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 is almost certainly 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.)

Two Views Of History: Part II

The first part of this column examined what is currently by far the most widespread and prevalent view of history in the world, the Whig View of History. Let us now consider the other major historical view, the Cyclical View of History.

The Cyclical View of History rejects entirely the central idea of the Whig View of History – what Spengler referred to as the “Idea of Progress”; the view of human history as a constant, inexorable march towards a perfected state of human affairs – as childish nonsense and hubristic wishful thinking. Instead, the Cyclical View sees each human civilization as being essentially a self-contained entity, that rises, reaches a peak, declines, collapses, and dies in a manner that parallels the life cycle of an organic being. This collapse returns mankind to its default state of normalcy – life lived in a landscape of rural farms and small villages dotted by occasional moderately-sized city-states, all ruled by small-time kings under a feudalist system wherein most power is local, and united by bonds of shared culture, ethnicity, and strong religious faith. It stays in this state of normalcy for perhaps a millennium or two until a new civilization rises, has its hour upon history’s stage, and then collapses and dies, ushering in another long era of normalcy. This is not to say that these civilizations do not leave any permanent marks upon humanity whatsoever, but it is to say that successive civilizations are distinct things-unto-themselves, unmistakably and intrinsically different from what came before. Though it may take some limited influence from a previous civilization, each successive civilization that rises after a period of normalcy is not and cannot be a continuation of a previous civilization in any direct sense. There are parallels between them, of course, but these are mostly the historical expressions of each civilization’s parallel course through the inevitable, inescapable path of the cycle. There is no great path of history leading all of mankind towards a more utopian future. There are only isolated blooms of civilization that flower, wither, and die, leaving the placid landscape of normalcy that surrounds them little affected by their brief, creative, tumultuous, violent existences.

This is heresy to those who believe in the Whig View of History, as those who do believe in it tend to believe with a passionate religious fervor. Every worldview has its dogmatic teachings, its unquestioned assumptions, its good believers, its bad unbelievers, its divine wrath, its rapture, and its eternal paradise. To be a holder of the Cyclical View of History in a world dominated by variants of the Whig View is to be an atheist in the temple of the gods of the polis; to deny that the perfected future is coming at all is to deny the rapture that will carry the mass of good believers off to eternal paradise. This is a position that the mass of good believers finds intolerable, and there is sure to be much wailing and gnashing of teeth (or at least, much denial and adolescent snark, which are the signature rhetorical tools of moderns), and a flurry of logical fallacies, to include endless appeals to the infallible truth of their own Normality Bias, whenever a Cyclycal View “doomer” shows up to rain on the perpetual Whig View parade of utopian religious fervor.

And yet, reality stubbornly remains what it is, despite all denials and wishful thinking.

Like the Whig View, the Cyclical View also has subvariants to it; though being a far less popular historical viewpoint than the Whig View (especially at the present) it has fewer of them. As with the subvariants of the Whig View, the subvariants of the Cyclical View are not mutually exclusive, and allow for overlap between them such that each person who holds the Cyclical View may hold to one or the other or, to some greater or lesser degree (and understanding that usually a complex event like the rise and fall of a civilization has more than one cause), to both simultaneously.

There are two currently-major subvariants of the Cyclical View of History, which I have termed the Bardian (though I could just as easily have called it the Tainteran or the Kunstlerian), and the Spenglerian Views. Let us explore these in more detail:

The Bardian View: Given the chance to coin a name for this view, I have chosen to name it for Professor Ugo Bardi of the University of Florence, whose seminal talk on these topics is available in print form here. In essence, this view argues that a high civilization starts to rise when it hits upon a key set of resources, which it exploits until it becomes rich and powerful, then continues to exploit until it starts to exhaust them. At that point, it finds itself needing to put greater and greater inputs into the complex economic, governmental, military, and societal systems that it has built around these resources in order to simply stay where it is in terms of prosperity and power. When continued resource exhaustion makes even this impossible, the civilization begins an absolute decline, from which it cannot and will not recover. It will, because it must, undergo a series of rapid, drastic, and involuntary decomplexifications – and it is this process that Bardi uses as the definition of “collapse”. The fact that it is a set of resources and not a single resource that causes the rise of these civilizations deserves emphasis – the imperative to use this interlocking set of resources, and to use them as efficiently as possible, is (at least initially, before bureaucratic inertia takes hold and starts driving itself) what initiates the drive towards increased complexity. An example of this kind of key resource set can be found with the Romans, who had a system based on a set of resources that centered on gold, legions, slaves, and farms. The gold paid the legions, who went and conquered foreign nations, whose territory was turned into farmland and whose people were turned into slaves. The slaves then worked the land that produced food and the mines that produced gold; this food fed the legions, and the gold kept them paid and equipped. It all worked well for a long time, until the Romans had already picked all the low-hanging fruit, i.e. conquered all the lands that had a lot of available resources (gold, good farmland, an enslavable population) and were relatively-easily conquerable. Beyond this, their system hit its limits to growth – a point of diminishing returns beyond which further growth was either impossible or not economically feasible. For example, even if the Romans of, say, Marcus Aurelius’s day had been able to invade the territory of the barbarian Germanic tribes, it wouldn’t have produced enough return to be worth what would have had to have been invested in it – the barbarians were warlike and would not be easily conquered, they would likely have made exceptionally troublesome slaves even if they were, they had no proven gold reserves, and their lands were cold and rocky, which made them not very good farmland. But the Romans had, as most complex societies do, built a system whose ability to function at anything even close to the level to which it had been built was predicated on its ability to continually add new resources to the system. When the point of diminishing returns on that was finally reached, the Romans had to add greater and greater inputs of existing resources into the system just in order to keep up the level of complexity (not to mention power and prosperity) that they already had, and when even this became impossible, they were forced into a rapid decomplexification: collapse.

As for the West, it has a set of interlocking key resources too – one that centers on fossil fuels, capital investments, and technology. A Bardian would argue that the obvious decline taking place in the West – which is at present in the phase of desperately trying to add more inputs into the system just to stay where it is, and beginning to visibly fail at that – is the result of one or all of these resources having reached a point of diminishing returns more or less simultaneously. Fossil fuels, they say, are running out, with all of the low-hanging fruit having already been picked (“Peak Oil” translates, more or less, to this idea). Capital that can be invested has largely run out – wasted on nonsense, spent on unwise and unsustainable projects such as the buildout of suburbia, or simply blown in outright swindles – to the point where the inputs now going into the system to try to sustain it are the products of nothing more than accounting fraud on a colossal scale; money simply printed or lent into existence, unconnected to any tangible wealth, that cannot ever be repaid or made “real”. High technology, they argue, has hit a point of diminishing returns – it requires even greater inputs of energy and capital investment into a system that is already running short of both, and adds even greater complexity to a system that was already overly complex to begin with. As the limits of this system become more undeniably apparent – as fossil fuels begin to run out in earnest, as the massive frauds of the capital investment system begin to unwind, and as technology proves increasingly unable to save us – the West will be unable to maintain its current levels of complexity and will face (soon – very soon) its own rapid, drastic, and involuntary decomplexification: again, collapse.

The Spenglerian View: Named for the historian/philosopher Oswald Spengler (a man much admired by traditionalists and reactionaries; much despised by Whig View adherents), the Spenglerian View differs from the Bardian View in asserting that each high civilization begins to rise when it hits upon a key set of ideas – philosophical, cultural, religious, artistic, economic, and scientific concepts – which builds it into a strong society and allows it to rise. Some of these are fairly standard across successful cultures, while others are unique to each specific one. The standard ones are perhaps best expressed in what the Romans used to call the “old republican virtues” – fortitude, propriety, piety, hard work, humility, courage, temperance, modesty, self-restraint, honesty, studiousness, respect for tradition, and respect for the law primary among them. The specific ones vary, are what make both each culture unique relative to others, and allow that culture to produce its own unique accomplishments in every area, from art to law to science. The specific ideas that allowed the west to rise included, for example, its own form of Christianity (the sort that produced the Gothic cathedral – vastly different from, say, Byzantine Christianity), the Protestant work ethic, Capitalism (as defined by Adam Smith; not to be confused with modern-day crony corporatism), respect for individual rights and private property, and the Scientific Method. To the Spenglerian, then, a culture is at its core a set of ideas, and one with particularly good ideas will rise on the strength of them until it becomes rich and powerful, and continue in its strength and prosperity until, like a musical or artistic style that has explored every creative avenue open to it and then become stagnant and stale, it exhausts those ideas. This can happen gradually over the course of centuries, or it can be suddenly accelerated by a civilizational calamity (as it was in the West with the calamity of the World Wars). When this does happen, and the culture becomes feeble, one of two things can happen. The first is that it can simply continue to gradually rot until it disintegrates entirely. The other is that it can, in a manner similar to an old or weak biological organism, become subject to infection by other ideas. In the case of the Romans, Gibbon was quite right to identify the twin viral infections of Epicureanism and Christianity as the ideas which came along and infected a weakened Empire (The fact that I may prefer Christianity to Rome, which was brutal and wicked even before it began to decline, makes no difference here – the factual point stands). In the case of the West, it was the ideals of the French Revolution, refined and amplified by Marx and Marcuse. A healthy culture fights off these infections for as long as it can, as the West in fact did in 1815 and 1848, and continued to do successfully until its wounds, self-inflicted in Flanders’ fields, rendered it too weak to continue to do so. In the case of Rome, it had become obvious by the time of Constantine that Christianity had infected its society to the point at which it could no longer continue as it had; and indeed it did not, as it broke into the Byzantine Empire (an essentially different civilization that, while keeping the Roman Empire branding, thrived on an essentially different set of ideas), and the Western Roman Empire, which collapsed not long after. Similarly, the West has become irrecoverably infected by Marxism of both the classical and Cultural Marxist varieties and, once these utopian dreams inevitably fail, will not survive in any recognizable form.

This brings us to the collapse itself. The first thing to understand here is that Spengler described a dual peak for civilizations, the first being what he referred to as the Cultural Peak, the second the Civilizational Peak. The first represents the height of its core set of ideas – the period at which it is producing its finest art, its highest manners, its wisest philosophy, its most considered practice of religion, and its most important of its scientific concepts. This last point deserves to be made explicit, for here we mean the highest development of its underlying scientific concepts – such as the finalization of the Scientific Method – and not the technological fruits of these concepts. For those, we go forward to the Civilizational Peak, which is the height of the fruits of all of these ideas; in short, the height of the civilization’s wealth, power, trade, military prowess, and technology. Once this has been reached, and passed, the civilization goes into absolute decline, with no new core ideas available to relight its fading fire. All of its ideas are played out – degraded, worn out, with nothing more to offer.

So what does one see firsthand – “on the streets”, as it were – during such a collapse? At the top end of society, the concept of Noblesse Oblige – the obligation that the elites have to the common people – begins to erode. This is not simply limited to titled aristocracy. In the West, political leaders plainly no longer represent the interests of the common man (at least, not beyond the dirty business of using largesse from the public fisk to buy votes). Business leaders have lost any sense of obligation to society at large, or even to the long-term future of their own businesses, in their pursuit of making every last short-term dime possible – and increasingly degenerate into mere swindlers (this, Spenglerians would argue, just as much as a simple lack of investable capital, explains the wane of our financial system). Art declined first into “entertainment”, then into pablum, and finally into a racket to handle the laundering of Cultural Marxist agitprop. And then there are the common people themselves. It has been said that in a rising society, the poor try to imitate the manners of the rich, while in a declining society, the rich try to imitate the manners of the poor. How, then, do the poor fare in all of this? Even worse, for in a time of Spenglerian collapse, things get ugly both for, and with, the common man. Among them, decorum, propriety, and manners disintegrate; crime increases, as does promiscuity (and its attendant bastardy), addiction, welfare dependency, and general coarseness. The “old republican virtues” go into freefall, and barbarianism becomes not just something to be found beyond the borders of the Empire. Thus do the Fedora-sporting, tie-and-collar wearing working men of a time past give way to tattooed man-children wearing jean shorts that hang off them like ill-fitting clothes off a baby. The founding fathers of the United States worried about the American public someday degenerating into the sort of people who could no longer maintain a rational democracy; expanding our view a bit reveals the awful specter of a people – in all of the West – who are of the sort who can no longer maintain a high civilization.

Just as the Bardian View describes a period of more resources being frantically thrown into a system to try to keep it going along smoothly, so too, in a sense, does the Spenglerian View – there is deep truth behind the old saying that declining societies have many laws. But in this case too, these efforts are ultimately fated to fail. Whether it simply fades away due to idea exhaustion, or is destroyed by infection, the declining society is doomed. Things that cannot go on forever don’t; and people who are not capable of maintaining a high civilization won’t. The civilization built by their ancestors will fade, and crumble, and die.

*   *   *

Here I feel that I must emphasize the fact that what I have presented in both parts of this article are, of course, oversimplifications of these ideas. They could not be otherwise. The works of Spengler and others who share his fundamental point of view (Toynbee and Evola, for example) fill thousands of pages in many volumes. The work of James Howard Kunstler (perhaps the most outspoken Bardian thinker in the United States today) alone covers many books, a weekly column, and a regular podcast. This is intended to be a summary, primer, and introduction to these ideas, not a full explanation of them. But I do hope that in providing this summary, I have managed to clarify and solidify a body of existing ideas, and provided a starting point for you, gentle reader, to begin your own investigations into the nature of history.

Two Views of History: Part I

The start of a new year is a step a bit further into the future, and also an opportunity to reflect upon the past. In this two-part series, then, I mean to consider history, and the two basic views of it that exist in the modern world. Most of the following ideas originate with other people (I wish I were such a genius that I could have thought of them all by myself), but I don’t quite think I’ve ever seen them collected and synthesized in one place before.

The two basic views of history current in the world are these: The Whig View of History, and The Cyclical View of History. Each of these two views has some subvariants that exist underneath their broad umbrella. While the two views themselves are mutually exclusive, the subvariants can overlap such that an individual can believe that multiple subvariants have some greater or lesser degree of validity to them. Some of them present the surface illusion of being (and are widely accepted as being) very different from each other, when in fact they are based on exactly the same underlying historical point of view. It is this that may be the most important idea to take away from all of this.

In the first part, let’s discuss the Whig View of History. If one was going to be linguistically proper, it would have to be called the Progressive View of History, but “progressive”, like so many other words (“gay”, for example), has been corrupted by the left and given its own, new, left-meaning. William S. Lind refers to these as the left’s “coded meanings”, and “progressive” has now become the left’s code word for themselves, which it adopted after Ronald Reagan destroyed the brand value of the word “liberal”, and which has become its most popularly understood meaning. And yet this view of history, being by far the most widely popular one, extends far beyond the mainstream left in all directions; to outright Marxism, virtually all of the mainstream right, and even to some of the libertarian movement (most notably its Objectivist wing). So even though this view of history is based on what Oswald Spengler called the “Idea of Progress”, we must not use the word “progressive” to describe it, so as to remove the possibility of brand confusion. Let us then use “Whig”, which is a word that is both historically accurate and has fallen out of common usage such that it is unlikely to be repurposed by the left anytime soon.

So what is the Whig View of History? It is the embodiment of Spengler’s “Idea of Progress” – at its most basic level, it is the idea that all of history is a journey towards a destination; that it is a steady progression, with some admittedly-genuine ups and downs along the way, towards a perfected state of the human condition. Positions vary among adherents to this view on whether the destination will be outright paradise upon the Earth, or just something far better than what humanity has now; and positions also vary as to what this perfected future will (or should) look like (thus the subvariations in the theme), but the essential concept remains the same among all of them. To them, while they may not anthropomorphize history, they still see it as having a purpose or a goal – the fulfillment of its journey and the establishment of this perfected world. Thus all of them are, to some varying degree or another, utopian in outlook.

Here are the currently-major subvariants of this belief. Remember that there can be overlap between them:

Marxist: The belief that world Communist revolution will eventually lead to the creation of an anarcho-socialist workers’ paradise. This paradise will contain no religion, no hierarchy, no traditional politics, no traditional family structure, no divisions of ethnicity or sex, no nations or borders, no money, and no private property, and will be inhabited by a new class of human being that has perfected itself through study of Marxist philosophy and application of it to every facet of life.

Mainstream Left: A less virulent variation on the same idea set as classical Marxism (But then, it is often the less virulent strains of a disease that are the most dangerous, for unlike the most virulent strains, they do not kill off the host before they can spread) that combines Marx’s philosophy with the Cultural Marxism of the Frankfurt School, built on a model of governance that most resembles a leftist version of Mussolini’s fascism. Like Mussolini, and unlike classical Marxists, the Mainstream Left will tolerate (if somewhat grudgingly) the existence of private property and enterprise, a political system (conveniently thus maintaining their own power), family structures, and religion (so long as it is kept a completely private matter and expelled completely from public life). But it will always be understood that the operating principle is, as Mussolini put it, “Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state”. It is this system, using a powerful government led by “experts” as the engine of change, that will bring each nation into an egalitarian, irreligious, raceless, meritocratic, borderless, sexually libertine, gender-neutral, scientific, perfected future.

Techno-Utopian: Also known as “Star Trek Futurism”. This is an extreme fetishization of science and technology, based on an extrapolation of the past two centuries of scientific and industrial growth, which leads to the belief that man will invent machines that will allow him to build his utopia. These can be spaceships, powerful computers, replicators, cybernetics, cloning and other biotechnology devices, sources of clean and “free” energy, or any number of other technologies. Often, the fetishization of these technologies reaches religious fervor, with spaceships representing a Techno-Rapture that will deliver all good believers to Space Heaven. Thus, with a Techno-Utopian, it is usually useless to ask questions like whether manned space travel is really worth the monetary cost, expenditure of resources, and risk to human life involved when weighed against the benefits and resources that could realistically be gained from it absent a major and unforeseen breakthrough in theoretical physics. That’s a rational question, and for all their fetishization of science, they are not rational on issues like these. Your lack of enthusiasm for throwing any and every resource at the things that excite them risks denying them their trip to Space Heaven. You are, therefore, “Anti-Science”; a knuckle dragger, a snake-handler, a non visionary… a heretic.

Objectivist: In short, the belief that if we take the bright, ambitious, and amoral amongst us, and remove any and all restraints whatsoever from them, they will build amazing things, create untold amounts of wealth, and create a paradisiacal world full of wonders. Which is all probably true, to an extent. But it also a belief that runs afoul of that most stubborn archenemy of utopian schemes – human nature – and engages in the logical fallacy that Scott Adams referred to as “ignoring the downside risk”. (How, for example, did the Clinton/Bush, Jr. era policies of removing the restraints from the bright, ambitious, and amoral people who ran the American financial system work out in the end?)

American Exceptionalist: The belief that the United States of America is the fulfillment and apotheosis of all that came before it in human history. That it is an unparalleled, indispensable, shining city on a hill – a light unto every nation, which will, as a consequence, never be allowed by Divine Providence to fall, as every other indispensable nation in human history eventually has. This view was perhaps most clearly expressed in a book entitled The 5000 Year Leap – written by the former FBI agent W. Cleon Skousen and recently brought back into the public eye by his LDS co-religionist Glenn Beck – which argues that the founding of the United States was an advancement in terms of human progress greater than had been made in the previous five millennia (which, considering that Skousen was as likely as not to have been one of those who believe the Earth to be only 6000 years old, is really saying something). In this view of history, a few great people from the past (Jesus, for example) get to be understood as pre-Americans (just as the Romans would declare their deceased Emperors retroactively to have been gods), and a few more (like Churchill) get to be thought of as honorary Americans. But it is America, and Americans, who will lift the light unto the world that will dispel ignorance and illuminate the way unto the future. One of the main differences between this and the Mainstream Right/Neocon vision of history is that there is a long-established leftist form of American Exceptionalism as well; it is this that hit its stride first with the interventionism of Woodrow Wilson (who famously insisted upon invading foreign countries to “teach them to elect good men”), and continued with the wars of FDR, and eventually the “humanitarian” interventions of Clinton and Obama. Inside every foreigner, the American Exceptionalist believes, there’s an American waiting to get out, and once he does, the world, under the benevolent leadership of America, will be a far better place.

Mainstream Right/Neocon: This is the closest to the classical 18th century Whig view of history (the Republican Party did, after all, build itself upon the ashes of the failed Whig Party in the US). The key tome here may be Francis Fukuyama’s post-Cold War, pre-9/11 bestseller The End of History. In essence, this is the belief that the secret to how to properly organize human affairs has basically been solved once and for all by the key idea set embodied in secular democratic capitalism (“secular” is a term that requires clarification here, for the Mainstream Right means it in the sense that it was widely understood before the left gave it its new coded meaning as a euphemism for “irreligious”, “anti-clerical” or “anti-religious” – i.e. as an official government neutrality between religions combined with an overt respect for the faith of the majority). To visualize this world, one should view it as an eternal, global extension of America circa 1959, with better technology and a few minor sociopolitical adjustments (such as ridding ourselves of that nasty Jim Crow business). Though similar to, and often overlapping with, the American Exceptionalist view, the Mainstream Right/Neocon historical view focuses on a key idea set, rather than a specific nation embodying it, as the path to the future. Its adherents believe that this idea set that has finally cracked the puzzle that stumped philosophers, prophets, and wise men from Socrates to Confucius to Aquinas to Voltaire to Nietzsche: “How shall man live?”. As with Marxists, their outlook is missionary: this key idea set, being the indisputable solution to bringing prosperity and happiness to all of mankind, should and must be exported to every corner of the globe. That these ideas can and will work perfectly well everywhere and amongst every people, regardless of race, religion, culture, history, geography, and climate, is an article of faith. Once this has been achieved and all the people of the world finally do adopt these ideas, perfection will more or less be reached, and history will be over, with the nightly news then able devote itself to football scores and stories about kittens stuck in trees – forever.

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Though different in many details and on the surface irreconcilable, these historical viewpoints are all based on the same underlying assumption – that history progresses towards a definite destination; that history is, in fact, a means to an end. Furthermore, that the journey toward that end can be sped along by people who push tirelessly towards it, or slowed by doubters, naysayers, reactionaries, and those without the vision to see. The disagreement is all on details – on what specifically that end will look like and how exactly we’re all going to get there.

This belief explains a few interesting quirks that are common among adherents of the Whig View of History.

It explains, for example, the fetish that many of them have for Darwinian evolution. Here I do not mean to imply that all belief in evolution is motivated by ideology based in this historical view, or that having this historical view is the only reason why anyone would believe in evolution. And yet it is one thing to believe in an idea, and quite another to believe it with the passionate fervor that some who hold the Whig View (obviously more from the Marxist/Liberal/Techno-Utopian/Objectivist camps) have for Darwinian evolution. What explains this? The desire to try to discredit and destroy Christianity is part of it, certainly. And yet, there is something else there as well. Darwinian evolution is itself a process of the constant improvement and perfection of species. It is, for each plant and animal, a slow, steady, constant, implacable march towards a more perfected state of being. Thus, it mirrors perfectly the Whig View of history, and stands as evidence that not only is their view the way of human history, but are also the very ways of nature itself. If it can in fact be proven that this process of progression and perfection is simply the natural order of the universe, then no further proof of its validity as a historical viewpoint should be necessary. It is simply a law of nature, like magnetism or gravitation.

It explains their fetish for the term “progress”. Someone who does not share their view might ask: “Progress towards what?”, or even “What if we progress somewhere, and then find out that it kinda sucks?”. For adherents of the Whig View, the first question is silly; the second unimaginable.

It explains their general view of revolutions – American, French, Russian, Industrial, Digital – as essentially good things. Each one is a leap forward in the long walk towards the perfected future. It accounts for the popularity of the idea of Permanent Revolution, which, though the term was coined by Leon Trotsky and is most often associated with Communism, has variations and incarnations all across the spectrum of subvariants of the Whig View. The Mainstream Left version of Permanent revolution is busy imposing gay “marriage” – the latest insane and hellish invention of Cultural Marxism – upon the First World. The Neocon version of Permanent Revolution brought us the Bush Wars of the early 21st century. Wilsonian interventionists will never stop until the whole world elects the “good men” that Wilson wished and expected them to, no matter how long it takes. Technology fetishists believe that the “hockey stick” soaring line of progress out of the series of technological “revolutions” that have come along since the late 18th century can, must, and will continue forever. All of these revolutions must be permanent until utopia finally shows up, and it is the responsibility of all good believers to be Permanent Revolutionaries until that happens.

And it also explains the general resistance among those who hold the Whig View to learning anything from history. Indeed, if one accepts their idea as valid, why would they? If, a few temporary ups and downs aside, the present is always better than the past and the future always better than the present, then why would the present stoop to learning from the past? Why would the better ever want to learn from the worse? After all, as William Blake said, “The eagle never lost so much time as when he submitted to learn of the crow”. Thus, why would Marxists bother to learn any lessons from the horrific failure of 20th century Communism, or Objectivists learn anything from the unhappy example of 19th century robber barons, or American Exceptionalists from the history of Rome? That stuff is all in the past, and of course the future will be better – that’s just how the future is. Similarly, there is little to learn from people who lived in times past – we are obviously better people than them, because we live in the future, which is better than their times. Besides, if they were so smart, why didn’t they have iPads? We have moved past their times and their lack of vision, and as Blake recommended, we should drive our cart and our plow over the bones (and ideas) of the dead. Although each subvariant may disagree slightly on when precisely it might be, all of them agree that there is a point in the past – and a not very distant one – beyond which almost no wisdom (with a few exceptions – Rousseau for the leftist, the Bible for the rightist) can be found. Beyond that point, the past is to be forgotten or even dreaded – no one wants to “turn back the clock” to that. The Mainstream leftist swears that they will never let things go back to the way they were before the Social Revolution of 1968; the American Exceptionalist wonders in disbelief what sort of fool would want to undo The 5000 Year Leap!

And yet, from the next world, the ghosts of the Teutoburg Forest laugh. And yet, in the desert, the last bricks of Ctesiphon crumble into dust. And yet, from beyond the grave, Oswald Spengler sullenly shakes his head at us.

The second part of this article will deal with the other view of history – Spengler’s view, and my own – the Cyclical View.