The Squirearchy: Prologue

The next time you’re in lower Manhattan, be sure to take some time to visit the Tenement Museum. It’s located in the SoHo neighborhood of the city, so named because it’s South of Houston Street (in one of those wonderful quirks of the English language, the name of this street is pronounced “How-ston”, as opposed to the city in Texas, the name of which is pronounced “Hugh-ston”). The neighborhood has, for perhaps a quarter century now, been throughly gentrified, with the five-story brownstones that line its streets remodeled and turned into fashionable but oh-so-expensive apartments occupied mainly by the rising stars of the trading houses on nearby Wall Street. But in the late nineteenth through mid twentieth centuries, this place was among the most poverty-ridden slums in the nation; these same brownstones were occupied almost exclusively by penniless immigrants fresh off the boat, many of whom had come through Ellis Island with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Here they toiled in backbreaking and often terribly hazardous conditions. Some (including more than one of my own ancestors) dug the subway tunnels under the city with shovels or moved rock with their bare hands, others labored in sweatshops where fourteen to sixteen hour days, six or even seven days a week, were the norm. Many were crippled, maimed, or killed in accidents like the Triangle Shirtwaist Company fire of 1911, in which 146 workers, mostly women, burned alive or were crushed in a panicked stampede after a fire broke out at a garment factory and those inside found that the owners had locked the exits in an effort to keep them from taking unauthorized breaks. After their long days of work, the immigrant laborers came home to these tenements, which in those days were kept in a horribly dilapidated condition. The very poorest among them were consigned to the basement apartments, where they lived and slept in an inch or two of water that perennially covered the hard stone floors.

Those days are long past, but a bit of them is preserved at 97 Orchard Street, which the Tenement Museum Foundation acquired just as the neighborhood was beginning its turnaround in the 1980s. From 10AM to 6:30PM, seven days a week, it receives visitors who are given guided tours of apartments that have been carefully restored to look as they would have during the great wave of immigration that hit New York City in the 1880s through the 1920s. If you go there on a weekday during the off-season when the summer tourists are gone and things are slow, and if you show up early for your tour and find yourself sitting in the museum’s lobby with the chance to chat a bit with your guide before they start showing you through the exhibits, you may just end up being favored with hearing this story…

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Sometime toward the tail end of the nineteenth century, a young immigrant by the name of Piotr found himself, after being processed through Ellis Island, lost and alone in the confusing bustle of Grand Central Station in New York City. Surrounding him was a madding crowd made up mostly of other immigrants from every conceivable end of Europe, few of whom spoke so much as a single word of English, and many of whom were illiterate even in their native languages. Interspersed among them, trying to bring some semblance of order to the perpetual chaos that the influx of immigrants had brought to Grand Central, were railway employees, whose job it was to make sure that the immigrants got on the right train – the one that would take them to whoever it was that had sponsored them on their journeys across the Atlantic. Sometimes the sponsors would be relatives, but most often they were employers whose desire for cheap labor was so insatiable that they contracted with agents in Europe who recruited directly from among the continent’s poor, providing them with sponsorships and passage to America in exchange for pledges to work a certain number of years for those who had sponsored them. Most of these agents were deeply dishonest and unscrupulous, telling their perspective recruits tales of streets paved with gold in the New World, and carefully avoiding any truths about sweatshops and tenements.

It was one of these agents who had recruited Piotr, a second son of a poor dairy farmer in some backwater of a Poland that, in those days, was still under the domination of the Russian Czar. At the port of Danzig, before his ship set sail for New York, the agency handed him a piece of wood with that had a bit of rope attached to it at both ends and a word he didn’t recognize written on it. This was the agency’s rather ingenious workaround for the problem of their recruits not having the basic English skills necessary to tell the railway men in New York where they were supposed to be going – it was a sign that they were supposed to wear around their necks when they arrived that had the name of their destination painted on it in large lettering. Now, ten days later and an ocean away, Piotr stood in the chaos of Grand Central Station with the sign dutifully hung around his neck.

Eventually, he managed to fight his way through the crush to one of the railway employees, an annoyed, busy man whose patience with the immigrants who had brought unceasing disorder to his station was running noticeably short. The railman, who simply didn’t have the time to spend more than a few seconds with each one of the newcomers swarming around him, took a quick glance at the sign around Piotr’s neck and pointed him toward a departing train. In the confusion, nobody even stopped to check whether he had a ticket before he boarded (sponsors usually paid fares upon the arrival of their new laborers, so there wasn’t much point in looking at their ticket before they got to their destinations anyway). Everyone seemed satisfied by the fact that he was going where his sign said he should, though Piotr himself had never before even heard of the place whose name was painted on it – a place called Houston.

For three long days, the train rumbled along; through the Mid-Atlantic states, through the Tidewater, through the deep south, and on into Texas. Finally, the exhausting ordeal came to an end when the conductor shook Piotr awake and guided him off the train. Having arrived at his new home, he walked inside the Houston & Texas Central Railway depot to wait for his sponsor to come for him.

He waited all day, and then all night, sleeping fitfully on one of the depot’s wooden benches. Then he waited all the next day, and all the next night as well. By the end of Piotr’s third day there (and with no one having come to pay for his train fare), the station master knew that something had gone wrong. Unable to communicate with the young man and unable to find anyone who knew anything about him or how he had gotten there, the station master eventually summoned the sheriff. The sheriff, who was equally unable to make any sense of the situation, took Piotr off to jail, ostensibly on a charge of vagrancy, but more than anything simply because the jail had a bed for him to sleep in and food for him to eat until someone could figure out where he had come from and what to do with him.

For several days, the sheriff made inquiries, but turned up nothing – nobody seemed to be missing an immigrant or to know who might be missing one. Though Houston is now a vast metropolis, it was in those days a small, sleepy country city – a cow town where everyone knew everyone, surrounded by vast cattle ranches. It didn’t take long before anyone who might know anything had been asked, and every possible route of inquiry had come up dry. The sheriff knew that he couldn’t keep Piotr in jail forever, nor did he wish to, as the young man seemed like a decent enough sort of lad. Unable to think of anything else to do with him, the sheriff started asking around to see if any of the local ranchers would take him on as a hired hand. After a bit of good-natured cajoling, one of them – an old friend of the sheriff – agreed to it. The next morning, a wagon arrived to take the still-confused Piotr away to his new life on the ranch.

As soon as he arrived, his eyes lit up with a combination of joy and relief. Finally, there was something in America that he was comfortable with! He might not have known much about his new country or even known a word of its language, but if there was one thing he did know from growing up on a dairy farm, it was cows. Even his lack of English proved not to be as great a problem as the rancher feared, as Piotr needed hardly any instruction in his duties at all. Beyond this, he was responsible and hardworking; unlike the other cowboys, he didn’t spend his nights getting drunk or his days off down at the local whorehouse or gambling den, and so he was neither perpetually hung over nor perpetually broke. As he slowly but surely became fluent in English, he became more and more useful, and the rancher steadily promoted him to higher (and better paid) positions. And if Piotr had successfully caught the boss’s eye, eventually the gentle and industrious young man began to catch the eye of the boss’s eldest daughter, as well; with the rancher’s blessing, a romance blossomed between them.

Years passed, and the newcomer’s fortunes continued to rise. He became a trusted employee, then a friend, and finally part of the family; courtship turned to marriage, and in time, the ranch passed to Piotr and his wife. Under their direction, the ranch became more prosperous than ever. From the humblest of beginnings, the immigrant who had arrived with nothing came to be wealthy, respected, and a pillar of his community – he had found the American Dream in his adoptive home.

Yet contented as he was, there was still one thing that had never stopped bothering him over the years – the mystery behind the chain of events that had brought him to the ranch in the first place. No one in Houston had ever been able to come up with any explanations – as far as the Texans were concerned, he had simply appeared out of nowhere one day. And so, decades after he had passed through it on his way to his new life, Piotr, now wealthy enough to afford the trip and fluent enough to understand whatever documents he might uncover, set out, with his wife and a couple of his older children in tow, for New York City, to see if he could find out what had happened all those many years ago. While his family enjoyed the delights of shopping and dining on Fifth Avenue, Piotr returned to Ellis Island, spending his days digging through file cabinets full of dusty, yellowed old papers. After a few frustrating, long days of searching, he finally found what he was looking for.

His sponsor had been one the the garment sweatshops that operated in lower Manhattan, and the sign that he carried was meant to send him to Houston Street, not to Houston, Texas. In the crush and chaos of Grand Central Station, the overworked railway employee who never bothered to look at his papers had hastily pointed Piotr toward the wrong train. He was never meant to go where he had gone at all, and, if not for a quirk of fate, would have ended up in a life of crushing poverty in the slums of New York, working fourteen-hour days for pennies in horrifying conditions in someplace very much like the Triangle Shirtwaist Company, and living in misery in a tenement very much like what 97 Orchard Street looked like in those days, most probably even sleeping in an inch of water in a dark and moldy basement apartment.

Piotr returned to the big, comfortable house on his ranch in the wide-open plains of Texas very happy indeed for quirks of fate, and determined never to return to New York City, lest an elderly garment factory owner somewhere south of Houston Street find out who he was and attempt to sue him for the cost of a steerage class ticket from Danzig to New York.

And he lived happily ever after, y’all.

* * *

This seems as good a way as any to start a series of essays on the topic of the advantages of us all seeking our fortunes in the country rather than in the big cities. Expect more in this series to be coming soon.

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The Squirearchy: Introduction

The megacities are dead: nothing can, and nothing should, be done to save them. The entire incentive structure inherent to urban living pulls those living in them toward leftism and degeneracy, and there is fundamentally nothing that can be done about it. Yes, big cities are engines of culture, but the culture that does emanate from them is poison, has been for decades, and will continue to be in the future. Yes, big cities are engines of the economy, but have long ago caused our economy to have a vastly excessive emphasis on the finance sector, and this has thence degenerated into thinly-masked, “too big to fail” fraud on all sides, built on a foundation of usury that is both sinful and unsustainable. Further, it should go without saying that our cities, once gleaming, have descended into dystopian hellscapes of crime, poverty, pollution, dependency, degeneracy, atomization, alienation, and meaninglessness, which cannot be fixed and which all of the boutique bookstores and arthouse cinemas in the world simply can’t make up for. And, in fact, they don’t have to – the internet age has (perhaps ironically) created a new world in which almost all of the cultural and economic opportunities that once could be enjoyed only in the big city are available virtually anywhere. All of these truths should draw us toward the conclusion that the traditionalist right should abandon the cities entirely; meaning we should both reject the idea of mass urbanization as a good, and we should physically abandon them ourselves as well. In the short term, this means that each of us should move out of the cities for the countryside as soon as it is practical to do so. In the long term, it means accepting the idea that the Restoration must involve a recentering of society, from one centered around megacities to one centered around a “manor culture”, led in both a cultural and political sense by country squires who form a de facto or de jure aristocracy.

These are the core ideas around which I will base a series of essays that will be appearing here in the coming months. Like my Christania series, they may not be sequential – in other words, I may intersperse them among other pieces on other topics – and I am not at present sure precisely how many of them I may end up writing. I will, however, explore the topic as thoroughly as I can, including providing some theoretical models for the new society that I believe we should be moving toward creating in the long term. This will, in many ways, be personal for me, as my own plan in the next few years is to leave the cities and move to someplace rural, conservative, and non-diverse.

So then, please do keep checking back in this space, because the Squirearchy will, I promise, be coming soon, In the meantime, anyone who may wish to get a head start on this series should do so by reading this excellent recent essay by Ryan Landry, which touches on many of the ideas that I plan to present going forward.

Where We Are

At the time of this writing, Donald J. Trump has been President of the United States for half a year. Though I normally prefer to leave commenting on day to day political matters to others (of whom there are a great many, and who do what they do with great skill), it occurs to me that this is a worthwhile time to reflect on where we stand in the historical cycle, the role that Trump plays, and where we are likely going in the foreseeable future.

Much like the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s recent Batman films, I like to think of myself as being ahead of the curve. While I long ago gave up on representative democracy of any kind, I am left having to admit that most of the right has not yet gotten on my level. Most of them – even in that loose category of people who make up the “alt-right” – cling to what grownups told them when they were very small: a mythos about how only this one solitary form of government based on one solitary piece of paper could keep us out of literal chains and deliver us decent, sustainable laws. It’s no use saying that this is a fairy tale – of course it is, but fairy tales are designed to make people feel good by sweeping them out of reality and into a realm of fantasy where things are very much simpler and more to their liking than in the cruel, complex, boring real world.

Yet past a certain point, even the pull of a fairy tale won’t be sufficient to keep anyone but the most delusional from noticing just how bad and how unsustainable things have become. Our collective ability to whistle past democracy’s graveyard began to get very strained indeed during the Obama years. The omens of this were not embodied in anything as overt as throngs of citizens crowding the streets holding up signs calling for a restoration of monarchy, but they were still there for those able to see them. Consider: In 1994, a ban on “assault weapons” passed with minimal opposition or outcry, because at that time ownership of such weapons was uncommon – few people had them, wanted them, or were all that motivated to fight to keep them. Today, enactment of a new ban of this sort on a federal level (the original law expired in 2004) would be impossible. The spike in ownership of such weapons over the past thirteen years has been dramatic (and part of a larger, unprecedented increase in gun sales), with AR-15 pattern rifles practically flying off the shelves of gun shops. And while I am as great a supporter of civilian firearm ownership as can be found anywhere, pardon me if I can’t quite see panicked hoarding of military-style weaponry as the sign of a healthy republic that has the faith and trust of the people solidly behind it.

It is an undefined feeling of dread about the future that led millions of average Americans to make room in their bedroom closets for an AR-15 and a few hundred rounds of 5.56 ammo, and that is that same feeling which sent millions of them to the voting booths last November with the usually-unspoken, but undeniable feeling in their hearts that Donald Trump was the last, best hope of the republic. And they were right – that’s precisely what he was.

So six months into his time in office, what do we have? We have a presidency under siege from the actual centers of power (Call them what you like: the Establishment, the Globalists, the Cathedral, the Deep State – either way, they comprise the entrenched bureaucracy, the courts, the media, and big money interests) who thought that they had adequately made the point about elected leaders defying them back when they hounded Richard Nixon out of office. Whether they can actually remove Trump from office, or even defeat him in re-election, is a secondary concern; if they can merely bog him down in having to defend himself against their endless attacks such that he has no time or energy left to accomplish much of anything productive, they will have achieved their objectives. In this, they have the collusion of the Congress – both parties, in both houses. The members of this august body are, as a rule, easily spooked and easily bought off (either by one of the many forms of bribery that Congress has left technically legal for its members to enjoy, or in the form of positive media coverage and other intangibles). That this is not true of all of them is beside the point. It doesn’t need to be all of them, it just needs to be enough of them, which it reliably is.

Ask yourself a question: If this system, while under the complete control of the putative “right”, is unable even to repeal Obamacare – a deeply unpopular and plainly dysfunctional program that is quickly collapsing under its own weight and which the now-ruling party promised to repeal within its first week in power – in half a year of trying, what could possibly make you think it will ever be able to deal with the larger issues, both social and economic, that plague our society? What makes you think it will ever ban abortion, or repeal gay “marriage”, or arrest the slow banishment of the Christian faith from the public square, or effectively stop the immivasion that promises to soon make the founding stock of this nation a minority in its own lands, or bring any restraint whatsoever to the out-of-control welfare state, or get our nation out of the empire business, or end the Fed, or wrangle our astronomical national debt under control? And yes, maybe Congress will eventually get around to some weak-tea repeal of Obamacare and its replacement with a slightly less obnoxious and ramshackle state program. After all the compromises and backroom dealing that will have to go into getting the true centers of power to allow it to pass, can anyone believe that it will really do what we want it to – deliver us good healthcare at affordable prices?

All of this makes plain that democracy, if it ever worked at all (a highly questionable proposition), is obsolete in the modern age. The government set up in 1776 was intended to be a small-time farmers’ republic designed to deal with the problems of a sparse rural population that was almost universally made up of northern European Christians who needed (and wanted) only minimal governance and were deeply uninterested in world-saving. As the nation became more populous, more urban, more industrialized, more globalized, more diverse, less cohesive, and less religious, the republic attempted to deal with the problems of a society that had gradually come to look nothing like the society it was designed to govern by becoming an ever-bigger government. This didn’t actually make it any better at its fundamental task of solving society’s problems; on the contrary, it simply made the government ever more bloated, expensive, and intrusive in the lives of its citizens. That this government is now utterly incapable of effectively dealing with the problems we face is not merely my opinion – it is the reality in front of us.

As someone who has “been around the block a few times” in terms of watching democratic politics, I knew from the start that the hopes pinned on Trump were overblown. Even in the best of circumstances, presidents normally accomplish maybe a third of what they start out promising to do. This springs from two causes: first that there are many things they promise to do that they have no real intention of ever doing in the first place, and second from systemic resistance to their agendas. In Trump’s case, I suspect there is remarkably little of the first at play, but this will be made up for by an extraordinary amount of the second. In the end, he will be quite lucky indeed to get anything like the customary one-third of his stated goals accomplished, and it will probably be much less. This will not be enough to save the republic. If anybody could have done it, it would have been Donald Trump, but the reality that is making itself obvious right before our eyes is that nobody can do it. The people already cry “Drain the swamp!” and demand that someone with the power do something to get the Deep State under control, which can’t practically be done by the means available to Trump, especially within a mere eight years. And it won’t be long before people start also to compare what Trump has been able to accomplish when he hasn’t had to rely on Congress (a lot) with what he’s been able to accomplish when he has had to rely on Congress (not a lot), and begin to wonder whether Congress is more trouble than it’s worth. This bodes well for those of us who favor non-democratic forms of government*.

There are many who would fall prey to the temptation to look at a single dramatic event – say, Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon or the Battle of Actium – as the moment when the Roman republic died, but in fact its death was a long process that took something like a century to fully unfold. First there were the Gracchus brothers, who tried to reform the system peacefully (and who were murdered by it for their trouble). Then there was Sulla, who came to Rome with an army and who tried to reform it and restore it to its former glory at swordpoint (the Roman version of the Deep State undid all his reforms as soon as he died). Then there was Julius Caesar, who came with another army, instituted reforms, and tried to avoid having them meet the fate of Sulla’s reforms by draining the swamp even deeper (the swamp drained his blood onto the Senate floor instead). Finally there was Augustus, who sealed the inevitability of Plato’s cycle by killing anyone who stood in his way. And yet, once he had power, he rebuilt the city (he was fond of bragging he had found Rome a city of brick and left it a city of marble), patronized a remarkable flowering of the arts, filled the public coffers with money, and expanded an empire that would last another four centuries (or another fifteen, if you count Byzantium).

On the grand Spenglerian curve of civilizations, Trump is not our analogue for Augustus (all of the interenet’s talk of “the God-Emperor” aside). He is not our Julius Caesar. He is unlikely to be our Sulla. But (whether or not he ends up being physically assassinated), he just might be our Gracchae – the first of a series of populist reformers who take on a powerful and entrenched system, with both sides using increasing levels of force, until finally that system topples, keeping Plato’s perfect record of being right on these matters intact. This toppling of the system may come in the form of a single authoritarian figure taking power in Washington, or in the breakup of the republic into smaller entities that will have mixed fates (some will find good authoritarian leaders and survive; others will collapse), but either way, inevitability is catching up to the current system.

It is worth here noting that the Spenglerian curve that the West is on has always run more quickly than that which the Greco-Roman civilization traveled, meaning that what took a hundred years to happen for them may take a considerably shorter time for us. So if you haven’t bought one of those AR-15s already, now might be a good time. I don’t know when you might need it, but I now believe that day will come a lot sooner than I believed it would back in 1994.

 

(*It is not entirely unexpected that Dunning-Kruger cases like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison would have completely misunderstood what Plato was trying to warn them about. They believed that Plato was warning them that democracies always give way to authoritarianism, and thus built strong defenses against authoritarianism into the design for their democracy. But what Plato was really trying to tell them was that democracy inevitably devolves into such horrendous moral, social, and economic chaos that decent, smart, educated people will, with full deliberate intent, beg an authoritarian leader to take power and restore order, even if it does impinge on their liberties to some degree. The fear that these pseudointellectuals really did design a system that will make it impossible for a Caesar to come and save us is what keeps me awake at night.)