Traditionalist conservatism versus nihilo-conservatism

Writing at the New English Review, John Derbyshire bemoans the British humiliation in the Iran hostage situation and says that all is lost, that Britain and the white West are doomed. VFR reader and contributor Alan Roebuck (here is his latest entry on how to combat liberalism) has posted a comment at NER replying to Derbyshire’s article. The contrast between their respective outlooks is profound and instructive.

Derbyshire’s standpoint here, as in the rest of his writings, appears under a conservative guise, but in fact is nihilistic. This is seen in the way he speaks of the historic tradition of patriotism that modern liberalism is destroying. The British, he says, used to have “contempt” for lower breeds and so were patriotic. Now they don’t have such contempt, because of “multiculturalism,” and so they’re going out of existence. He thus poses two false, empty, and unattractive ideas against each other: contempt for racially inferior foreigners versus contempt for ourselves. He has no moral argument in favor of the former, and no moral argument against the latter. He gives no reason for the past patriotism, and he gives no reason for the present multiculturalism.

By contrast, Roebuck says that the British used to believe in themselves as a nation and a people, and this was good; and that they have lost that belief because of liberalism, and this is bad. He argues that there are true reasons for belief in one’s people and country, and false reasons for turning against them. He says further that if we Westerners understand this, we can start to challenge the liberalism intellectually and so have a chance of saving our threatened civilization.

At one point Derbyshire veers away from his non-philosophical stance, explaining Britain’s past greatness in terms of a multi-layered concept of truth that is similar to what I myself have often argued for in my description of Western culture. However, he then instantly proceeds to blow up any notion of such truth:

The great genius of the English-speaking peoples was in holding the two sets of ideas in their minds at the same time: both “racial pride, leader-worship (well, to be fair to the Anglosphere, we never really went for that one), religious belief, love of war,” and “the inviolable freedom of the individual conscience … the equality of all human persons.” This was quite a trick, as the two sets of principles actually contradict each other. It was Orwell himself who gave us the word “doublethink.”

Having suggested that the combination of ethno-religious-national consciousness and individual conscience was the source of Britain’s historic national strength, Derbyshire turns around and derides that synthesis as sheerest nonsense, as a lie that one can affirm only through Orwellian doublethink. There’s the John Derbyshire view of British glory for you! Exactly as I said at the start, Derbyshire does not believe in any moral truth, and therefore he does not believe that the British nation was or ever could have been based even in part on moral truth, and therefore he has no moral ground on which to defend the British nation from the forces that would destroy it. As he has written elsewhere, the only thing in human life that he thinks is true is Darwinian random mutations naturally selected.

The nihilo-conservative believes in nothing but genes, violence, and racial contempt, and has nothing to offer the West in its mortal crisis except despair. The traditional conservative believes in spiritual truth, country, and peoplehood, and offers a way of fighting for them.

- end of initial entry -

Gintas J. writes:

Is it any surprise the Derbyshire has ended up where he has? Once he rejected a transcendant God in favor of Darwinian naturalism, he doomed himself to defeat in the big picture of civilization—his civilization. Now it’s just darkness and despair, and he can turn to gadgets and parochial little scientific questions to keep his mind busy so he doesn’t go crazy like Nietzsche did.

LA writes:

The blogger Vanishing American, who often has kind things to say about VFR, is much exercised by the Derbyshire article and by the long discussion following it, especially by one commenter whom he has smoked out as a neocon and has replied to at length.

EG writes:

With respect to Mr. Derbyshire and his profound regrets that the British today no longer have the “racial pride” and “scorn for lesser breeds’ as did their ancestors—is it not ironic (perhaps hypocritical) that this is coming from a man who’s own undeveloped “racial pride” and his attraction to other “breeds” caused him to marry, and have children with, a woman from China?

Does Mr. Derbyshire think that his beloved Moyse—pride of the British nation—would have told the Chinese emperor: “Hell, no, I won’t kowtow to you, but if you have any daughters, let me marry one instead of an English woman, so I can have half-breed children, grandchildren of a “Chinaman”“?

Is that an example of the British “scorn for lesser breeds” whose loss Derbyshire bemoans?

LA replies:

But he doesn’t bemoan that loss. Yes, he bemoans the fact that (as he sees it) our civilization is doomed, but he doesn’t bemoan the loss of the things that he says made our civilization possible. He says that the very belief system that was the basis of British greatness could be maintained only through Orwellian Doublethink. To say that a thing can be maintained only by Orwellian Doublethink is not to pledge one’s allegiance to that thing. Yes, he feels sad and broken to see the West going down, including its racial aspect, which is why he still seems like a paleocon; but he himself doesn’t believe in the things, including the racial things, that made the West possible, which is why I call him a nihilo-con.

At the same time, EG’s main point about Derbyshire is unanswerable. Derbyshire wrote: “The British no longer feel that contempt for other nations that sustained them for so many centuries…. And that, ladies and gents, is why our civilization is a goner. Any questions?” He also approvingly quotes the idea that British survival depended on a feeling of superiority and scorn for other races. Yet by marrying a Chinese woman (and daughter of a Communist official no less), he himself shows his lack of belief in such scorn.

In short, Derbyshire undermines what he himself has defined as the bedrock of the civilization whose loss he mourns.

I return to my larger point. An attitude of “superiority,” “scorn” and “contempt” for other peoples and races is not sustainable as the basis of one’s society, because such an attitude is offensive and morally objectionable. It is neither right nor necessary to think of ourselves as “superior” and of others as “inferior” in order for us to believe in ourselves and to want to keep out others who are not compatible with us and our way of life. Paleocons like Derbyshire, who reject objective morality and insist that “superiority” and “contempt” is the very basis for our civilization, doom our civilization.

Since the current campaign to destroy our civilization is driven primarily by the false liberal idea that a historically white-majority society is morally illegitimate, the only way to defeat that campaign is by asserting the opposite and true idea, that a historically white-majority society is morally legitimate. We cannot win this debate through paleoconservative nihilism which denies objective morality. We can only win it by basing our civilization—including its particularity—on objective morality.

Please see my article, “The Immigration Policy that Might Have Been,” in the November 1991 American Renaissance, in which I use Leo Strauss’s discussion of Plato’s objective morality to articulate a philosophical and moral defense of the ethnic particularity of our society.

Note: in that article, I rejected the idea of using race as a criterion in immigration policy, saying that we should talk about “culture” instead of race. I changed my views on that shortly afterward. Also, as I’ve said in this present discussion, since the driving idea of current immigration policy is the illegitimacy of the white West, and its driving motivation is to destroy the white West, it can only be effectively combatted by affirming the legitimacy of the white West and proposing immigration policies that are in accord with its survival.

Alan (not Alan Roebuck) writes:

Derbyshire and similar types often buy into the same falsehoods as the left, and merely reverse their evaluations of it. In D’s case, it appears he swallows the idea that the British and/or the English-speakers in general were particularly “racist,” which was not the case even a century or more ago, and identifies traditional patriotism with this. In fact, except in relation to Negroes, the British, like most Westerners, were not particularly color conscious till the late 18th century, the British in India, for example, frequently intermarrying with Bengalis, etc, until then…. In a related vein Paul Gottfried had an interesting encounter with Derbyshire a while back. He was attending a lecture or speech at which Derbyshire declared that American Jews were not allowed to become university professors before the 1960s. Paul nearly fell off his chair. My father was also startled to hear that he was evidently suffering from delusions when he thought he had been a professor of mathematics at NYU, along with the other Jews who formed most of the staff at the Courant Institute.

LA replies:

Why do Derbyshire and other supposed conservatives do this? Because, denying all higher truth, they don’t believe in morality, they just believe in power, violence, contempt, survival of the fittest, and so on. Therefore, even when British and American civilization was based on truth and morality, Derbyshire will not see it. He will portray it as based on lies and immorality, because that is what he himself believes is the only reality.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at April 06, 2007 11:30 PM | Send

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