandished an LGBT rainbow flag and superimposed beside it lay, in large bold capital lettering, “Being Offensive is an Offence”. 

To no one’s surprise, this turned out to be part of a new campaign by Merseyside Police to combat ‘hate crime’ in the area and invite people to report it to the department. This was met with outrage with many calling it out as a chilling and horrible act by the Merseyside Police; illuminating how authoritarianism, identity politics and ‘wokery’ had seeped into the uniforms of our police service. The department did retract somewhat and apologised for stating that being ‘offensive’ was a crime – which they admitted it wasn’t – but they doubled down on the need for the public to report so-called ‘hate speech’ and ‘hate crime’, all the while stressing the need to show ‘solidarity’ with the LGBT community. Truly stunning and brave. 

The issue no one seems to be addressing is why on earth is Merseyside Police putting efforts into combating ‘hate crime’ when violent crime, the county’s main source of crime, has increased by 5% in the last year alone? Surely their time, money and efforts would be better spent dealing with rising violence in their county rather than unsettling the people of Merseyside with an authoritarian and inaccurate billboard? Perhaps not. After all, catching criminals is hard; controlling ordinary citizens is easy. 


The efflorescence of outrage over this event provides me an opportunity to bring back into the fold one of my favourite concepts – anarcho-tyranny. 

For those not aware, anarcho-tyranny is a concept which seeks to describe and explain how a state controls ordinary citizens in their behaviour but ultimately fails to enforce the protective rule of law; enabling crime and disorder to flourish while innocent citizens become ever more restricted and regulated. If you wish to learn about the origins and core examples of this concept, I recommend you read the first article I ever wrote for this publication entitled ‘Anarcho-Tyranny Reigns Supreme’. While the Merseyside Police billboard can be seen as a more traditional example of anarcho-tyranny, it enables an analysis into something more interesting, especially if one considers the context. The context that this billboard was erected in was the Coronavirus pandemic i.e. the largest national crisis that this country has faced for many years. So, while the actions of Merseyside Police may seem inappropriate considering the current climate, it does highlight two things. Firstly, that the real priorities of the state and its allied elites to control ordinary citizens remains the same; secondly, and most importantly, this pandemic has given a blank check to anarcho-tyrants whose only concern is regulation and control.

Take for example the infamous Coronavirus Act 2020. This act has facilitated a growth in the size and remit of the state that seemed impossible to most just a little over a year ago. While the British state has, in the past, taxed you, spied on you and regulated what you do with your own body, it now explicitly tells you how, when and where you are able to live your life. Except for the odd occasions when you need to go outside for shopping or exercise (or to virtuously bang your pots and pans together for our Lord and Saviour the NHS) you remain essentially under house arrest – unable to enjoy life as we normally understand it. This drastic expansion of the state into regulating every minute detail of people’s lives is a core tenant of the ‘tyranny’ part of anarcho-tyranny. As Samuel T. Francis, the originator of the term, writes, anarcho-tyranny extends and entrenches ‘the power of the state, its allies and internal elites’, so the more things that become offences – such as meeting up with others outside or going for one too many daily runs – the more power the state and its allied elites have over the citizenry. Thus the Coronavirus Act can be seen as a new zenith of British anarcho-tyranny, as it has given the state an unprecedented ability to not just regulate large aspects of an average citizen’s behaviour but effectively plan their lives. If you would like some to read some more in-depth analysis of the Coronavirus Act and its consequences for civil liberties, I’d highly recommend going through Big Brother Watch’s collection of ‘Emergency Powers & Civil Liberties Reports’ which highlight the extensive and draconian nature of the Coronavirus Act.

Another core pillar of anarcho-tyranny is that the rules only apply to the innocent and not to the ruling elites or criminals, and what has been seen during this pandemic highlights that the Coronavirus restrictions have only really applied to ordinary citizens and not to state elites and their allies. When journalists, celebrities and politicians were caught breaking lockdown rules they did not pay the same costs that ordinary citizens who broke the rules did. Many of the chief architects of these lockdowns were also caught breaking the rules and while, at worst, they had to resign their posts, it wasn’t surprising to watch government officials run to their defence. If one sees “anarcho-tyrants are the real hegemonic class in contemporary society”, as Francis did, this makes complete sense as those in power would seek to protect those that have made this pandemic such a shining example of anarcho-tyranny. The state always protects its own – especially those who enable its power.

While the anarcho-tyrants have been busy protecting their own during this pandemic, they continue to absolve the innocent of genuine protection against actual crime. While many celebrate the fall in crime overall in the nation, it is often ignored that this is not the trend for all forms of crime. On the contrary, violent crimes such as domestic abuse and homicides have risen dramatically with drug offences going through the roof also. During the first lockdown (March – June 2020) domestic abuse ended up accounting for one in five crimes during that period while drug offences climbed by 30%. The rise in drug crime is especially worrying, as lockdown has caused a litany of turf wars to break out in the country between competing drug gangs who – since being cut off from their international smugglers due to travel restrictions – have now turned to recruiting locally for dealers, smugglers and muscle; bringing ever more people into the dangerous narcotics black market. While police are busy breaking into people’s houses, arresting old ladies for protesting and shouting abuse at people simply for going for a walk, innocent people are being terrorised by violent husbands and drug gangs. As David Matthews points out, the neighbourhood drug dealer has essentially gone about his normal business during lockdown while the rest of us remain under house arrest. Currently, drug dealers are more of an essential worker than you are.

One might accuse me of sensationalism and claim, with a degree of optimism, about this all being ‘solved’ when restrictions begin to ease. But considering the last time restrictions were eased, police inevitably found themselves stuck between dealing with rapidly rising post-lockdown crime or regulating what Coronavirus rules are still in place. And if one considers the recent history of the British police, I wouldn’t advise putting any money on them dealing with the former. After all, many of the police have shown great enthusiasm in enforcing the laws of the Coronavirus Act and, in turn, have revealed themselves to be as horrible and unreasonable as some of our leftist adversaries have proclaimed them to be. 

The Scottish Police stand out to me to be particularly despicable anarcho-tyrants, with one now infamous and harrowing incident standing out amongst the rest; where police officers broke into a family home and arrested those inside because there were ‘too many people’ in the house. Even though many were outraged at the event – with various civil liberties organisations running to the defence of the family – the police got off without so much as a smack on the wrists, while the adults in the family got fined for ‘abuse’ and ‘assault’. To make matters worse, this event only occurred because a fellow anarcho-tyrant, this time from amongst the ordinary population, snitched to the police despite having no grounds to or evidence that this family was breaking lockdown rules. This pandemic has not just revealed the true nature of our state, our elites and our police but the true nature of our fellow Britons also; their authoritarian streak becoming finely tuned during this pandemic. 

Worse still is the Sarah Everard vigil which quickly descended into a violent mess of arrests, fighting and screaming thanks to the Metropolitan Police; with Assistant Commissioner Helen Ball giving a contemptible statement claiming that the police “absolutely did not want to be in a position where enforcement action was necessary” and that they broke up the vigil “because of the overriding need to protect people’s safety.” Large sections of the right-wing commentariat are lambasting the Met for hypocritical policing but this criticism rings on deaf ears and fundamentally misses the point. The Met engages in hypocritical policing because that is the system we currently live under – anarcho-tyranny. The police refuse to deal with genuine threats to the public like BLM pulling down statues and terrorising London for weeks on end because it is hard to control; a peaceful vigil predominately attended by young women, on the other hand, is very easy to control. It is that simple. Furthermore, the politicians and journalists crying about this event need to shut their mouths as they are the reason this tragedy was even able to happen in the first place. Politicians don’t get to simultaneously vote for continuing lockdown – which inevitably curbs our civil liberties – and then cry about the police enforcing the rules they voted for; the same goes for lockdown fanatic commentators and journalists who have helped the state construct this atmosphere where fear and hypocrisy rule. Many in these camps seem to be rapidly developing amnesia; forgetting that they are the reason all this misery, abuse of power and statism is taking place. Do not let these anarcho-tyrants forget what they supported. 

Regarding the police, they remain the greatest paradox of modern Britain as they are both terrifying and pathetic. One minute they’re forcefully breaking into your house, harassing your grandparents and confiscating all of your kitchenware; the next minute they’re off to twerk in a rainbow patterned skirt in the middle of their nearest cosmopolitan hellscape. While many relish in hilarity at the current state of the British police it is no laughing matter; especially for the ordinary citizen who is the one who suffers the most under the anarcho-tyranny state. In all honesty, in their current form, the police are not our friends nor are they worthy of our support as it seems increasingly impossible that the rot of anarcho-tyranny will ever be decontaminated from the uniforms of our police. If the last year of draconianism, abuse of power, hypocrisy and out and out brutality from our police hasn’t changed your views on them even a tiny bit, then I am certain that nothing ever will. And while this may be difficult for conservatives to hear – it is ultimately true. 

This pandemic has only exacerbated this rot in our country because, like during all crises, the state and its allied elites have been allowed to expand, enrich and entrench their power. Worse still, the public seem to be none the wiser about it, our media none the smarter to understand it and our politicians none the braver to address it. Woe betide what elements of Coronavirus draconianism will remain with us post-pandemic. But while this pandemic continues, one fact remains abundantly clear – anarcho-tyranny reigns supreme.


Photo Credit.

Why Can’t We Be Friends?

It’s hardly a novel take at this point to notice that something is fundamentally “off”, to put it lightly, with the way politics and society are currently operating. The events of the last year and a half have demonstrated a distinct lack of consistency in terms of virtually everything. Groups of rioters tearing down and/or vandalising historical monuments have operated virtually unimpeded, whilst a peaceful vigil for a woman murdered by a police officer was met with unwarranted violence, and the once obscene conspiracy theory that COVID originated from a Chinese lab has now been deemed not only acceptable, but plausible by the political elite. Perhaps the worst part is, no matter how uneasy this situation makes us, there is nothing “off” or abnormal about it; it is simply politics operating exactly how it should, whether we like it or not. 

In Concept of the Political, German jurist and philosopher Carl Schmitt attempted to precisely define the term “political”; indeed, the more one thinks about it, the harder this task appears. If you asked twenty random people off the street what “politics” actually means, I’d bet a modest pittance you’d get around twenty different answers. From experience, it would range from “the practice of governing/making laws”, to “ruling over people”, to “compromising to reach a universally acceptable outcome.” Schmitt would have fundamentally disagreed with all of these propositions, more-so the last assertion for the crime of being egregiously wishy-washy. 

Instead, politics, like all spheres of human activity, is defined by a dichotomic distinction. In the sphere of morality there is “good” and “evil”, in aesthetics “beauty” and “ugliness”, and in economics “profitable” and “unprofitable.” For politics, “the specific [distinction] to which political actions and motives can be reduced is that between friend and enemy.” The “enemy” in the political sense is not a business competitor, or the villain of a petty private rivalry, but a public enemy, or “hostis.” As Schmitt explains, 

“An enemy exists only when, at least potentially, one fighting collectivity of people confronts a similar collectivity. The enemy is solely the public enemy, because everything that has a relationship to such a collectivity of men, particularly to a whole nation, becomes public by virtue of such a relationship.”

Politics then, is driven by group-based loyalties; ideology, nationality, ethnicity, etc., any means of finding commonality amongst otherwise isolated individuals. Of course, this reductively alludes to the sentiment of “strength in numbers”, but it also appeals to the human disposition towards a common purpose greater than themselves, fostering a sense of camaraderie between those who share in it. These are the friends, and those who do not share the values and goals of the group, or hold loyalties elsewhere, are enemies. For the safety and security of the friend group and its institutions, enemies must be defined, outed, and crushed. 

Historians and theorists continue to debate whether Schmitt’s “concept [or definition] of the political” drew from his tendency towards authoritarianism and later National Socialism. Despite this, one cannot ignore that Schmitt’s definition is universally observable both in the past and present. Having formed the Second Triumvirate, Mark Antony, Octavian, and Lepidus instigated brutal proscriptions to ensure their most high-profile enemies were disposed of. In the words of Ronald Syme, “the Triumvirs were pitiless, logical, and concordant. On the list of the prescriptions all said they set one hundred and thirty senators and a great number of Roman knights.” They were not motivated by personal disdain or savage revenge, rather “their victory was the victory of a party”; the supremacy of the Caesarean cause against its threats.[5] Lenin too was political in this sense, evident, among other places, in State and Revolution

“the ‘special repressive force’ of the bourgeoisie for the suppression of the proletariat, of the millions of workers by a handful of the rich, must be replaced by a “special repressive force” of the proletariat for the suppression of the bourgeoisie.”[6]

This is essentially a high-brow version of “it’s okay when we do it”; the destruction of the bourgeoisie (the enemy group) through violent means is perfectly acceptable, nay necessary, but violence used by the bourgeoisie against the proletariat (the friend group) is unjust. Even Joe Biden began his presidency in this manner, declaring those who stormed the Capitol Building on January 6th  (something which both the elite and faux leftist rebels are still seething over) to be “extremists dedicated to lawlessness” who “do not represent a true America.”[7] Whether it be the most brutal dictatorship or the smiliest liberal democracy, every successful regime refuses to suffer the presence of those who wish to undermine it. Regardless of what we think of Schmitt’s motivations and endeavours, or indeed the notion of group/identity-based politics in itself, the friend-enemy distinction rings true to those in power. 

Therefore, when the elite tells us that tearing down statues is correcting history, or that taking the knee before a sporting event is a heroic stand against injustice, but protesting against lockdowns or waving the flag of your own country is a threat to “our way of life”, they are simply doing what all political entities must do: defining what behaviours and values are and are not acceptable, preserving the sanctity of the friend group against its enemies. Indeed, this sentiment echoes through Samuel Francis’s concept of “anarcho-tyranny”; describing the situation when an authoritarian state, despite its extensive power, is unable to enforce basic law and order, leading it to overregulate the lives of law-abiding citizens instead, rather than attempt to deal with genuine crime. An example of this would be clamping down hard on people travelling too far for a run at the peak of lockdown, but refusing to take any meaningful action on systematic trafficking through grooming gangs. 

In the context of the friend-enemy distinction, anarcho-tyranny appears as a political choice rather than risible incompetence; to introduce another of Schmitt’s famous definitions: “sovereign is he who decides on the exception”, holding the power to transcend the restraints of the law such that they may protect the friend group in a state of emergency.[9] “Anarchy” reserved for friends, permitted by the sovereign (ruling elite in this case, rather than single individual) to do as they please because they either pose no real threat to the system and its goals, or are a useful pawn against its enemies. “Tyranny” is imposed upon enemies, whose every move must be monitored to ensure they are not in a position to challenge the system, and swiftly dealt with if they are. However, the problem with liberal democracies is that they are operated by the soft-handed administrators of the managerial elite, who are hesitant to use brute force against their enemies, even at a time of emergency. Make no mistake, the tyranny is still there, it simply takes a subtler form, often involving long-term manipulative tactics rather than outright arresting or executing dissidents, as one would typically expect from an oppressive state. 

One of the most powerful of these tactics is “framing.” In this context, framing can be best described using the old adage “you’re either with us, or against us”, a sentiment expressed in one way or another by political icons from Cicero to Lenin and Benito Mussolini to George Bush. As soon as there is the possibility of a middle-ground, or a compromise with the enemy, subversion is all-but certain. Consequently, the slightest disagreement with the status quo can effectively be painted as a potentially system-level threat. Even the mildest of lockdown sceptics, concerned about the effects of shutting the country down on small business, human interaction, or children’s development, can be framed as a threat to public health by placing them, in the mainstream consciousness, as one step away from national enemies such as Piers Corbyn, David Icke, and other such “deranged anti-vaxxers.” When put so reductively it sounds like a laughable exaggeration, yet it works. Understandably, the average person holds no desire to be framed in such a way, given the potential ramifications it could have on their life, leading them too comfortably justify averting the risk and pushing any niggling worries they may have had to the back of their head, slotting comfortably back into “trusting the experts.” 

This process also notably applied to UKIP at its peak (perhaps even the entire “populist uprising” more broadly), a party of free-market libertarians who flirted with drug legalisation, yet successfully framed in the media as fellow travellers of the openly fascist and white nationalist BNP; simply because they both claimed to oppose “the establishment” and mass immigration, and didn’t apologise for the Empire every ten minutes. Neither of these examples have been presented to lament their underdog status against a system that hates them, but simply to illustrate that once the powers-that-be determine a group or an idea unacceptable, usually because it threatens their narrative, social pressure will be enough for the average person to cave in and accept the status out of fear of being associated with extremists, and subsequently marginalised. One silver-lining to this practice is that it informs us which opinions truly are dangerous. If you can say something without fear of being called an extremist, chances are it’s neither threatening to the system nor particularly edgy; how many people have lost their jobs or livelihoods for being a Marxist in recent years? If anything, it’ll get you a pretty cosy gig at SAGE.

Returning to Schmitt’s definition of sovereignty, our aforementioned extremists or “threats to the system”, are regularly exaggerated to justify a faux state of emergency or “exception.” The most hardcore COVID deniers and anti-vaxxers, should they by some miracle gain political power, would do some damage to the system, so too would the BNP if it ever got anywhere. Realistically, the chances of either of these happening is so miniscule it seems the media time afforded to them feels somewhat unjustified. What were the odds of the BNP winning an election, even at their peak? Essentially nil. How many people are total COVID deniers who think vaccines are the mark of the beast? An insignificant amount. Yet, we’re constantly bombarded with sensationalist fear porn to make it seem like the enemies are just one step away from ruining everyone’s day. By lauding them as existential threats to normality, and making them seem more powerful and influential than they are, it leads people straight back into the arms of the system, such that it may protect them from these awful people and their dangerous ideas. In fact, there is an argument to be made that suppression of extremists is counter-intuitive, as their existence (especially when, as it is in reality, negligible) works to support the system rather than weaken it, providing a visible manifestation of the enemy; a deterrent to discourage normal people (who are raised from birth with the idea that the establishment is the friend) from straying too far outside the Overton window. Framing then, acts as both a means of undermining the enemy, as well as consolidating the power of the friend group without needing to bash down doors and shoot dissidents in the street; far more civilised if you ask me. 

Framing also has an added bonus effect: it forces enemies to talk in the same language as friends, functionally turning them into a friend, but still kept at an arm’s length. Moderates of either side don’t want to be associated with extremists either, it’s bad PR, and will almost always side against them if it means they won’t be classified as an enemy. They possess a constant need for approval from the establishment; understandable at the surface level, as such approval allows them to participate in the mainstream dialogue, albeit at the cost of excessively watering-down their positions to the point where they offer little but an edgy (at best) spin on the narrative of the ruling elite. Hence why the moderate right-wing is so painfully milquetoast, they would rather cosy up to the progressive managerial elite than support people on their own side. Paul Gottfried refers to these people as “Conservative Inc.”, the Turning Points and “liberal Tories” of the world, establishment right-wingers who peddle toned-down, politically safe opinions, easily consumable by the average “sceptic”, whilst attacking those who offer a genuinely conservative alternative, often accusing them of being rabid reactionaries. Unfortunately, if you want a seat at the table of power, you need to be a friend, and that means you must play by the rules of the game and participate in the punishment of the enemies just the same. 

Despite all of this, liberal democracy tries to disguise the friend-enemy distinction. According to Schmitt, as an ideology emergent from the economic sphere, liberalism is inclined towards compromise, as it is unprofitable to hold contemptuous relationships with a potential business partner or customer. As we have established, this does not mean that liberal democracies do not enforce the friend-enemy distinction, in fact, considering the effectiveness of framing they’re rather good at it, but they do attempt to smokescreen the natural dichotomy of politics. 

One of the methods this is achieved is through what Curtis Yarvin calls the “two-story myth.” Under authoritarian regimes, a “national myth” is forced upon the population, constituting a narrative of history containing elements justifying the existence and power of the ruling elite. The problem with this, according to Yarvin, is that people fundamentally hate being told what to think, particularly as national myths are never completely truthful. You can see this in the limp efforts by the Conservative Party to promote “British values”, the substance of which are another issue entirely, and are almost always widely repudiated, whether it be through cynical edginess or a realisation that these things cannot be artificially created. Therefore, it is arguably more effective to create a “two-story myth”, whereby the national myth is split into two narratives. 

“When people hear one story, they tend to ask: is this true? When they hear two stories, they tend to ask: which one of these is true?”

What is being questioned is not whether the ruling elite is justified in its position or not, simply the path taken for it to get there. The Tories (when not infested with Blairism) tell us that the British state promoted individualism, freedom of speech, and entrepreneurship, good old classical liberal values which built us into the country we are today. Labour on the other hand insist that our country was built into what it is now through co-operative values such as trade unionism, the NHS, and the welfare state. Despite both of these being mostly falsehoods, there are nuggets of truth present in them which provide just enough for there to be an “uncontroversial, bipartisan consensus”, meaning that when the system is threatened, the loyal peons of each path can be relied on to defend it. 

As politics is innately dichotomous and confrontational, the two-story myth provides a faux-friend-enemy distinction to act as a “safety valve” stopping people turning to narratives that won’t arrive in the same place as the approved ones. Whilst people are busy fighting over whether the Tories or Labour should be in power, it keeps them from realising that they are friends, and that by supporting either they are supporting the maintenance of the status quo, regardless of which one is in office. Even people acutely aware of their similarities, quite a substantial number these days, still fall into the trap of engaging with such theatrics. This does not mean that there is no disagreement at all between friends, there are tussles over particular policies, permitted insofar as the fundamentals of the system are not challenged, and as long as the illusion of disagreement (at least superficially) maintains the deception. Different MPs of different parties had all sorts of opinions on Brexit, but beyond lip service, none of them ever questioned whether globalism or free-trade are inherent goods in themselves. Equally, Boris Johnson, Joe Biden, and Justin Trudeau certainly all have their own views on a variety of matters, and may not even like each other on a personal level, but when the time comes, they chant in unison their desire to “build back better.” 

There is no friend-enemy distinction between Labour and the Conservatives, or any party in parliament; if any of them were deemed to be enemies of the system they would not be allowed anywhere near power. Back to the BNP example, whatever one thinks of them, they did not share the values of the ruling elite, nor did they buy into the national myth via either one of the two stories. Consequently, after gaining 2 MEPs in the 2009 European Parliament election, they were actively denied access to information afforded to every other party, and it was made clear that their involvement in anything meaningful would be kept to an absolute minimum. This is not an endorsement of the BNP or its failed plight against mainstream politics; honestly speaking, it makes perfect sense, bringing us full circle back to the central question raised by the friend-enemy distinction: would you let a rogue element, which actively despises you and everything you stand for, operate on the same playing field as you? If the answer is yes, then you must be some kind of masochist. 

One should not misinterpret this as a polemic against liberal hypocrisy; yes, they allow their friends to operate as they please whilst marginalising anyone they disagree with, but that is not hypocrisy, it is simply politics. They are the ones who hold the power, and no one can expect them to sit back and give free rein to potential subverters.  It may not be particularly nice, but the sooner we come to terms with it the better, and once we stop trying to be the bigger person, better still. They want you to “debate” them because it is a distraction, no matter how easy it is to tear apart their ideas and arguments. If those with power decide that something will happen, it will determine whether its justifications are fallacious or if anyone agrees or disagrees with it. 

The simple answer is to return the favour, if they don’t care what you think of them, then you shouldn’t care what they think of you. Stand tall for what you believe in, refuse to allow that which you hold dear to be critiqued or questioned by people who hold you in contempt, because as soon as those ideas become contestable, they lose their sacred status. Let them bombard you with petty insults, safe in the knowledge that they are, in the words of Roger Scruton “propaganda words”, abstract weasel words designed to attach enemy status to someone; recognising such is the first part of stepping over the quagmire of liberalism.  One you discover your friends (not enemies who wear the skins of friends) discuss ideas among them by all means, learn from your enemies but do not engage with them, no matter how much they try to lure you in with the promise of “free and fair discussion”; a deception to hide their true intention: to confuse you, humiliate you, and obliterate you and your way of life. 

Friend good, enemy bad; the motto of all successful political entities.  


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Little Dark Age and Murdering the Author

Roland Barthes’ essay Death of the Author is required reading for many students who wish to study the humanities, such as English Literature. The general thesis of the essay is that narrative intent from the author cannot be discovered as it is impossible to know what the author’s thoughts were at the time of writing. Thus, Death of the Author can be understood to mean “art without the artist” – by the reader is the only true reading. The authority of the author, and therefore the author himself, perishes.

It is an interesting and incredibly influential essay that has played a large part in the development of critical theory over the course of the 20th century. Using this as a basis, it is my belief that we can take the theory further.

Rather than experience the art in a passive way, accepting what the author produces as is, and making our own interpretations from that point, I propose that we instead take an active participation in taking art from the artist and use it to our own ends. This is much easier to do thanks to the internet, and the emergence of meme culture.

It is from meme culture that murdering the author rises. 2016 can be seen as the black swan moment for this with the election of Donald Trump and the reignition of right-wing populism. In this moment, a new breed of meme was born, and it is one of these memes that I think best exemplifies how effective murdering the author can be.

In 2017 MGMT released their song “Little Dark Age”, a protest song lamenting the election of Trump. As the title suggests, the zeitgeist as the artist saw it was regressing back into a period of ignorance, ultimately taking the past 70 years of Progress with it. As recent as 2021 however, the meme remixes of this song have become increasingly popular. The song is used as a backdrop over footage designed to ignite reactionary pride – praise of Christianity and the heroic spirit are commonplace within this. My personal favourites are the ones that glorify the British Empire.

The popularity of the meme is an example of the remix culture unique to the internet, an issue with 21st century creations in general. 21st century art is stunted, and we can only find creative outlets in what has come before. This is a problem with all art and culture in the West, but has been commented on before so I will not belabour the point, except to say that our obsession with nostalgia seems to have left us bereft of creating our own cultural milieu and we are forced to stand blindly on the shoulders of giants.

We are indeed in a little dark age, and MGMT clearly felt that. It just isn’t the dark age they think it is. For a generation of people brought up in countries whose hour of greatness was over, and on whom all the world’s ills could be blamed, it is little surprise that a song like Little Dark Age could be used in the way it did. With lyrics like “Forgiving who you are for what you stand to gain/Just know that if you hide it doesn’t go away”, the song seems to be calling out to those who are trodden on by the current regime, such as political dissidents, delivering the Evolian message of riding the tiger. In the remix culture that epitomises internet trends, this is an example of destroying the meaning of a talented, well intended but misinformed artist and rewiring it for a different purpose.

No matter how MGMT feels about the current political and cultural climate, the fact remains that Little Dark Age is reactionary. It speaks of cultural degradation, inauthenticity – the sense of something being lost. MGMT have put their finger on the pulse, and their diagnosis seems apt – but the wrong patient has died.

Their anger is correct but misdirected, which is why we on the right see the song as something to be hijacked. We are not witnessing the death of the author here – instead, we are the author’s murderers. We are Lenin storming the Tsar’s palace in 1917. We take what is theirs and subvert it to our own ends.

The fact is that reactionary media, be it music, film, literature or television, is entirely hegemonic to the left’s favour. Reactionary discourse is repeatedly shut out of the Overton window, which is panned by boomeresque false idols on one side and comical Marxist villains on the other. In order to make a point, we must use the tools of the enemy. We must be the Vietcong stealing M16s from a US military base. We take from the author what is theirs, deconstruct their arms and create something entirely new using the skeleton of their works.

We are the murderers of the author and this is our strongest weapon.


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Fact and Fortune: A Note on The Particular

Writing this article makes me feel guilty. Like a manic scientist hunched over a microscope, I am hunched over a keyboard, conducting research into pinpointing the unpinpointable. For decades, conservatives have disapprovingly commented on the widespread adoption of once-alternative socially liberal concepts and arrangements, lamenting the desacralization and deprivileging of more “traditional” outlooks. This is very much in step with classic political dynamics: Liberals will tell you “Yes”, Leftists will tell you “Yes, and more!”, and a conservative will tell you “No”. Whilst I generally agree with such disapproving commentary, I will not be contributing to it. Instead, I shall be addressing that which animates the conservative’s disapproval; stating what love is, rather than what is not, all while resisting its substitution with other concepts (pleasure, happiness, etc.) as has been done before. Consequently, I hope to form a fragment of a “moral-social vision” to which a conservative can forcefully say: “Yes”. Moreover, it should be prefaced that I do not care for contemporary fads, such as “making sense”.

Underpinning all human relationships lies an implicit and relative distinction between what is familiar and strange. Courtesy of the innate biological, geographical, and psychological limits of (for lack of a better term) the self, from birth to death most of humanity is a stranger; their existence is affirmed without personal interaction and their initial relation to the self is ambiguous. As proximity to the self transforms, so does the nature of the relationship – strangeness gradually fades away and familiarity increasingly emerges. However, whilst technically specific, the self is a mosaic; it is downstream from various approximations which give identity and demand obligation: the family, the local community, and the nation, all exist as approximations to what is familiar, stretching out towards the stranger.

In the most irremovable fundamental and primordial sense, the family and the self are the same, thus describing the family as a realm of the self, as opposed to what the self is, does not make sense. As such, the first approximation which exists beyond the self, the one more intimate and more familiar than the much wider community, as if it was Venus slotted between Mercury and Earth, is that of the Particular.

The Individual and The Particular are not totally distinct. Whilst technically different, a Particular cannot deny its necessary origins as an Individual, that is to say: certain residual characteristics of an Individual will remain within the Particular even when an Individual becomes Particular. The key commonality between the Individual and the Particular is that both are necessarily unique and singular; they both refer to one. The fundamental difference between the Individual and the Particular is therefore twofold: the nature of [the] reference, and the nature of [the] one.

The Individual One is strictly numerical, it concerns isolated quantity amid implied greater quantity. Conversely, The Particular One is non-quantifiable. It is not perceived mathematically, but in a qualitative and subjective manner; the self-realised reality that there can be no concept of greater quantity when concerned with the existence of something radically specific. However, bound up in the nature of [the] One is how it is referred to. Unlike the Individual, the Particular is realised by a person; it emerges, rising above individualised mass. In this regard, whilst the Individual is an impersonal concept, the Particular is deeply personal.

Facts are the unbending exoskeleton of reality. Hardly negative, they are nevertheless mere matters of being, they are acknowledged by all for the sake of all; they are granted and therefore taken for granted. On the other hand, Fortunes emerge from an incomprehensible conglomerate of probabilities. More than simply being, the total feasibility of Fortune’s non-existence gives it subjective value; to exist as it does makes it remarkable, as if it were a roaring fire in a field of snow. As such, the “impersonally perceived quantifiable” Individual constitutes an existential Fact, whilst the “personally perceived non-quantifiable” Particular constitutes an existential Fortune.

Like every conceivable Fortune, it is discovered through action. Ways colliding through distinct affirmations of life as part of civilised existence, the Particular incrementally emerges into view. The glamourous unthinking of the animal, lurking beneath such civilised folk, smoothens rough edges into idiosyncrasies. It is only during this way-splicing journey that one is eventually obstructed by the wretched bluntness of Fact. The Particular is particular. Made radically specific by intersections of time and space, The Particular is temporary. Mortality, granted and therefore taken for granted, is never acknowledged for its wretchedness until compared to the shining novelty of Fortune. Icarus, made ecstatic by the heights to which his wings could take him, is blighted by the unmissable sun and is reacquainted with reality. Realisation of temporality is the highest realisation of the Particular and thus the undoing of the Self’s tranquillity. It is because of this that all love is bittersweet. A volatile spirit, it wrestles to be total, to be free of its own contradictions; it is humanity’s purest extremity.

Unfortunately, contemporary notions of love have come to be dominated by material transaction, in which material things are exchanged for something in return all while being divorced from direction, tailored only to generalised individual mass rather than the Particular, Regardless of whether material transaction is a consciously cynical effort or just well-meaning naivete, it should be considered a perversion of the material’s true role of expression: the act of turning the immaterial into something material, internal motion into an external display. Even if both are in want, the former deals in expectations whilst the latter deals in hope. Consequently, given the ritualistic importance, just as one who wants to receive must be prepared to give, where one does not wish to give, one must refuse. 

Far from pedanticism, there must be immovable details, actions, and sentiments which are confined to the realm of The Particular. If it lacks these, there is no such thing as a distinct romantic approximation; the Particular would cease to be particular at all. Hence why a private realm, knitted together by a veneer of secrecy and the consequent warding off transgressions is not only required, but the very essence of love. The contradiction of this private realm is that it can only be fully secured through public recognition; signifying that there are boundaries which those inside and outside cannot bend if the realm is to exist at all. It is the inability to reconcile this private realm with the world that lies beyond, especially the family and community, that produces the Romeo and Juliet tragedies we all intuitively understand.

At bottom level, these perversions stem from having been confronted by temporality which afflicts us all. Like madmen, they hurry to evade the inevitable. Impending fates, they make frenzied decisions, no sober consideration of what would do them better. Attempting to hoard the whole of humanity in your heart, being subject to the neurotic clamouring for more, made unawares that all will have so much less; you less of them, and them less of you. Just as a nation that attempts to contain the world within its borders does not enrich itself, and consequently makes a world in which the nation no longer exists.

Nobody makes a conscious decision to love, they simply do (on its own, it is Fact which precedes the Fortune of the Particular). It is those deluded folks who choose to act against love that engage in a conscious decision. Like building a dam to obstruct a coursing stream, it is a crude denial of motion. It is because of this motion that the emergence of the Particular cannot be reduced to a meticulous list of preferences. The mechanised procedure of romance has been attacked as a neutralising reconfiguration of love, implying it to be an organic development instead – which it is. If an organic something has stagnated it is either dead or on the verge of death – making compatibility the project, rather than the immediate gratification of love. Just as a flower’s idea of itself animates the contortions of its growth, giving clear form to lofty substance, the idea of two-minded unity is the grand project to which love draws its form and loyally commits its efforts. Unlike the machine which facilitates fleeting relations and heavy-handed intimacy, the Becoming force of love, that which sought to forge beyond the self and in the direction of the Particular, if found to be requited by life’s chances, necessarily reorients itself to go beyond life itself.

The afterlife exists as a Fact. Calling this afterlife “death” makes no difference. There are two certainties: our certain uncertainty of the exact nature of the afterlife and our absolute certainty of our heading there. Whether it’s the minds of men, eternal darkness, or literal new life, it matters not; there is a flipside to this state which gives this life so much meaning. The totality of the Particular and the fullness of heart it provides, ever-driving the two-minded unity, ushers the secret realm into existence, giving us a place not only within explicit life, but within implicit afterlife. Two radically specific souls, becoming one radically specific unit, find themselves undivided by death.

The first approximation, the most intimate and warmest flame, with correspondence to be earnestly followed up or to be dutifully waited on, mends the disjointed nature of life and afterlife. By forging a chain that can never be broken, mere existence is transformed into terrain traversing adventure. The ability to stare into the reaper’s eyes as if they were the eyes of the Particular; that is the essence of love. Never will the strange feel so familiar.


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It’s probably a good time to re-colonise Shakespeare

The Renaissance was a spectacular time for literature, arts, and anatomy. The sheer wealth of geographical expansion reinvigorated Europe and invited it to explore, research, and discover. This period was crucial for the conflict between religion and knowledge, a subject thoroughly explored in Doctor Faustus. The Italian Renaissance especially brought forward many crucial questions about life and death, religion, exploration and other issues.

But this is no longer at the forefront of Renaissance studies. The calls for decolonisation have been sounding for quite a while and it’s slowly becoming a subject mainly discussed by right-wing self-proclaimed pseudo-intellectual political commentators. Is it still worth talking about? It might be. 

Many students join the English departments armed with an entire collection of Shakespeare’s works and a copy of Doctor Faustus, anticipating learning all there is to know about Renaissance in literature. 

Well, those students would be sorely disappointed. The loudest calls for decolonisation have been coming from The Globe, the first Shakespearian theatre. On the very front of their website, we can see ‘Anti-Racist Shakespeare’ in big red letters. When looking at their blog entry from August 2020, a completely innocuous and not totally coincidental date, the quote from Professor Farah Karim-Cooper sheds a lot of light on what’s happening with Shakespeare: 

As the custodians of Shakespeare’s most iconic theatres, we have a responsibility to talk honestly about the period from which he emerged and challenge the racist structures that remain by providing greater access to the works and demonstrating how Shakespeare speaks powerfully to our moment.

This is fascinating, as this then led to many movements to decolonise the literary genius. Universities advise students to listen to a podcast about the importance of ‘decolonising Shakespeare’ and the first lecture is basically a lesson on why Shakespeare is not universal and must be redefined. 

The lecture material encourages students to look out for ‘colonial oppression’ and invites students to not only decolonise Shakespeare but also the Renaissance. Put your Marlowe in the rubbish, the reading list is now filled with race-related, women-related plays, geared not at looking into the genuine literary wealth of Shakespeare, but at intersectionality. The anti-Semitism in The Merchant of Venice is barely visible under the colossal shadow of the potential ‘queerness’ within the novel. The patriarchy and the search for something that isn’t there take precedence over trying to uncover important truths. 

The lecturers may find it laughable that some people oppose decolonisation. They seem to be engaging in strawman ‘oh does that mean that we’re not going to teach Shakespeare? Of course not!’ But that’s not the point. 

I think that if we’re tearing down statues in Bristol and across the US, Shakespeare is potentially one of the cultural statues that could come down

Professor Ayanna Thompson, ‘Shakespeare Teachers’ Conversation’

If universities endorse the above message, what signal are they sending to their students? Of course, they may laugh trying to explain that it doesn’t mean literally tearing down Shakespeare, but the point stands. What they are trying to do is to reconstruct the existing understanding of Shakespeare and re-create it in order to accommodate people who hate them. 

Shakespeare was a white Anglo male and lived during the beautiful age of colonial expansion. No one should be worried about saying this one way or another. There’s nothing wrong with it either. I personally believe that Doctor Faustus is a far more important novel than ‘The Masque of Blackness’ by Ben Jonson who wrote quite a dull play about black people searching for the land where they can become white and beautiful. 

I understand that this is supposed to make the students uncomfortable and convince them to engage critically with the racism in the past; but don’t we all already know this? Isn’t it much more productive to focus on the plays that could relate better to contemporary issues? Apparently not. 

Midsummer Night’s Dream is apparently about patriarchy and The Merchant of Venice is gay.  The problem with academia these days is not that there are modules that are ideological; no, the ideology very easily just seeps into everything. There is no way out anymore – most academics are left-wing so naturally their modules will be geared in that direction also. This wouldn’t be an issue as this has been happening for aeons. The problem is that this then creates a whole army of impressionable young people whose main focus will be the discussion on intersectionality and race when there is so much more that Shakespeare can offer. The only way to circumvent it is to rediscover the truths that Renaissance literature has to offer. Reject intersectionality and race and embrace tradition. 


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