Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Barcelona & the cult

There was some sobering video footage posted on social media of the immediate aftermath of the Barcelona terrorist attack. Unlike the images of candles and flowers and people hugging, this showed very starkly the human toll, including the violence to the bodies of young people.

So what was the reaction of those living in Barcelona? An estimated crowd of 160,000 marched in the street demanding that the government take in more "refugees" - despite the fact that a number of these "refugees" had just carried out an horrific attack on the native Spaniards' own young - on their own sons and daughters.

The Barcelona March

And then I saw a footage of another leftist demonstration, this time in Boston in the U.S. About 40,000 leftists came out to protest against a free speech rally. There were white demonstrators in the crowd holding up "white people suck" placards.

And the thought occurred to me that the leftists in Barcelona and Boston are committed to a cause that is self-annihilating and that this kind of unhealthy mindset is normally to be found within cults, i.e. a commitment to a cult can be so strong that some adherents will self-annihilate as an act of loyalty to it.

It's not my intention to prove that leftism really is, strictly speaking, a cult. But I do want to follow through, as a thought experiment, with the idea that there might be some cult-like aspects to modern day leftism.

So what is the cult oriented to? I've often given the answer that the aim is a vision of individual freedom, defined as personal autonomy, in which the individual self-defines their own good and their own identity. But I was reading an old discussion thread from VFR, in which Lawrence Auster discusses the nature of leftism, and he hit upon something that is also significant to understanding leftism:
On the right, traditional conservatives believe in “larger wholes”—the realities of nature, society, and God—of race, culture, and religion—that make us what we are. They believe in natural and spiritual hierarchies that are implied in these larger wholes. Inequality is built into existence. Of course there are various kinds of traditional conservatism, each of them placing particular emphasis on certain aspects of the natural, social, and transcendent orders, while downplaying or ignoring others.

In the middle, traditional liberals (right-liberals) believe in individualism: all individuals have equal rights, the individual is free to create himself, he is not determined by the larger wholes into which he was born. We should just see people, all members of the human race, as individuals deserving of equal dignity.

On the left, socialists and Communists, like traditional conservatives, believe in larger wholes, but the wholes they believe in are seen in terms of equality: the whole of society—equal; the whole of the human race—equal. They believe that man has the ability to engineer this larger, equal whole into existence, wiping out the unequal, inherited orders of class, sex, nation, race, religion, morality, and thus creating a New Humanity. Only the largest whole—humankind—is good, because only at the level of all humanity can there be true equality and fraternity uniting all people.

I wouldn't have put it quite like this as leftism still has a commitment to the idea of individuals being free to create themselves. But I think it is true that there is a kind of leftism - particularly middle-class, intellectual, student leftism - which has an image of an end point in history in which there is one, equal, world community. And this is a focal point for the "cult". John Lennon gave voice to the mindset in his song "Imagine":
Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope some day you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world

Traditionalists hear this and think it's just mindless, hippie flummery. But what if it really has meaning for leftists - that they really do dream that the "world will be as one" in the terms Lennon describes. If this is the "eschaton" (the end point in world history), and you are committed to it as if part of a cult, then maybe even if open borders lead to the murder of young people in your country, you might still see mass immigration as a larger good, you might redouble your commitment to it as a necessary step to "people sharing all the world" as part of a one world collective.

So, to continue the thought experiment, let's say we have thousands of Westerners, particularly of the student/intellectual/activist type, caught in a one world cult. Can they ever get out? Is escape possible?

It is likely that some of them have misgivings already. And cults often do shed members. But making the jump out isn't necessarily easy. Being on the inside can give individuals a sense of meaning in their lives (of participating in a cause that brings about great and lasting change); it can provide individuals with a sense of fellowship and belonging; it can also provide a sense of status, including moral status (of being one of the elite, the enlightened, the righteous making progressive change).

As it happens, liberalism creates something of a loop for itself here. Liberalism gradually dissolves the usual forms of human fellowship, of moral standards, of status, of identity and belonging, thereby making it even more difficult for adherents to make the leap out.

Given all this, how can we encourage the cult to shed members? I'd like to take a quick look here at how two different strands within the broader alt right are positioned to do this, the two being white nationalists and traditionalists. There is certainly overlap between these two political movements, but there is a critical distinction. White nationalists, as the name suggests, do tend to organise their politics around race. The tendency is to see politics as an expression of racial self-interest. There is also a tendency to look to a race-wide (pan-ethnic) state as an ideal, rather than to the historic nation. Traditionalists, in contrast, see political movements and ideologies themselves as the key battle lines, which is why we often focus on the influence (and the inner logic) of liberalism as a core explanatory factor in what has happened to the West.

At its far end, white nationalism does seem to spill over into a sympathy for national socialism. You can see why this is, as the national socialists of the 30s also made race an organising principle of their politics. National socialism had some cult like elements of its own, such as leader worship, and group loyalty fostered by uniforms, symbols, salutes, mass rallies and so on.

There are white nationalists, particularly in the U.S., who seem to be looking to the "group loyalty" parts of this as a way of attracting and holding support. I can see this working with some people, but not really encouraging the shedding from the liberal cult of those with misgivings, particularly if the uniforms, salutes, symbols and so on play into the received imagery of "white supremacy" - this is likely to reinforce the liberal cult belief that the alternative to the one world utopia is something like the politics of the 1930s. In other words, it is likely to encourage people to draw back into the cult, rather than to jettison it.

We traditionalists have strengths and weaknesses when it comes to creating an alternative to the liberal cult. The strength is the potential appeal of the "tradlife" message that is being presented so effectively by a number of alt right women. Liberals have mocked the "white picket fence" ideal, as well as the "whitebread" ideal of stable, ethnically homogeneous communities. The alt right women are presenting a positive image of family, community and sex distinctions - of the particularisms that the liberal cult wants to destroy. It is a good counterpoint to what the cult promotes, for those with misgivings about the direction of society.

But there is also a weakness to this. If people are shed on this basis from the liberal cult, then many are likely to focus their lives on family and perhaps church and so are lost to political organisation and resistance. Liberals then retain the commanding heights of society.

To put this another way, traditionalists find part of their meaning and belonging in non-political communities like family and church and so are less needy of what others might look for in the political cult.

Even so, we need to achieve political organisation and so we need to create "fellowship" institutions. I believe too that we need to foster an understanding that men fulfil themselves not only in the domestic sphere but also via a civilisational role within the larger community (I suspect that many men who are limited to the domestic sphere do have a sense that there is something missing - that they are not fully engaged in what they were made for.)


  1. Imagine no possessions
    I wonder if you can

    I wonder if John Lennon had trouble imagining no possessions? Didn't he have a net worth of around $400 million?

    So in fact it's all a pose. All those white people saying they hate white people. It's nonsense. They're not self-haters, they're narcissists. Like Lennon. They live in an adolescent fantasy world of virtue signalling. They're spoilt rich children, throwing their toys out of the pram. Maybe it's the only way they can get Mummy and Daddy to notice them.

    1. Lennon's death was not without irony. Mocking Bob Dylan's conversion to Christianity, he parodied Dylan's song 'Serve Somebody' (the theme of which is that every human being has two options-serve God or satan) with his own, called 'Serve Yourself'. One Mark David Chapman took him at his word.

      Certainly, an arch-narcissist, never growing out of adolescence.

    2. Imagine six apartments
      It isn't hard to do.
      One is full of fur coats
      The other's full of shoes...

      (Elton John's parody of Imagine)

  2. I believe there is a level of civilization a group can acbeive but past that things start to go crazy. Maybe we have an innate need for struggle and hardships to give us motivation and meaning. Westerners have a best quality of material life than any people who ever existed, yet many are unhappy.

    You can blame some of it on ungratefulness and covetousness. But what caus s those? When all of your needs are met instantly, it might introduce a nihilistic sense of ennui.

  3. You bring up an interesting point about white nationalism that I have noticed from discussions I have had. It appeared to me that we had a fundamental different idea of the meaning of white nationalism. I originally understood it to mean conserving traditional European nation states (including Canada, USA, Australia). I understand that a Croatian is not a Serb, a German not an Italian, ect. This point is lost on white nationalist. Many of them see traditional ethnic identities as a problem, since it interferes with their vision of a pan-European ethnic state and the generic white identity necessary for this vision. This vision isn't conservative or traditional at all as it perceives traditional European identities as a problem that needs to be solved. In other words, it's quite a radical vision.

    1. I think WN-ist tendency developed in an American context where the various European ethnicities blended into a generic Anglo-European pan-ethnicity as distinct from black Africans and red Indians. Maybe not appropriate for Europe. I would like Englishmen to be Englishmen, not "whites" or "Europeans."

    2. Yes. I think white Americans should focus on being good white Americans, not trying to Americanise the whole (white) world.