Two Years Together

Today marks two years since the founding of this website. On this occasion, I felt it appropriate to extend a heartfelt thanks to the people who have made this all worth the effort – you, the readers. Traffic numbers here have increased close to tenfold in the past year, and in the same period I’ve gone from eight Twitter followers to a little over two thousand, so it’s been a good year for my efforts. With God’s grace and a bit of luck, next year will be just as good; but I never forget that it is you, dear readers, who are the reason why I do what I do – so my sincerest appreciation goes out to you all.

If you should want to contact me through other channels, you may find me here, as well:

Twitter: @antidemblog

Ask.FM: @Antidem

Email: antidem at yandex dot com

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Notes on Interstellar: American Stoicism vs. The General Theory of Relativity

(Warning: This is not a review in any normal sense of the word, but an analysis. If you want my review, here it is: If you’re a rightist with a high IQ, go see Interstellar. Otherwise, go see the Spongebob movie. This analysis assumes that you have seen the film, so no synopsis is provided. Don’t bother reading this until you’ve seen Interstellar – it won’t make any sense until you do. Also, it will be a little disjointed because I have no desire to repeat what others have said or what you could learn about the movie by reading IMDB).

I have at times referred to Christopher Nolan’s last film, The Dark Knight Rises, as “Batman vs. the French Revolution”, which, though meant lightheartedly, I believe is ultimately a fairly accurate assessment of it (spoiler: Batman wins). There is no doubt that, intentional or not, there is a rightist flavor to many of Nolan’s films. His latest, Interstellar, is no different, though it is not rightist in the mainstream conservative sense, nor in the neoreactionary sense, nor even really in the identitarian sense. The rightism on display in Interstellar is of an older sort; a sort that hearkens back to the pre-Modern, pre-Industrial age. This doubtless makes it a bit difficult for most people to fully wrap their heads around. As I noted in my last piece, we are all ultimately native-born sons of Modernity, no matter how we may wish otherwise. As a technologist once told me, two people on opposite ends of a paradigm shift really have no way to fully understand each other, and there have been many paradigm shifts since the Modern/Industrial age began, such that Nolan being able to successfully call back to times before it at all is an impressive feat. Connecting with these themes takes a bit of careful analysis, and I will do my best to provide some here.

To start with, yes, there is a lot of Classical pagan Stoicism in Interstellar. Don’t worry if it’s been a while since you read Epictetus though – fortunately, there is something of a lifeline in the film that we may grasp as we try to pull ourselves closer to its center. This is found in Interstellar’s mix of Classical Stoicism and Americanism. The Americanism here, however, is also of an older sort – the Americanism of the Old Republic (by which I mean, again, pre-Modern, pre-Industrial) and its old (small-r) republican virtues. This is not so odd a combination as one might think. The Old Republic was in itself an attempt at a Classical/pagan revival of sorts, founded largely by those who held to Deism, a sort of monotheistic paganism in which, like the gods of Olympus, the One God stayed mostly apart and aloof from mankind and his travails. It consciously, intentionally called back to several aspects of the ancient world. This included a resuscitation, with a few updates, of the Roman Republic’s form of government as a means to rule over what was intended to be a small-time farmer’s republic, run by a meritocratically-selected natural aristocracy of gentlemen-farmers elected by independent freeholders. It is easy to see how this would not survive Industrialism and urbanization, and in fact, other than on paper, it really hasn’t. And yet, there are enough echoes of the Old Republic imprinted on the hearts of Americans (those who bother learning the history of their country at all, that is), that it still resonates with us to at least some degree.

It is here where we can find perhaps the most prominent thread that leads from Greece to the Old Republic to Interstellar – the film’s revival of the Farmer-Hero. Like Odysseus, like Cincinnatus, and like Washington, Cooper is called away from his fields, his home and hearth, and his children to face a great and necessary task (and one that is dangerous to the brink of being suicidal). Like Odysseus, Cooper reaches his destination and then spends the rest of his time desperately trying to return to his fields and his family. There is something of a disconnect in this; an inconsistency that is both undeniable and ultimately necessary in order to reconcile the Classical and the American aspects of the film’s soul (with Cooper serving as the embodiment of that soul). To be American, Cooper must embrace Manifest Destiny; to be Classical, he must above all else want, like Odysseus, to return home. This is papered over with the explanation that he wants to return to save his family, but without preparing the new world for them, how would he accomplish that? Perhaps the elder Dr. Brand’s theory would work (which it ultimately does, thanks to Cooper’s daughter) and they could all go live in cylinders orbiting Saturn, but if he was so convinced that it would, why did he leave on the mission to explore the new worlds in the first place? This is not very convincing, and thus on the level of a character, analyzed logically, this can rightly seen as inconsistent. Yet we must remember that this is art, and it doesn’t have to be logically consistent (TDKR had some serious logical inconsistencies as well, and they didn’t matter either). Consistency is necessary in the hard sciences, but the rules that work in the hard sciences don’t work well in other spheres of human endeavor. In areas like philosophy, religion, art, and governance, consistency is for autistics and midwit trolls looking for “gotchas” by which to cheaply “win” internet debates; everyone else understands that life is just too complex for perfect consistency.

(It is worth noting that there are no cities in Interstellar – none on Earth, nor even in space, where the humans living in space stations have recreated farm villages inside their vast cylindrical space stations, despite what one would assume would be a desperate need for living space for the masses of surviving humans. Another logical inconsistency, yet another conscious, and necessary, artistic choice. In the world of Interstellar, for all the high technology on display in the film, there is little room for the artificial or unnecessary, much less the unheroic [and big cities are certainly all of these – one may recall the ancient Chinese dictum that the only two necessary professions are farmer and soldier]. Big cities are also dehumanizing, and Interstellar is about what it means to be human, so it is little wonder that Nolan avoided them).

So Nolan squares the circle by having Cooper act inconsistently in a strictly logical sense, and yet in terms of the artistic and philosophical content of Interstellar, it is a clever and effective way to fuse two threads that must be fused.

Since Cooper really is the living embodiment of the soul of this film, he is worth dwelling on a bit more. He is, as so many things are in this film, a throwback, though not to a time so far distant as some other aspects of it. Cooper represents a class of people who are disappearing from American life in the 21st century, but who were greatly prominent in the 20th: the smart blue-collar types that once made up the high end of the working class. It was from this class of people that America drew its industrialists, its generals, its airline pilots, and ultimately its astronauts. Now the working class has been largely destroyed; everyone is expected to go to college (even if they study something useless), live in a big city or its near suburbs (even if that environment is totally unsuited to them), and work 8-to-5 in an air-conditioned building in front of a computer screen (even if it makes them miserable) – blue collar work is looked down upon with disdain and those who do it are regarded as failures, and working with one’s hands (whether in a rural setting or an urban one) is ever-more unprofitable due to a combination of factors that includes such things as the rise of huge agribusiness and the inundation of the labor market with a flood of penniless Third Worlders. But it was not always so. Once in this country, the idea that the man who was landing a spacecraft on the moon knew how to drive a combine (and had learned to do so at 14) was not only not shocking, but was expected. This class of people had an attitude and a set of mannerisms to them that is now rare, but I have known enough people of that sort to recognize it when I see it. Among its traits are an easy confidence that may accurately be described as a “modest swagger”, a sensible and levelheaded intellectualism combined with a genuine lack of disdain for those who are not of an intellectual bent, a good-natured and easy way with people contrasted with a strong distaste for double-talkers and blowhards, a sense of humor that is gently sarcastic, a natural and unaffected plain-spokenness, a capacity for understanding complexity matched with a taste for drawing concrete bottom lines, and a natural capacity for motivation and leadership. Cooper is a good examplar of this type, and Nolan does a fine job of writing dialog that shows it (it is worth noting that Matthew McConaughey’s native rustic twang, which he has suppressed for roles in the past, is in full effect in Interstellar, and I have no doubt that this was completely intentional).

The loss of this class of people – of, let’s be honest, this class of men – is a tragedy for what was the historic American nation. These were the men who made our past glories possible, and we are no longer producing them (certainly in nowhere near sufficient numbers, at least) because our society is no longer geared towards producing them. This will not go well for us.

Just as interesting as the class implications of Cooper’s personality is the fact that this personality type is shared by the robot TARS (and to a somewhat lesser extent by CASE as well). It is perhaps another example of logical inconsistency – Why in the world would someone in the late 21st century design a near-indestructible robot with an advanced AI and program it with a 20th century working class personality? – that is nonetheless reasonable and necessary from an emotional and philosophical standpoint. Cooper and TARS are kindred spirits, with the same upper blue-collar American swagger and dry sense of humor to them. Nolan’s movies (like Kubrick’s) are noted for being emotionally cold, and yet the bond between the two is, while appropriately understated, both prominent and unmistakable. It briefly seems as if Cooper means to betray this bond (understandably, perhaps, if he wishes to gain the data he needs to save his family, and yet it is without a doubt emotionally unsatisfying) by sending TARS into Gargantua to relay measurements back to the ship. Yet when Cooper sends himself into the black hole as well in order to save the mission, and it becomes clear that he and TARS planned this in advance (TARS’s comment “See you on the other side” was less spiritual and more literal than it at first appeared), the emotional polarity of the decision becomes reversed. Here we see Cooper as leader, and TARS as his loyal servant* – Cooper has not ordered TARS to do anything that he wasn’t prepared to do himself. And of course Cooper chose TARS to take with him – TARS is his robot, his retainer, his squire, and will, without fear or complaint, follow his master into the dark unknown, and go against the gates of Hades with him.

(Yes, I know that he’s a robot. I know that he doesn’t have genuine feelings, and will do what he’s ordered. I also know that this is a movie. Again, it doesn’t matter if it makes logical sense; it’s art).

A total contrast to Cooper is presented by Dr. Mann (Matt Damon, assiduously suppressing his own working-class Boston accent). Mann (name surely not coincidental) says all of the right things as far as this film’s ethical foundations are concerned, and they are all very pagan sentiments about the survival of the species (for which one could just as easily substitute volk, tribe, nation, empire) being more important than the survival of any one individual, and the need of the individual to accept this. He is hailed as “the best of us” for advocating, and for inspiring others to believe, an idea that is basically a repackaged version of the old Roman sentiment: “Dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori”. Yet things go bad quickly when “the best of us” (believed in too eagerly by the not-as-worldly-as-Cooper NASA team) turns out to not be so great after all; when it is discovered that, despite his own apparent best efforts, Mann cannot quite get himself to believe his own lofty ideals. He is not evil (not in the sense of the word that Hollywood understands and normally projects); he is merely a coward – and yet in the Stoic world, this is enough to make one a villain. He lacks both Christian hope and pagan fortitude, and thus, faced with the prospect of his own death, sinks into a self-preservationist semi-insanity in which he lies, and sacrifices others to save himself, and finds ways to rationalize it all away. Unable to force himself to find the faith required for Christian hope or the inner strength required for pagan fortitude, he is left with only cold rationality; with Scientism, which, it seems, is not enough (in making this point, Interstellar provides a strong contrast with the nasty atheist nihilism of Danny Boyle’s Sunshine, an otherwise very similar film). What Nolan asserts is that man needs more than equations and rationality – it is Stoicism or Grace, or, finally, it will be panic and madness. As much as some may wish to believe otherwise, it is only natural – as Dr. Mann points out, it is simply the survival instinct in action.

(Think of that the next time someone tells you about “social constructs”).

The end of Cooper’s journey represents an peculiarly Classical pagan view of time and the future. The ancients consulted oracles and engaged in astrology in order to know the future, but (as incredible as it may seem to Moderns) not to change it. They didn’t even believe that they could. Here it must be remembered that Oedipus Rex was a cautionary tale – it reminded the Greeks that once one’s fate has been decided, it cannot be changed. To believe that it can be constitutes that worst of sins of Greek tragedy, hubris. Oedipus does try to escape his fate, but instead he himself becomes the instrument of the fulfillment of the prophecy that he so desperately sought to thwart. So too does Cooper come full circle by becoming the driving force behind his own journey. He initially tries to deliver to his past self the message to stay on his farm, yet once he realizes/remembers that this is futile, he accepts his fate and sends himself the messages that will start him on his path. Like Oedipus, he is powerless to be anything other than the instrument of the fulfillment of the destiny chosen for him by the gods (yes, technically they aren’t, but for the film’s purposes they might as well be). For his quick acceptance and eventual willing participation in this, the gods reward him with an end that’s better than the one Oedipus ended up with, though it is still at least bittersweet.

Cooper’s recollection, early in the film, of his wife telling him that as parents they exist to be memories for their children, is one of the most Stoic and pagan of sentiments expressed in the film. The pagans were deeply concerned about being remembered, which for them was the most important way in which they lived after death (this drive to be remembered explains much of the pagan emphasis on family – for who will, or should, remember you more than your own descendants? – and of the ambition seen in Roman society). Cooper’s experiences with time means that this will work both ways – his daughter’s memories of him propelled her forward as she solved her equation and saved her people, and at the end of the movie, she has died and exists for him only as a memory. This is deeply unnatural, and the tragedy of it is the price paid for his walk among the gods, even if there was a good reason for it.

One last question comes to mind when considering this film: the importance of the Dylan Thomas poem that the elder Dr. Brand recites over and over throughout it. Was it merely a sort of noble lie on Dr. Brand’s part, to try to keep others focused on an impossible task that was at least better than panic or nihilistic resignation? Was it a statement of fortitude and defiance in the face of the inevitable? Or perhaps did Dr. Brand, deep down, believe that a solution was possible, even if he couldn’t find it? Certainly, Murph took the poem’s advice to heart, and eventually did find the solution. As angry as she was with him when she discovered his lie, it is worth noting that the words of the poem were inscribed on the monument found inside the space station that Cooper wakes up in at the end of the film. If she had a hand in creating the place (and, as it is named after her, one might presume that she did) the poem wouldn’t be there unless she had come to understand its importance and, perhaps, to make peace with Dr. Brand.

Even more than The Dark Knight Rises, Interstellar deserves analysis and interpretation, especially among that alt-right. I hope that my disconnected thoughts can spur some conversations about this most uncommon film. Many thanks to Aidan Coyne (@raptros_ on Twitter) for having gone along with me to see the it, and for having given me inspiration for some of the ideas I explored here.

(*There was, in that scene, a definite feeling of TARS as a high-tech Samwise Gamgee to Cooper’s Frodo Baggins, with Gargantua as the Mt. Doom that must be entered, no matter how terrifying it may be).

Roofs And Closets

We live in a very strange age.

We live in an age of Totalism, an age of resurgent Puritanism, an age of ideology in which the personal is everywhere and always the political. And not only is this the spirit of the age in which we live, but we have all internalized it so much that even we who declare ourselves to be in open rebellion against that spirit often accept its frame and fall into its mindset without even realizing it.

But wait… an age of Puritanism? Is this not the age of progressivism, even of libertinism? How can it be Puritan? And what is Totalism?

To take the latter first, Totalism (not to be confused with totalitarianism) is what John Derbyshire described as the philosophy of “no middle”. It teaches that only extreme views on a given question are possible – that you can only either celebrate something in the most gushing of terms and wish to throw it a parade, or you must hate it and want it destroyed by the most violent means available. You cannot mildly dislike it, or give it lukewarm support, or (perhaps worst of all) simply be apathetic. One can only love Big Brother, or one surely wants him destroyed; one cannot say: “Emmanuel Goldstein? Seems like a bit of a twat to me, I suppose, but I don’t really care all that much”. You are either present at every Two Minutes Hate session, prepared to jeer at the top of your lungs, or you are an enemy of the state who must be assumed to be working for its destruction. Nothing else is possible.

Now, Puritanism: one must not be tempted to assume that because our culture (such as it is) is filled with degeneracy, licentiousness, and sin, that this means that Puritanism has left American life. The truth is quite the opposite, in fact. No, Puritanism never went away in this country – it can’t; it is too much embedded in the American mindset to ever really go away – it simply switched sides. This was not so very hard to do. Puritanism is, more even than it is a set of religious or moral beliefs, a mindset, a worldview, an attitude towards life and humanity and how to deal with the problems of living. You can substitute one set of variables for another, i.e. liberal morals for Christian ones, but the mindset remains the same and thus the method of applying those values to the world remains unaltered. America is, in fact, just as Puritan as it ever was, if not more so. This can be seen in the Puritanical behavior of Modern American leftists – conformist, fanatical, absolutist, priggish, nagging, instructive, finger-waving, tut-tutting, pearl-clutching spoilfuns who careen from one moral panic to the next and inject their ideologies into everything they come in contact with, no matter how inappropriate it may be or how badly their ideas fit in that that arena (e.g. Gamergate, Metalgate). Nothing may be left alone, no transgression may be let slide, and the guilty must always be shamed and made to publicly confess their sins as a warning to others. This is American Puritanism in its most essential form. And since Modern leftism, wherever it may be practiced, is Americanism, and Americanism is all Puritanism, all Modern leftism is Puritan in nature.

One important part of Puritanism is its lack of distinction between the public and the private spheres of life. Sin anywhere is an offense against their god (whether that God is Yahweh or the god of equality) and a lurking threat to the stability of their order, eternally waiting to burst out of the shadows and into the light; as such, it cannot be abided. Thus the dream of the Puritan, expressed both in the religious literature of the 17th century and in progressive literature stretching from the reformers of the 19th century to the present day, is to lift the roofs off of all the houses; to peer inside and discover the sin occurring behind closed doors, and to punish it. In his 1846 novel Dombey and Son, Charles Dickens, that best-known of Victorian reformers, invoked Le Sage’s tale of the demon Asmodeus when he pled, “Oh for a good spirit who would take the house-tops off, with a more potent and begignant hand than the lame demon in the tale, and show a Christian people what dark shapes issue from amidst their homes, to swell the retinue of the Destroying Angel as he moves forth among them!” If one merely changes the variables – substitutes “progressive” for “Christian”, and “racism/sexism/homophobia/bigotry” for “the Destroying Angel” – one has the mindset of the leftist progressive in the 21st century. A fine modern-day example of this can be found in the case of Donald Sterling, until recently the owner of a professional sports team. The roof was, metaphorically, lifted off of his house when a recording of him making remarks mildly disparaging of a class of people protected by the progressive establishment, clandestinely and illegally made behind closed doors and within the privacy of his own walls, was revealed. That the remarks were private, and that in his public life and in the conduct of his business he had always been gracious and equitable with members of that class, meant nothing. The private, the public, the personal, the political… to the leftist, these are one – there is no distinction, and no sin against their doctrines nor offense to those under their protection, no matter how privately expressed, may be allowed to stand unpunished.

“Beware of those in whom the will to punish is strong”, said Nietzsche, and it should be clear now exactly why we ought to be. Modernity is full of utopianism, Totalism, and a strong will to punish that extends into every corner of life, public and private. It is easy – ever so easy – to fall into, for it is the spirit of our age. And yet, as much as our Modern hearts (and we all have them, for as much as we may wish otherwise, we are all native-born sons of Modernity) may cry out for this, it must be resisted. In a healthy age – indeed, in the Victorian era whose ways Dickens condemned in his desire for something “better”*, but that now every man of sense and decency regards as the height of the Western culture – there is an understanding, empathetic and reasonable beyond the ability of our rigidly ideological and Totalist age to comprehend, that private vice, while by no means something to be praised, is universal, inevitable, an ineradicable part of nature and of the human condition. It is for this reason that the Christian teaching that all people are fallen sinners, so often misunderstood (willfully or not) by atheo-leftists as cruel and condemnatory, is revealed as actually being comforting and humane. It says: you are not alone, this is the way of all mankind; you are not particularly evil, you are only human, and it is human to be a fallen sinner. It does not approve of private vice, nor does it obviate the need for repentance of it (far from it – repentance of sinful vices is one of the core requirements of Christianity), but it acknowledges the reality of human nature (Yes, human nature – that eternal bane of all utopian ideologies!).

Presuming that one is not a subscriber to the ideology of Puritanism (and I cannot speak for you, dear reader, but I have had quite enough of it myself), then the search is on for a means to avoid moral chaos without succumbing to Totalism and ending up in the excesses of Puritanism. That might seem like a rather tall order, but – and here’s an idea that should suit the tastes of a reactionary – why not simply look to the past for an idea that worked perfectly well in decent, stable, orderly societies for a very long time? Why reinvent the wheel, when our ancestors took so much care to develop it for us? Before the Puritans and the progressives came along, they believed in the separation of the private and the public spheres of life, in which vices were kept behind closed doors and discreetly overlooked by the larger society. This was the philosophy of “don’t ask, don’t tell” rather then that of the only two choices being the forced public apology or the pride parade. It was the philosophy of leaving the roofs safely on the houses in the belief that, like Chesterton’s fence, they were there for a reason. It was the most humane and realistic way available to acknowledge and deal with two ineffable facts regarding human existence: first that vice will always exist among humans; second that we must all find some way to live together in a modicum of harmony in an orderly society that keeps itself out of the bottomless pit of relativism. This is a compromise, yes – but that is just another way of saying that it is not Totalist. And as rightists, we must remind ourselves that it is the left that incessantly comes up with utopian schemes that make no concessions to reality or human nature – we should not feel that we are somehow obligated to make exactly the same mistake, but with our favored variables substituted for theirs. And we should not feel so strong a will to punish that we recoil from all that is humane and tolerant.

Yes, I used the word “tolerant”. But here I mean it in its actual sense, not in the debased sense in which the left means it (they have a long history of redefining words in order to make their demands seem far more reasonable than they actually are). To tolerate something does not mean to celebrate it, nor even to approve of it. If one hears that somebody has “tolerated” an experience (perhaps something like a business-related social function), the meaning is clear enough – they put up with it, but they didn’t enjoy it. To tolerate something means not that one likes something, but merely that one has chosen not to punish over it.

For those in whom the will to punish is strong, this is an untenable proposition – they must punish, for to them the desire to do so is irresistible. For the ideological Totalist, it is an insensible position – something must either be celebrated or punished, with no options in between (one is reminded of the description of Mao’s China as a place in which everything that was not forbidden was mandatory). Puritans are always the latter and frequently the former (for Puritanism attracts such people into its fold and gives them social status, and thus authority, within the Puritan in-group). But that does not mean that Puritan Totalism is the only, or is even a very desirable, way to order human affairs, and it does not mean that society would end up in moral chaos were we to order them another way.

Of course, it should go without saying that a line must be drawn, definitive even if unspoken, between which vices are tolerable and which are not. I propose a simple formula. First, a tolerable vice must not involve anyone who, for whatever reason, is unwilling or unable to give informed consent to participate in it. Thus, for example, anything that harms a little child, or sex acts that begin with an involuntary drugging, or knowingly concealing a sexually-transmitted disease from someone and passing it to them during a sex act – these would all be beyond the pale, and should not be tolerated or discreetly ignored by anyone. Second, the vice must be assiduously kept private. It should not be tolerable to attempt to poison the social order or coarsen the culture in the name of accommodating emotionally exhibitionistic, needy people who feel a manic desire to make their private lives public and to impose upon the world a demand for validation of their vices. In fact, the optimal situation is for most vice to be technically illegal, on the understanding that prohibitions on such vice, when indulged in discreetly and behind closed doors, are both unenforceable and not very worth enforcing, and thus would remain essentially unenforced. These laws would, then, simply be a hedge against attempts to bring private vice “out of the closet” and to demand for it the approval of the public. Any activist who attempted to do so would end up in jail, technically for practicing the vice in question, but really for being a disruptor of public order.

So the formula is indeed simple: You keep your closet door closed, and we will keep the roof on your house. If you insist on making your vices public, they will be dealt with in a courtroom; otherwise they are best left to be dealt with in a confessional. This is the way of dealing with vice that our ancestors, who were far more sensible people, understood was best; whereas it is we, absorbed in the absolutist, uncompromising, Puritan-infused Totalism of Modernity, who turn up our noses, point our fingers, and shriek “Hypocrisy!”.

And perhaps it is. But there are far worse systems than one based on a little bit of prudent hypocrisy. You should know that, dear reader – you are living in one.

(*The above-quoted passage from Dombey and Son continues: “For only one night’s view of of the pale phantoms rising from the scenes of our too-long neglect; and, from the thick and sullen air where Vice and Fever propagate together, raining the tremendous social retributions which are ever pouring down, and ever coming thicker! Bright and blest the morning that should rise on such a night: for men, delayed to no more by stumbling-blocks of their own making, which are but specks of dust upon the path between them and eternity, would then apply themselves, like creatures of one common origin, owning one duty to the Father of one family, and tending to one common end, to make the world a better place!” This quote reveals much about the mindset behind it. It is based upon the assumption that private vice can be eliminated from the human experience [which is a kind of variation on the idea of the perfectibility of man], and the idea that it must be, for only when it is can the world be made “a better place” [which fits in squarely with the Whig view of history as a slow march towards a perfected state of mankind]. For a man as perceptive of the ways of human nature as Dickens, that level of denial of its realities can only be attributed to ideology).

The Basis Of Based

A new word has been making its way around reactionary circles lately, and that word is “based”. As used in this arena, it is an adjective that describes a character type, as in “That fellow I met yesterday appears to be rather based”. But what might this unusual bit of slang mean? What is being “based”?

Let us start with a depressing truth: most people (and, it must be said, especially most women) do not have a fixed point of morality. Most people’s morality lies more or less where the surrounding group sets it, or at least, within a range that is defined as acceptable by their society. This range is referred to as the “Overton Window”, and individuals set their personal morality at some point within it that fits their natural temperament.

As depressing as this might be, it seems at least straightforward enough. In a healthy society that has decent morals, it’s even a positive thing. Human nature does require some restraints on it, and as most people cannot come up with a moral system that puts acceptable restraints on their human nature entirely on their own, it is for the best that those restraints are at least partially applied from without, both via explicit statutes and via customs enforced by social pressure. Things are never quite so easy in Modernity, however. We live in unusual times, highly ideological times; times dominated by the fanatical utopian cult of egalitarian leftism, which makes the personal political and the political universal. This cult believes itself to be pushing humanity forward towards a paradise upon the Earth, and in service of this has adopted an unspoken, but very real policy of Permanent Revolution, in which, in order to prevent regress away from paradise, the Overton Window must be ceaselessly in motion, towards the ideas that they believe will bring their paradise about. This is what Mencius Moldbug meant when he said that “Cthulhu may swim slowly. But he only swims left”. And as it steadily moves ever farther-leftward, it drags the mainstream conservative movement behind it, and even the right moves left. This is why it has so often been noted that mainstream conservatism is simply the liberalism of fifty, or even just twenty years ago.

But how does the leftist cult accomplish this?

It does it primarily through a historical quirk of Modernity. In the pre-Modern age, the cultural, moral, and spiritual touchstones that most people had were friends, family, and a Church whose face was a local priest who probably grew up in town and whose family one knew. These common touchstones gave people their social cues and provided them with their cultural, moral, and spiritual instruction, both formal and (mostly) informal; it told them what was right and wrong, acceptable and unacceptable. And these touchstones were all immediate, local, personal, tangible.

But Modernity changed that. The atomization of city life, the formalization of institutions, and the development of mass media provided new cultural, moral, and spiritual touchstones like television and mass government schooling (including – especially – the modern university system). Whereas the old touchstones were local, personal, and tangible, these new touchstones were centralized, impersonal, and distant. Television, for example, is made in New York and Hollywood, by people who most of those who watch it have never met and never will, controlled by cartel of a relatively small number of media companies who march in cultural, moral, and spiritual lockstep. This institutionalized system was always ripe for takeover by group of bright, ambitious, and ruthless people like the cult of egalitarian leftism. Saul Alinsky knew this, and advocated the takeover of institutions like these; a takeover which in the West has been so successful and so complete that it is now simply in its mopping-up phase. Having done this, it can now manufacture consent for whatever it likes simply by altering what messages the touchstones they control deliver, and presenting those ideas as normalcy. This starts a chain reaction – it exerts tremendous social pressure on those who take their cues and instruction from it, who in turn exert tremendous social pressure on those who are mildly less susceptible to the message until they conform out of desire to not go against the group, and so on and so on, until finally the last stragglers are dragged along behind the group.

But you knew all this. Of course you did, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. So what does all this have to do with being “based”?

What it has to do with it is this: Beyond a certain point, the ability to question the message emanating from cultural touchstones, resist social pressure, and defy the group (in genuine ways, not in the manner of the sort of safely prepackaged rebellion available at your local Hot Topic) is not so much a matter of political, philosophical, or even religious beliefs, but is simply a function of personality type. In the face of the historically unprecedented ability to manufacture consent and social pressure present in the mass media age, this personality type will necessarily be both very strong and quite rare.

The primary characteristic of this personality type is that it is highly antisocial. In a healthy society, that is an undesirable personality trait, but in a world turned upside-down, it becomes a positive one. Here we must be specific: “antisocial” does not mean psychopathic, nor even sociopathic. It means intellectually and emotionally self-reliant introversion, a deep distrust of herd mentality, and an exceptionally low need for social approval from the group. It is only this specific personality type – the intellectually curious antisocial introvert, who takes his cues primarily from himself and from what he has found that he has judged personally to be true, and who has an extreme degree of real (not affected) resistance to social pressure of all types, who will be able to resist having his morality set by the group, which in Modernity means by the cartel that controls the cultural touchstones which in turn control the values of the group. This personality type is inborn and intrinsic to an individual; it may be strengthened by personal experiences, but it cannot be forged by them alone.

This – having this specific personality type, no matter how wide the variation in its individual expression – is what it means to be “based”.

And it squares perfectly with my personal experience of the neoreactionaries I have met (both online and in person) as being, more or less, a group of high-IQ, antisocial introverts with a strong disposition towards eccentricity. Which means that neoreaction is, as much as it is anything else, a personality type.

This is a critical point, because, just as in the movie that gave us this metaphor, the “Red Pill” won’t work for everybody. Even if you give it to them, many people won’t be able to handle it; they’ll reject it because they’re not psychologically ready to accept it. They’re not ready to discard what the group has given them, to buck the system that badly, to resist intense social pressure and live outside the approval of the group. Thus, what the group believes they too must believe – they must stay within the Overton Window, even if it’s at the end of it that’s being dragged along last.

To accept the Red Pill – to really, fully accept it – you’ve got to be based. And that’s something that either comes naturally or it doesn’t: you can’t fake it, you can’t affect it, you can’t adopt it, you can’t learn it – either you have it, either you are it, or not.

So, before you go any further, you had best all ask yourselves – are you based?

(P.S. Speaking of antisocial, there’s a reason why the anime series “Watamote” has been exceptionally popular among neoreactionaries. If you haven’t seen it for yourself yet, you should.)