On Elitism

Surveying the reactionary scene as it is today, it seems as though something that it needs to work on developing is a proper sense of elitism. This may seem a bit unnecessary, even ironic – are not reactionaries (who are mostly, if not all, monarchists and/or feudalists) elitists by definition? To some degree, yes. But perhaps this is a point at which a fuller exploration of what elitism is, what its implications are, and how it would look in a well-run society, is worth some effort.

What, then, is elitism? Elitism begins with the acceptance of a deeply anti-egalitarian, yet deeply true fact: A very few people are smart, strong, sensitive, and innately wise enough to transcend the mentality of the group around them and to find their way independently to a belief set based on truth, virtue, order, and sustainability. Most people cannot reach this on their own; most people do not have a fixed point of either truth or morality, and set theirs more or less where they are set by the group they belong to. This is why there are “blue states” and “red states”; why there are “Christian countries” and “Muslim countries”; why gay “marriage” went from ridiculous to essential as soon as the gatekeepers of the prevailing mass culture decided it should – because most people accept as truth whatever is presented to them as “good” or “normal” by their group. What this amounts to is the fact that the vast majority of people need to be taught and led. This does not make them either particularly stupid or particularly amoral – it simply makes them normal. And if they are taught properly and led properly, then the society in which they live will be decent and functional. If, however, they are taught badly and led badly, then the society in which they live will be indecent and dysfunctional.

So then, a decent and functional society needs teachers and leaders. And who shall they be? This is where elitism becomes both the simplest thing in the world, and the most difficult. For elitism is the granting of responsibility to those who have proven themselves responsible, potentially dangerous knowledge to those who have proven that they can handle it, and power to those who have proven that they can wisely wield it. And it is the denial of those things to those who have not proven that they can do so.

How this grates upon the Modern soul! After all, equality demands that all people be given a chance at attaining positions of responsibility; knowledge is for everyone and denial of it to anyone is Dark Age repression; power is to be shared (is this not the very basis of democracy?). At very most, the Modernist will grudgingly agree that some kinds of responsibility and power should be apportioned based on the “brains and hard work” technocratic meritocracy of the Whig capitalist (a corporation cannot, after all, have a thousand CEOs), but only after we ensure free access to all knowledge, and unrestricted “equality of opportunity”. This is the dogma of egalitarianism; it has been drilled into every child of Modernity (and, no matter how much we may rebel against it, all reactionaries are native-born sons of the Modern world) practically from birth, and breaking free of it – of all of it – is a difficult task indeed. On some levels, it may be a bridge too far even for the most strident of reactionaries. Have we not, after all, found our way to where we are because we encountered some knowledge that persuaded us, and which was available freely? Have we not accepted the responsibility to teach, to pass along what we have learned, and to form communities (online or in person) based on our philosophy? Do we not strive for the power – either placed on us personally, or on someone we trust – to remake the world based on what we know to be true? And have we not done all of this without asking anyone’s permission?

Indeed we have. And yet there is a trap waiting at the end of this line of thought. It is the error that Anton LaVey referred to as the “Sin of Solipsism”, which, to paraphrase, means the assumption on the part of smart, strong, sensitive, and innately wise people they are themselves a proper baseline by which to judge the the rest of humanity. It means, in short, an assumption that everyone else is pretty much like you, that what they would do in a certain situation is pretty much what you would do in it, and that the set of rules that might wisely be applied to you could just as wisely be applied to everyone.

To indulge in this is egalitarian madness. It is what has simultaneously resulted in the crucial roles of teachers and leaders ending up (especially in institutions like academia and the mainstream media) in the hands of those who intentionally sow the seeds of immorality and instability in the name of the fanatical egalitarian utopian cult of leftism, and also in what Fred Reed referred to as the “you ain’t no gooder than me” lowest-common-denominator flattening of the common culture. It is essential that reactionaries must not retain a residual Enlightenment egalitarianism that would allow them to think that a worthwhile society can be established if we just have a king and some lords, but that everyone underneath them should have exactly equal privileges. No! Again, responsibility to the responsible; potentially dangerous knowledge to those who can handle it; power to those who can wisely wield it! And not to others!

The elitist must, in fact, realize that in many important ways, he is better than others. Not in all ways, of course – for we are all fallen sinners – but in many key areas which amount to both a blessing and a call to bear a burden of responsibility. It is this latter idea that represents what was once known as noblesse oblige – and it is this that is one of the most crucial points that separates the reactionary elitist from both the tyrant and the capitalist, who, each for their own reasons, do not practice it.

And here a very important point comes to the fore: Elitism is not a call to abuse the average man. Just the opposite – it is a call to do service for them by teaching and leading them. It is also not an excuse to abrogate their basic rights – these should of course be protected under any decent system of common law. It is, however, the justification for a decent society to maintain virtue and order by keeping certain things off limits to those who do not have the innate ability, nor have the education or training, to handle them wisely. Conversely, it is the justification for a decent society to allow for a greater freedom of inquiry and study to those who have proven that they can handle them wisely.

Thus do we say: Of course some knowledge is too dangerous to be widely shared with those who have neither the wisdom nor the rigorous spiritual and philosophical training to be able to fully understand all its subtleties, appreciate its dangers, and apply it (if at all) non-destructively. In a decent and functional society, therefore, of course there should be locked and guarded rooms in the archives of great libraries into which only trusted clergy and scholars should be allowed. Yes, some monsters really are too dangerous to be let out of the basement, and some ideas too dangerous to be left to spread. The one hundred million or so people who died in the previous century during various attempts to make Karl Marx’s batty ideas work in the real world would attest to this, if they could.

In the Medieval and Renaissance eras, this confinement of certain knowledge to the presumed elites was done mostly in an indirect way – much of what was then considered potentially dangerous knowledge consisted of texts written in Greek or Latin, and these remained untranslated into local languages. The sons of families above a certain social status were expected to learn these ancient languages, and thus to be able to read these texts in their original forms. Certainly, there were sometimes abuses of this system, especially when it came to religious matters. And equally certainly, this system could not now be replicated. But it did provide for a great deal of stability and social order for a very long time, and there are lessons to be drawn from that.

So now we are still left with these important questions: Who shall the elites be? How shall they act?

The first thing that must be understood is that the elites of a decent and functional society should not be the same sort of elites that a Whiggish capitalist society would select. These latter base their selection of leaders and teachers on the “brains and hard work” paradigm. This can provide a technocratic society with a capable, amoral managerial class. It cannot alone provide a decent, functional, and (also rather importantly) sustainable society with teachers and leaders. No, this sort of society needs something more from its leaders: it needs proven virtue. Instilling this in leaders and teachers was, it is easy to forget, the primary mission of the universities until very recently. Back before universities were “democratized” into becoming glorified trade schools, their missions were, in order of importance, first to produce a virtuous and enlightened Christian leadership class, second to produce refined and cultured gentlemen, and third (and last) to produce men trained in fields that required advanced education. It was a system that worked well, and to say that it has been completely lost today is a grave understatement. A decent, functional, and sustainable society would be well advised to rebuild this system.

But whether taught in universities or self-taught (as natural elites often will be), the requirement for proven virtue in teachers and leaders is essential. Would this mean that we might miss out on some leadership provided by the bright, ambitious, and amoral (i.e., precisely the sort of people who built and maintain this Whig capitalist society)? Perhaps. We’ll get by without them. We may not be quite as rich or have quite as many impressive machines around us, but that will be more than made up for by things being better in other ways.

This is crucial, because the placement of virtue above all other considerations is the single most important distinction that separates traditionalist and reactionary elitism from Whig and capitalist elitism. This must never, ever be forgotten.

As to how the natural elite shall act, it should be expected that their high IQ and their exposure to knowledge that is not widely shared (in a decent society some knowledge would be kept under lock and key; in the present society there is much knowledge that is technically available but left forgotten by the masses in amongst all the football, internet porn, cable television, and centrifugal bumble-puppy) will make many of them eccentric, and this is neither to be feared nor discouraged so long as it never crosses the line into either open immorality or disparagement of faith and morals. If it does, then they should be shunned and purged by whatever means are available. But, and this is crucial, they should not be shunned or purged until they do so – neither inquiry into troubling areas of knowledge nor personal eccentricity should be taken as justification to do so. Again, those who form a natural elite should be permitted, even expected, to live by a slightly different (but in its own way no less stringent) set of rules than the average man.

This applies even when the “man” in question is a woman. The contributions of great women should not be ignored, and elite women who make themselves known should not be discouraged. It does a decent society no good to have its Hroswithas, its Jane Austens, and its Marie Curies rendered unable to lend their talents to the world. They too should be allowed extra leeway in inquiry, and allowed a certain eccentricity. However, in addition to the above constraints, it should by no means be accepted that they shall openly undermine femininity or motherhood. Women and girls need to be taught and led properly as well, and this is especially crucial because good women are the backbone of any decent society. Femininity is the foundation of good womanhood, and being a mother is the highest and most necessary of callings. The disruption of these in the name of the Whig virtues of wealth and “progress” has been disastrous, and must not be encouraged by any who hope to establish or maintain a decent society.

So now comes the question that I’m sure is on the mind of all: How does one join the elite? A decent society would have methods and institutions in place for identifying natural elites and ensuring for their proper education and advancement (as well as for their purging, should they turn to immorality or heresy). But we live in a Modernist society, and Modernity only has systems in place that select for the traits needed in technocratic Whig elites. What if one’s talents do not tend towards buying and selling, or towards building machines, or towards flattering either the rich or the masses?

The bad news is that there’s presently no one to select or elevate you into a traditionalist or reactionary elite. The good news is that there also presently exists infinite opportunity for you to select and elevate yourself.

For the moment, traditionalist and reactionary elites are indeed largely self-selecting, or selected by essentially leaderless peer groups. If you want to be one such elite, the monetary cost of admission is nothing. Open up a Blogger or WordPress account for long form writing, and a Twitter account for engagement with the community. Then prove yourself with your own dedication and talent. Listen to what others say, but don’t parrot it or feel the need to always agree with it. Write things that contribute to the body of thought; that build on or play off of the work of others with the addition of your own original ideas. Or if your talents tend toward art, or fiction, or poetry, or song (and the reactionary movement sorely needs people with such talents), then self-publish, self-record, release on a blog, or on YouTube, or on iTunes, or on Amazon, or on The Pirate Bay. Those with practical talents, including teaching self-sufficiency and self-defense, are needed as well, and have the same methods (and more) for sharing knowledge and becoming known. Do so in a way that others will value, and you will get noticed. Do not, or display obvious instability or immorality, and you will go nowhere. It is entirely up to you. This may or may not be optimal, but it is the system for selection because it must be – again, there is no other method in place. There is no King to give you a title or noble patron to shower you with money. I’ve long said that the reactionary movement is an open audition for a certain kind of aristocracy, and so it is.

So if you want to become an elite – an aristocrat of the soul – and if you are able, then become one. The time is right, and there could be nothing more exciting.

A Traditionalist Constitution

What would the constitution of a Traditionalist state look like? A good example might be illustrated by the “Shotoku Constitution” of early-medieval Japan. Written by Prince Shotoku, who lived from 574-622AD, the seventeen-article Constitution took effect in April of 604. Many Japanese scholars believe it to be the basis of the entire Japanese worldview, even today. Here it is, in its entirety:

Article One: Harmony should be valued and quarrels should be avoided. Everyone has his biases, and few men are far-sighted. Therefore some disobey their lords and fathers and keep up feuds with their neighbors. But when the superiors are in harmony with each other and the inferiors are friendly, then affairs are discussed quietly and the right view of matters prevails.

Article Two: The three treasures, which are Buddha, the (Buddhist) Law and the (Buddhist) Priesthood; should be given sincere reverence, for they are the final refuge of all living things. Few men are so bad that they cannot be taught their truth.

Article Three: Do not fail to obey the commands of your Sovereign. He is like Heaven, which is above the Earth, and the vassal is like the Earth, which bears up Heaven. When Heaven and Earth are properly in place, the four seasons follow their course and all is well in Nature. But if the Earth attempts to take the place of Heaven, Heaven would simply fall in ruin. That is why the vassal listens when the lord speaks, and the inferior obeys when the superior acts. Consequently when you receive the commands of your Sovereign, do not fail to carry them out or ruin will be the natural result.

Article Four: The Ministers and officials of the state should make proper behavior their first principle, for if the superiors do not behave properly, the inferiors are disorderly; if inferiors behave improperly, offenses will naturally result. Therefore when lord and vassal behave with propriety, the distinctions of rank are not confused; when the people behave properly the Government will be in good order.

Article Five: Deal impartially with the legal complaints which are submitted to you. If the man who is to decide suits at law makes gain his motive, and hears cases with a view to receiving bribes, then the suits of the rich man will be like a stone flung into water, meeting no resistance, while the complaints of the poor will be like water thrown upon a stone. In these circumstances the poor man will not know where to go, nor will he behave as he should.

Article Six: Punish the evil and reward the good. This was the excellent rule of antiquity. Therefore do not hide the good qualities of others or fail to correct what is wrong when you see it. Flatterers and deceivers are a sharp weapon for the overthrow of the state, and a sharp sword for the destruction of the people. Men of this kind are never loyal to their lord, or to the people. All this is a source of serious civil disturbances.

Article Seven: Every man has his own work. Do not let the spheres of duty be confused. When wise men are entrusted with office, the sound of praise arises. If corrupt men hold office, disasters and tumult multiply. In all things, whether great or small, find the right man and they will be well managed. Therefore the wise sovereigns of antiquity sought the man to fill the office, and not the office to suit the man. If this is done the state will be lasting and the realm will be free from danger.

Article Eight: Ministers and officials should attend the Court early in the morning and retire late, for the whole day is hardly enough for the accomplishment of state business. If one is late in attending Court, emergencies cannot be met; if officials retire early, the work cannot be completed.

Article Nine: Good faith is the foundation of right. In everything let there be good faith, for if the lord and the vassal keep faith with one another, what cannot be accomplished? If the lord and the vassal do not keep faith with each other, everything will end in failure.

Article Ten: Let us control ourselves and not be resentful when others disagree with us, for all men have hearts and each heart has its own leanings. The right of others is our wrong, and our right is their wrong. We are not unquestionably sages, nor are they unquestionably fools. Both of us are simply ordinary men. How can anyone lay down a rule by which to distinguish right from wrong? For we are all wise sometimes and foolish at others. Therefore, though others give way to anger, let us on the contrary dread our own faults, and though we may think we alone are in the right, let us follow the majority and act like them.

Article Eleven: Know the difference between merit and demerit, and deal out to each its reward and punishment. In these days, reward does not always follow merit, or punishment follow crime. You high officials who have charge of public affairs, make it your business to give clear rewards and punishments.

Article Twelve: Do not let the local nobility levy taxes on the people. There cannot be two lords in a country; the people cannot have two masters. The sovereign is the sole master of the people of the whole realm, and the officials that he appoints are all his subjects. How can they presume to levy taxes on the people?

Article Thirteen: All people entrusted with office should attend equally to their duties. Their work may sometimes be interrupted due to illness or their being sent on missions. But whenever they are able to attend to business they should do so as if they knew what it was about and not obstruct public affairs on the grounds they are not personally familiar with them.

Article Fourteen: Do not be envious! For if we envy others, then they in turn will envy us. The evils of envy know no limit. If others surpass us in intelligence, we are not pleased; if they are more able, we are envious. But if we do not find wise men and sages, how shall the realm be governed?

Article Fifteen: To subordinate private interests to the public good – that is the path of a vassal. Now if a man is influenced by private motives, he will be resentful, and if he is influenced by resentment he will fail to act harmoniously with others. If he fails to act harmoniously with others, the public interest will suffer. Resentment interferes with order and is subversive of law.

Article Sixteen: Employ the people in forced labor at seasonable times. This is an ancient and excellent rule. Employ them in the winter months when they are at leisure, but not from Spring to Autumn, when they are busy with agriculture or with the mulberry trees (the leaves of which are fed to silkworms). For if they do not attend to agriculture, what will there be to eat? If they do not attend to the mulberry trees, what will there be for clothing?

Article Seventeen: Decisions on important matters should not be made by one person alone. They should be discussed with many people. Small matters are of less consequence and it is unnecessary to consult a number of people. It is only in the case of important affairs, when there is a suspicion that they may miscarry, that one should consult with others, so as to arrive at the right conclusion.

*   *   *

What are the differences between this and, say, the United States Constitution? The first obvious one is that it is wisdom-based instead of legalism-based. This makes it a “positive” constitution instead of a “negative” one. This I mean in the same way as the rhetorician Richard M. Weaver, when he once noted that the U.S. Constitution is “primarily a negative document in the sense that it consists of prohibitions and restraints imposed upon the authority of the state”. It is orderly and spiritual, both in the usual senses of those terms, and also as Evola used them – it appeals to the Mandate of Heaven, to the divine and natural order of the universe as the basis for regulating human affairs. It teaches; it attempts to instill wisdom and virtue in leaders and, by the example of these wise and virtuous leaders, also in commoners. And yet even more than that, by the very practice of trying to pass on wisdom, it provides the basis for a culture, a worldview, a national soul that can endure through the generations. It is unmistakably non-egalitarian, yet it both is sympathetic to and inclusive of the needs and interests of commoners, and also proscribes idleness and corruption among nobles. It is humane (except for the part about forced labor, which unfortunately was, humane or not, a basically universal institution in the pre-industrial world); it is understanding of human faults without being approving of them. It weaves in the traditional faith of the state and the people without being outright theocratic. And it is straightforward and easy to understand, with no tricks or doublespeak to it.

A great deal of the path I have traveled in life to gaining whatever wisdom I now have has involved learning that there were other ways to approach the issues of life than the ones I had always known. If you are a product of the modern world, then – especially if you are a westerner, and even more especially if you are an American – read this, and consider the ways in which there are other approaches to crafting the constitutions which serve as the bases of societies and their laws.

Someday – perhaps sooner than you think – this may be important.