“Seiyo” bangs the tin drum

I don’t know that I’ll ever be able actually to read the article on the subprime disaster by “Takuan Seiyo” at Vdare. It’s too overwhelming, too high pitched. It doesn’t speak, it shrieks. It doesn’t address the mind, it jerks up the emotions to the breaking point. It’s not an article, it’s not writing. It’s an opera aria on LSD.

What we need now is understanding, not hysterical excitement.

Now, for all I know, “Seiyo” (who says he’s actually white) is correct when he says that the sole cause of the disaster was the liberal refusal to accept the fact that different racial groups have different levels of creditworthiness, and that forcing lending institutions to give loans to improvident nonwhites was the left’s ultimate device to bring down America and turn it into a socialist country. But I don’t know that that’s true. And twisting the reader’s emotions into a high pitch in the middle of this national crisis, the way Seiko is doing, is not the way to go about things. I don’t trust people, no matter how informed they may be, who try to control my emotions instead of speaking to my mind.

* * *

The reference in the title is to Gunther Grass’s novel, The Tin Drum.

- end of initial entry -

Alex K. writes:

I put the Seiyo article in a file I keep of articles and such to read someday. A lot of what’s in there is due to sheer procrastination but this one I think I will deliberately wait a long time to read. It will be interesting to see how it reads when the crisis (or at least this hysterical beginning of the crisis) is long past.

Paul Nachman writes:

I didn’t react that way, but you may have a good point.

(The same author had something pretty good at Gates of Vienna sometime in the last six months. I think it was about this Japanese general whom I’d never heard of but who apparently was as estimable, or more, as Ataturk.)

Here’s another viewpoint, not about the cause but about the repair, by Robert J. Samuelson, whom I continue to classify as one of the few adults in our national public life.

September 29

Takuan Seiyo writes:

Dear Mr. Auster,

I have much respect for your discernment in matters socio-political, and read your blog occasionally. I have some reservations about your personality, but as long as your intellectual gifts trump your character flaws, I come for the petals and try to get out without noticing the thorns.

My nickname/ pen-name also reflects my spiritual convinctions and was won in arduous training in Japan. Please do not put it in quotations marks, unless you want to be referred to as “Episcopalian.”

You need not worry though that some Japanese/white mongrel is scurrying about the precints of traditionalism. I was born in Europe, and speak, read and write in four European languages more than you do, in addition to the non-European ones. I also received a Jesuit and Ivy League education, and am American for these past 40 years.

Best wishes,
Takuan Seiyo

Dear Mr. Seiyo:

In my brief blog entry, I criticized your writing style, I didn’t criticize you personally, or, indeed, say anything about you of a personal nature. And I certainly didn’t attack you racially. I said that you were white only because you yourself seemed to suggest that you are. That was why I put your Japanese name in quotation marks, because you seemed to be a white person using a Japanese pen name, which seemed odd and was worth drawing attention to. I realize now that your remark that I took to be an indication that you are white was indefinite, just as, in fact, your e-mail is indefinite on the same point. Oddly, you don’t actually come out and say that you are Japanese, or half-Japanese, or whatever, yet you are defending yourself from a supposed personal attack by me over your Japanese-ness that I never made and would not make.

So, while you certainly have grounds for being annoyed at me that I criticized your writing style in such strong terms, you have no grounds for feeling annoyed at me that I attacked you personally or racially, because I did not do so.

Also, perhaps it will make you feel better to know that you are not the first writer I’ve criticized on these grounds; I have frequently criticized Vdare writers and other paleocon writers for their excessively emotional, overblown rhetoric of attack, Paul Craig Roberts for example, and most recently Peter Brimelow for his excessively negative personal comments about William F. Buckley in his article at the time of Buckley’s death last May, though I also praised Brimelow’s article and quoted at length its good parts. This is an aspect of the writing of paleocons (or whatever we call them) that really bothers me, going back years. So, again, I was not attacking you personally.

Best regards,
Lawrence Auster

P.S. Also, by way of comparison, your article was 4,500 words long. My blog entry about your article was 195 words long.

Dan R. writes:

After reading your exchange with Takuan Seiyo I did a Yahoo search on the name and came up with this bio information from Brussels Journal. Sounds like the same guy.

Takuan Seiyo was born in Communist Eastern Europe and socialized there and then in Switzerland, France and elsewhere. He received his university education and was naturalized in the United States, but interest in some aspects of the Japanese culture took him eventually to Japan, where he now lives. He describes himself as bi-racial, tri-national, quadri-degreed, quinti-lingual and sexto-ethnic. As to religious conviction, he buys directly from the wholesaler while remaining a cultural Christian. Mr. Seiyo’s pen name is both his Japanese nickname that means “Western pickled radish,” and a symbolic way to honor one of his heroes, the 17th century Japanese Zen monk, Takuan Soho.

He also has a blog at Brussels Journal, which I don’t have the time to read now, but perhaps you’d be interested. Perhaps. LOL!

Takuan Seiyo writes:

Dear Mr. Auster:

I am well aware that Takuan Seiyo sounds quite strange in America, and more so in the few websites that are concerned with and try to bolster white identity and survival. Still, it’s not like it’s never been done before. Hector Hugh Munro wrote under the pen name, Saki.

I cannot give you a simple answer why I chose such a strange brand, for I would have to give you my very complicated life story. I have nothing to hide, but such spiels are considered unseemly in the culture of which I bear a large imprint, the Japanese one, of the 18th century. Let’s just say that,

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

So at least mine is an honest brand, if a little weird. By the way I do comment on things from the Oriental POV, but that is because the Oriental gestalt holds some answers to our own rot, about which I am deeply concerned. I cannot do what you do as well as you do it, but I can do something else, and it helps quite a number of people, particularly in Europe.

As to my style, it is florid and even my friends call it purple. Indeed I am more of a novelist than a feuilletonist, and when I can, I prefer to publish in print rather than on the Internet. On the other hand, it’s a style that pushes visceral buttons, and one of the things our side lacks is passion. I want to see 80,000 and ultimately 250,000 people at anti-Islamisation rallies, not 1,500. A dispassionate inventory of the crumbling timbers of this ship will not achieve that.

Ultimately, you see, there is no point in arguing about which pattern looks nicest on the upholstery of the deck chairs on this here Titanic. What’s necessary is to put shoulder to the rope pulley to get the ship off the jagged rocks. Such an endeavor is considered to have larger odds of success, as per the Japanese weltanschauung, if one spends less time criticizing others and more time criticizing oneself, quietly, and then applying that self-reflection as a lever for self-improvement.

My regards,

LA replies:

I was not criticizing your pen name. It just struck me as odd, and so obviously not your real name, that I put it in quotation marks.

“On the other hand, it’s a style that pushes visceral buttons, and one of the things our side lacks is passion.”

Agreed that our side lacks passion, and numbers, and as I said in my follow-up entry on this, outrage and passion and purple flights are fine, but not when they’re going on for 4,500 words in an article dealing with an intellectually complex subject. As I said, you tried to do two different things at once in this article, which, as I see it, didn’t work together well.

“Such an endeavor is considered to have larger odds of success, as per the Japanese weltanschauung, if one spends less time criticizing others and more time criticizing oneself, quietly, and then applying that self-reflection as a lever for self-improvement.”

I disagree. If we as writers and right-wingers cannot criticize each other’s work, then we’re intellectually dead. In this connection, here is an exchange I had with a correspondent today about you.

The reader wrote:

… I just want to say that I think Seiyo has interesting things to say and this dispute saddens me.

I replied:

Come on, it’s not a dispute, I criticized his article, in a less than 200 word blog entry. Then a reader challenged my criticism, and that made it necessary for me to explain myself, which I did at more length.

Can’t people criticize something without its being seen as a personal dispute?

This is what has killed conservatism. No criticism of other conservatives is allowed or wanted. Any criticism is seen as a personal attack, as a dispute. So the Prime Directive becomes, don’t criticize, go along. And as a result the conservative movement never self-corrects, because it has silenced criticism.

Your description of this as a dispute that saddens you, saddens me.

LA continues:

However, I will say this. Some of my own rhetorical flights in my initial posting about your article were perhaps excessive, and I should have softened them. The title also has an angry edge that was not right. I’m sorry about that.

At the same time, better occasional criticisms that go too far, and that the writer can then retract, than no serious criticism at all. And “no serious criticism at all” is the existing rule of the mainstream conservative movement, of the paleoconservative (or whatever we call it) movement, and of the anti-jihad movement.

Best regards,
Lawrence Auster

LA continues:

Madison says in Federalist No. 10 that liberty is to faction as air is to fire. Where there’s liberty, there will be faction, and therefore the only way to get rid of faction is to get rid of liberty.

In the same way, where there is criticism, there will be (at least occasionally) excessive criticism. Therefore the only way to get rid of excessive criticism is to get rid of criticism. Which is what much of the conservative movement has done regarding its internal affairs. And it’s too high a price.

Kidist Paulos Asrat writes:

It is ironic that Seiyo complains about lack of passion, but he objects to a less-than-dispassionate response to his writing—which I thought was an apt response. Also, the title of the post, banging his drum, was really appropriate, given the reference to The Tin Drum (I read the book several years ago—here is a wikipedia post explaining its theme.)

Plus, people have every right to question unusual names and monikers. Especially if they are foreign-sounding. It happens to me all the time.

In any case, Seiyo has another 4,095-word article at Brussels Journal, which I found has an interesting premise, but couldn’t find the energy to read.

I think this “excerpt” best explains the article:


I know that there are mandates all over for writers to make it short and brief, but it looks like Seiyo, and Fjordman, are famously going out on a limb to defy that.

Philip M. writes:

I personally love reading Takuan Seiyo. It is the next best thing to watching a speech by a really impassioned and erudite orator, which few people can pull off these days.

September 30

Kidist writes:

I think Seiyo has gone over the top. I don’t understand, it’s the same with Gates of Vienna, Conservative Swede, even Robert Spencer. I don’t understand what conservatives want.

Regarding Gunter Grass’s complicity, I think artists can never escape from representing the “truth,” however subliminally it comes out.

But the passage in Wikipedia’s analysis of The Tin Drum that struck me was:

Oskar plays a rhythm which is more complex and sensual than the march step of the rally. Despite his disruption of the activities of the Nazi party, the power of his music remains ambiguous. It seems that the music of the drum is simply disruptive, and not purely a moral force aligned against the Nazis.

It reminded me a little of Seiyo’s writing, although I am by no means saying he’s a Gunter Grass.

LA replies:

My frank criticisms make people go crazy. The only exception is Swede. I never criticized him, he just went crazy.

When I earlier read that Wikipedia interpretion of Grass, what it meant to me in the context of Seiyo’s article was, Seiyo in this article is so frenzied in his opposition to the deeply unsettling things happening, that he becomes somehow joined with that deeply unsettling force himself.

Kidist replies:


LA writes:

Readers should know that notwithstanding my attempts to be conciliatory to Takuan Seiyo in the above exchange, repeatedly assuring him that my criticisms were not not personal but aimed at the writing style in one article of his that I objected to, he subsequently launched into a full-bore attack on my character, employing all the usual accusations that have been aimed at me time and again, by people who see my intellectual criticisms of various figures as personal attacks which then justify their real personal attacks on me. As just one, mild example, he described my criticisms of John Derbyshire’s nihilistic writings as potshots by which I cheapen myself, needlessly divide the conservative movement, and demonstrate an absence of Christian charity.

I would like to live in an America and be part of a conservative movement where it is possible to engage in legitimate and frank criticism of other people’s work without being smeared in one’s character and treated like an enemy of society. That doesn’t seem likely to happen soon. But it’s not going to stop me from expressing my views and opinions as I see fit.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 24, 2008 01:42 AM | Send

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