The Etiology of Cultural Suicide

The following is a chapter from my unpublished book (tentatively entitled The Death of America) that I wrote during the 1990s. The chapter, originally called “The Etiology of Evil,” was conceived and first drafted in 1992. Until I looked at it in recent days, it had been been sitting in my computer, unread and untouched, for 15 years. I am publishing it now as a standalone essay.

Readers of VFR will be quick to see the similarity of the ideas in this essay to core themes of VFR. For example, I write: “Among the generation of the American Founders, it was understood that freedom was limited by the moral and social order that made the freedom possible.” Meaning that for liberalism to be compatible with a sane and viable society and not to destroy society, non-liberal principles must be superior to liberal principles, they must guide the liberal principles and place limits on them.

Most importantly, I write that the path to national suicide begins with the denial of an objective moral truth higher than the individual and with the concomitant elevation of the freedom of the self as the highest value of society.

It should also be noted that in this essay I deal primarily with the radical or left-liberal causes of cultural suicide, not with the right-liberal or “conservative” causes. However, as I’ve pointed out many times, even if radical liberalism did not exist, right-liberalism alone would be enough to destroy our civilization, though it wouldn’t do it as quickly or as aggressively.

As further evidence in the continuity of my thought over many years, even decades, I was startled, when I read over the chapter the other evening, to see in the final paragraph the phrase, “It’s their country now,” which I made my mantra after the 2012 presidential election.

There may be a bit of repetitiveness in the writing, and some of the references may be dated, but rather than subject this 5,000 word article to major editing, I am posting it as is, with only a few small changes.

Also, I am happy to report that the long-unpublished book, which was rejected by numerous mainstream publishers around 2000, has now found a publisher. What will be published is not the full book that I had envisioned, since I never completed it, but a major part of it, adding up to about 300 manuscript pages, and that part is complete in itself.

Here is the essay:

How the belief in radical freedom opened America to Third-Worldization
by Lawrence Auster

[T]he prime factor of unity in any society, large or small, is for all the members of that society to hold the same philosophy, to put human affairs in the same order of importance, and to be agree on the prime matters of right and wrong and of public worship.
— Hilaire Belloc

[A] political society … has for its substance the growth and decline of an order of the soul.
— Eric Voegelin

At least since the early 1980s, sensitive Americans have been amazed at the human scene on many of New York City’s streets and subways, and in many other parts of the country as well—the bewildering, demoralizing mix of different types of people who have nothing in common with each other, nor with what America is and has been. On any day the subway platforms are filled with people who in their dress, bearing, and facial expressions seem to have no link to the early Anglo-Americans, nor to the determined, intelligent faces we see in the photographs of Ellis Island immigrants, nor to the faces of New Yorkers of the mid-twentieth century. Many of them can truly be described as Third Worlders. Much of our country has become an unrecognizable, meaningless, and, to any person attached to the forms of Western society, deeply disturbing, unsettling, and even horrifying landscape.

This staggering change did not come about only because of some foolish legislation, namely the Immigration Reform Act of 1965 which opened America’s borders on an equal basis to every country in the world. Like any major alteration in the order of a society, it had a spiritual cause. We need to look within and realize that the Third-Worldization of our society is but the external symptom of an illness in our own soul—the rejection of the religious faith, the moral truths, and the cultural loyalties that once made us, not a mere collection of economic actors, but a nation.

The most important change in the American people is not in the non-Europeans who are filling our cities; it is in white Americans. We have changed from a tough, independent, and morally upright people to soft, sensitive, and caring creatures—not fit for a nation-state, but for a nanny-state.

Look at Americans in old movies and newsreels going back to the 1930s and ’40s and ’50s—the uprightness, confidence, well-spokenness, strength, courtesy, humor, and élan that marked American actors and the characters they portrayed; even the criminals in those old movies have human dignity. Then look at Americans today as they appear on television, in movies, and on the street—or better yet, on those public television programs about what “typical voters” are thinking. Think of the pony-tailed man who asked the candidates at a 1992 presidential debate: “As our symbolic daddy figure, what are you going to do to meet our needs?” That none of the three candidates rebuffed him shows how radically we’ve changed since the 1960s. The typical American is no longer an independent, self-respecting adult, but an immature neurotic whining about his needs.

The change in the meaning of freedom

At the deepest level, the common root of our acceptance of both the moral decadence from within and of the immigrant invasion from without, is our radicalized form of democracy. Among the generation of the American Founders, it was understood that freedom was properly limited by the moral and social order that made the freedom possible. This traditional understanding of freedom was progressively lost as liberalism evolved. Whether in its nineteenth century, bourgeois form or its contemporary, egalitarian form, liberalism says that the only permissible restraint on liberty is to prevent harm to others. Liberalism thus denies any higher human or divine good which orders the individual and society. Liberalism started by privatizing religion, and ended by privatizing all moral principles as well. This, as David Walsh has written in After Ideology, “has effectively removed [moral principles] from the arena of rational public debate. As private subjective opinions they are all equally valuable, and equally valueless.” [Walsh, p. 249.] This absence of any publicly authoritative basis of moral principle leaves Western societies unable to defend and preserve themselves.

But even within the more moderate strand of liberalism, Walsh writes, man is treated less and less as a free moral agent, capable of guiding his own actions in the light of eternal truth. Instead, each person is seen as a conglomeration of disorderly impulses without a ruling principle. “[The individual] is incapable of relating to others except through the assertion of subjective claims against them or on the haphazard basis of his own private whims. Government then serves no other role than the maintenance of external order among such chaotic, atomistic individuals.” [Walsh, p. 251].

The grounding of rights in nothing beyond the whim of the individual leads directly to open borders and multiculturalism. Just as there is no publicly authoritative moral understanding to justify individual rights or to order the behavior of individuals, there is also no authoritative understanding of the meaning of the society itself. No principle is allowed to be representative for the society as a whole. All peoples, all cultural manifestations, are “equally” American. But such “equality” makes the preservation of any human society impossible. Imagine a church or a club, with a history and traditions going back generations, which suddenly declares that the newest members, who know and care nothing of this history and tradition, have as much power to define the organization as the oldest and most experienced members. Yet this absurdity has become our common wisdom. New immigrants are at the “very heart” of America, declares Sen. Bill Bradley. All men are created equal, but some (i.e., freshly arrived immigrants, along with their culture and beliefs) are more equal than others (i.e., long established citizens, along with their culture and beliefs).

In all this, we see the link between the denial of any moral order for the individual, and the denial of any moral or cultural order for the society. Just as liberalism starts by saying that the only limit on action is what harms others, and ends by excusing the racial murder of whites, so cultural pluralism starts by saying we should be more tolerant of other cultures, and ends by advocating the destruction of our culture.

The Cult of the Totally Autonomous Self

The denial of any source of truth higher than the individual’s own will means the end of Western individualism and the emergence of a new philosophy of selfhood, which has been called “personalism” or “authenticity.” The old idea of individualism did not imply total freedom of the individual to do as he likes; it implied ordered freedom, freedom within a moral and spiritual order higher than the individual.

Even as Christianity during the modern era was forced into the private sphere and deprived of its public authority, Americans’ understanding of freedom was still supported by a moral conception, particularly in the form of the bourgeois ideal. Even in the largely secular environment of early to mid-twentieth century America, there was still a bourgeois standard of behavior, of sobriety, self-restraint and dignity, proper dress, and good speech, all of which conveyed, even if only in a vestigial form, the implicit sense of a higher ideal restraining man’s lower self. In the background there was still what Alexander Solzhenitsyn calls “the true Christian definition of freedom. Freedom is self-restriction! Restriction of the self for the sake of others.” [Solzhenitsyn, From Under the Rubble, p. 136]. It is the foundation of Western ethics that there is a true human nature, an order of the soul that man can realize. True freedom, says Irving Babbitt, means control over one’s lower self and its expansive appetites, in order to realize one’s higher self. If the higher self and its promptings (which are known not only through the unaided individual conscience but through ethical traditions embodied in institutional authority) are simply denied, then the impulses of the lower self have nothing to guide or limit them, leaving the person not in freedom but the slavery of impulse.

That is exactly what modern democracy has done. Liberal relativism denies the existence of an objective moral order that is revealed by God or based on man’s objective nature. It reduces moral principles to the level of a private subjective opinion. In the infamous words of the United States Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, “[T]he most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” In making this amazing statement, the Court simply injected into the Constitution the countercultural belief “that every individual contains at the very core of his or her being a unique, irreducible self” that must be liberated. [“What’s the Big I.D.? The Politics of the Authentic Self,” Ilene Philipson, Tikkun, Nov/Dec 1991, p. 52].

When freedom ceases to be based on a consensus regarding human nature and objective moral truth, but instead is based only on the wishes of each person as that person chooses to see it, then all natural relationships, all forms of natural authority, are seen as oppressive. The self is absolutely free, defining its own good and evil; therefore any claim coming from outside the self is a form of oppression.

The autonomous self is also known as the “authentic self,” the subject of identity politics. According to the liberal writer Marshall Berman: the “search for authenticity … begins with an insistence that the social and political structures men live in are keeping the self stifled, chained down, locked up.” Ilene Philipson continues: “A belief that each individual carried within him or her a self that could not be fully apprehended, socially contained, and subsumed—that self knowledge and acceptance were more important than conformity to ideals, roles, and standards originating outside the self—served as a way out of the gray flannel straitjacket of the postwar period.” [Philipson, p. 53.] Unfortunately, it also proved to be also an escape from the concept of ordered liberty, and thus from Western civilization itself, into a realm of anarchy. The idea of authenticity demands total freedom for one’s ordinary, unimproved self while asserting that our best self, which is the work of self-mastery, of culture, and of the institutions created by culture, is a false, repressive self. We thus arrive in the world of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” which became something of an official anthem of our radically changed society in the years following Lennon’s death in 1980, frequently sung at mass youth gatherings. “Imagine there’s no heaven,” goes this utopian meditation, “Imagine there’s no countries / And no religion too./ Imagine all the people/ Living for the day.” This world without anything higher than the unattached self, this world without God, religion, country, parents, families—without civilization—is the ideal of today’s dominant culture. Without anything “above” the individual, without any higher truth or standard by which the individual can discipline or improve himself, the next step becomes self-worship—as is made explicit in that other New Age Anthem, “We Are The World.”

The self-deification of massed humanity, as seen in “We Are The World,” is the psychological root of totalitarianism. If “we” are the world, then there is no reality or truth or goodness outside ourselves; anyone who resists “us” stands outside the world, outside the protection of law or common decency. Fairness, the rule of law, the acceptance of limits, nothing is allowed to oppose the demands of this aroused, authentic self.

The Rebellion against the Father

In all its forms, the phenomenon we’ve been discussing represents the loss of authority in a father image. Symbolically, the father is the structuring source of our existence, whether we are speaking of male authority, of the law, of right and wrong, of our nation, of our heritage, of our civilization, of our biological nature, of our God. All these structuring principles of human life, in their different ways, are symbolically the father. The rebellion we’ve discussed is, in one form or another, a rebellion against the father. The belief that the universe is structured, intelligible, and fundamentally good, and that one can participate in this universe—this is the experience of having a father, which is the opposite of the experience of alienation that drives contemporary culture.

For the revolutionary generation of the 1960s, the psychological source of this rebellion was typically a rejection of their actual parents, because of some perceived inadequacy or betrayal. Letty Cottin Pogrebin, the feminist writer and co-founder of Ms. magazine, writes of a shameful secret her parents had kept from her until she was twelve. Her parents had not been married as long as they claimed, but had each been married previously, and the girl who Letty thought was her sister was really her half sister from her mother’s earlier marriage. The discovery of this secret, Pogrebin writes, “destroyed my belief in truth, reality and all adults. [Italics added]…. The discovery of my parents’ charade left its mark. I became an inveterate doubter, always peeling the onion trying to get at the truth beneath the “facts.” … I will never know how much [this decoding instinct] has damaged my capacity to trust.” Apparently it’s damaged it a great deal, since she goes on to say that her family’s secrets “set the stage for my later involvement in the women’s movement. Feminism’s challenge to sexual hypocrisy and sex-role coercion seemed to directly address my experience growing up with a mother, grandmother and aunts who had to cloak themselves in deception before they could face the world.” [“To Tell the Truth,” New York Times Magazine, Fall 1992, no date].

While I do not deny the shock and trauma that Pogrebin’s childhood experience must have caused her, what is remarkable is the way she lets that event color her approach to all of reality. She makes no effort to step outside her own situation or to see that her parents’ lie may not be typical of life in general. It doesn’t seem to occur to her that it is not fair to cast the stigma of her parents’ deception on other people. Nor does she try to forgive her parents and heal the wound. Instead, she rejoices in the way that she has adopted that wound as her defining characteristic, and as the basis of her lifelong suspicion of society, and even, she says, of reality itself. She is proud of her alienation, of her belief in a universal hypocrisy.

For many 1960s radicals, hatred of their parents, mainly their fathers, shaped a general hostility toward the larger society. This destructive generation is guilty of the sin of Ham, the son of Noah, who saw the nakedness of his father when Noah had fallen drunk asleep, and instead of covering him, offered him up to further humiliation (Gen. 9:22). When Noah awakes and finds out what his son Ham has done, he casts a curse on him. The meaning of the story is that Ham, by not covering up—not forgiving—his father’s weakness, but trying to display it to the world, has destroyed his own soul. To look too closely at one’s father’s inevitable defects implies a disastrous loss of perspective, a denial of the father’s human worth and the respect one owes him. To peer mercilessly at the flaws of our civilization, as the adversary culture has done, implies a similar loss of balance. A primal sin is at the root of it. There are feelings of veneration, awe, love, respect, gratitude, affection that it is natural and proper to feel for the author of one’s being—whether it be one’s own parents or one’s country. The fountainhead of these natural affections has been poisoned by today’s anti-culture, led by the feminist attack on male authority and by the multiculturalist trashing of white America.

The structure of alienation

The above discussion suggests the source of the infamous liberal guilt complex, which has so damaged our institutions.

Why do liberals feel guilty? They feel guilty because they are guilty. They feel guilty because, in their self-absorption and self-worship, they are alienated from objective moral values, from their own civilization, and from God,. Alienated, they feel a restless unease within themselves. But instead of recognizing the source of the unease, which is their self-worship, they project their selfishness onto external reality, onto “society.” Thus, when Mrs. Clinton self-righteously told an interviewer that “we should try to treat our cleaning women like human beings,” her comment naturally led people to suspect that it was Mrs. Clinton herself who did not see cleaning women as human beings, and that instead of recognizing the source of estrangement within herself, she projected it onto others, imagining that they needed instruction from her.

For the alienated radical, natural human relationships, traditional religion, morality, and normal patriotism are the sources of all the ills and oppressions in the world, and of their own roiling discontent. But because they have cut themselves off from the sources of order, their concern for the oppressed is really a neurotic attempt to assuage an inward disorder in themselves, which they cannot do as long as they remain alienated. As a result, in their solicitude for the oppressed, and in their rage at “society,” at “white racism,” and at “patriarchy,” they always try to do too much. Nothing is ever enough, only the announced intention to heal all the inequality and injustice in the world will suffice, even as they show a lack of concern for anyone who is not a designated victim according to the leftist scheme of things. Their pursuit of justice is not an ethically ordered activity toward the good, but the expression of an unassuageable appetite.

The dynamic of this alienation always follows the same pattern: The alienated radical, seeking some egalitarian end, violates the norms of society and the laws of nature, which results in profound social disorders, which the radical then blames on the tradition that he himself has damaged, rather than on the fact that he has damaged it. Here are several examples of this dynamic at work in contemporary society:

  • The ideology of unlimited personal autonomy weakens self-control and undermines traditional and familial authority. As a result, people’s lives become more chaotic and unhappy. And on what do the liberationists blame this unhappiness? Society’s “repressiveness”! They even accuse social authority of becoming fascistic, when in fact social authority has collapsed. They blame their unhappiness on the very thing they have already damaged, and seek to destroy it even further.

  • Engaging in practices that violate all natural and religious norms, homosexuals catch a deadly illness. They then in murderous fury blame the illness on “homophobic society,” President Reagan, and the Catholic Church.

  • Claiming that rape is a symptom of male dominance, feminists, overthrow patriarchal manifestations such as male chivalry toward women and paternal authority over sons. As a result, young men become even more savage and undisciplined, and (along with other social ills) the incidence of rape actually increases. But the feminists persist in blaming the increase in rape on the pitiful vestiges of “patriarchal culture” which they themselves have destroyed, rather than on the removal of the traditional patriarchy, which kept young men in line.

  • As post-’60s American parents have become ever more permissive and disengaged from their children, the family has become more and more dysfunctional. But instead of realizing that the abandonment of parental authority and responsibility has been the problem, the experts discover an epidemic of child abuse and charge that parents have too much authority over children. Parents, once seen as “repositories of wisdom and rectitude,” are now portrayed as “lethally dangerous” to their children. Swiss child psychologist Alice Miller has said that traditional parental relationship was inherently abusive, sadistic, a form of “soul murder,” promoting self-denial and submission to authority. [Dana Mack, “Are Parents Bad for Children?” Commentary, March 1994, p. 30].

  • Just as parental and male authority is attacked, so is white America. Liberals, in the name of overcoming racism, undermined the forces of law and order, gave moral license to black illegitimacy, black violence, and black racial vengeance, and as a result found their cities being destroyed by a pathological black underclass. But instead of recognizing their error and defending society from this disorder, the liberals blame “white racist” society for black crime, thus weakening society further.

  • White America opened the doors to mass Third-World immigration, which introduced all kinds of new ethnic and cultural conflict into America, which the liberals then attributed to whites’ failure to be sufficiently welcoming to immigrants.

  • In opening America to immigrants, the original intention was not to destroy America but only make it “broader,” more “inclusive” and more “equal.” But as a result of the different cultures of the immigrants, we’ve ended up accommodating those differences by canceling the American nation altogether, redefining it as a multicultural collection of peoples, or as an “idea.” Our effort to broaden the nation results in conditions that make the nation itself the problem. The nation, like the father, starts to appear as inherently abusive.

  • And, finally, America’s leaders, who up to the mid-twentieth century proclaimed their pride in the white race and its civilization, abandoned race as a legitimate concept. This loss of a basic component of our historic national character has left Americans confused and unsettled about whether they still have or can have any viable nationhood. But instead of acknowledging the cause of the problem, which is the destruction of white racial consciousness, liberals and conservatives start to demonize white racial consciousness, even though it has already virtually disappeared. Having destroyed white America as a cultural and political entity, the promoters of diversity now blame the resulting problems on—the white race. Thus Ron Unz wrote in Commentary in 1999 that the main threat presented by mass non-European immigration is that it may arouse a white nationalist backlash.

These are some of the ways in which the “Father,” the structural aspect of existence, has been overthrown by the forces of alienation. In effect, an entire generation of Americans have been told by their “Mother”—i.e., by the schools, by the entertainment industry, by the government, even by the President—that their “Father”—i.e., their laws, their moral framework, their heritage, their nation—is an abuser and a bum. Therefore love of these father figures is a sickness that must be extirpated through multicultural education. As long ago as 1972 Harvard education psychiatrist Chester Pierce laid out this agenda at a meeting of the Childhood Education International Association:

Every child of America entering school at the age of five is mentally ill because he comes to school with certain allegiances toward our founding fathers, toward our elected officials, toward his parents, toward a belief in a supernatural being, toward the sovereignty of this nation as a separate entity. It’s up to you teachers to make all these sick children well by creating international children of the future. [Chester Pierce, quoted by Eagle Forum, August 1996] .

Led by such ideas, the main purpose of post-Sixties American education and culture has been to plant in the spirits of young Americans the feeling that their “Father” has betrayed them. This feeling, writes Tod Lindbom, leads to a “diminished ability to identify with a living community. It is during a process of this kind that an identity crisis emerges. Men start to think of their social existence as a void…. The step from bitterness, due to a lost filiation, to revolutionary rage and hatred is not wide.” [Lindbom p. 300-01, Modern Age? Get citation.)]. Now think of how much more deadly this rage becomes when it is combined with the Rousseauian idea (which is more widespread today than ever) that human beings are naturally good, and have no source of moral truth above them. Basically, everything that stands in the way of the collective will of “We, the Good, Compassionate, Diverse People” must be wiped out. Everyone who stands outside the circle of progressive self-regard must be crushed. “Tolerance, grace, forgiveness are concepts unknown in this kingdom of Man where righteousness holds sway, where the deviant must be annihilated.” [Lindbom, p. 299]. In its most extreme form, alienation leads to murder for fun, a fun which consists in “gaining a pseudo-identity through asserting one’s power,” as Eric Voegelin has pointed out. This does not just take the form of murdering reputations, or of the actual murder of people, or of excusing murder (e.g., rationalizing or ignoring the epidemic of racial murders of whites). There is also the delicious thrill of murdering an ideal, even an entire civilization. In each case, an estrangement from some standard of truth or some cultural ideal is worked out, not by trying to reform oneself, but by overthrowing the standard by which one is negatively judged.

Thus Jewish intellectuals such as Marx and Freud unleashed their resentment against middle-class Victorian standards of behavior through theories that deconstructed the Gentile ethos of self-restraint to which many Jews felt they could not comfortably adapt. Thus Asian-American intellectuals like David Hwang and David Mura speak of how the normal image of an American makes them feel inferior, so they seek to undercut and replace that image.

Thus feminists seek to destroy the “male culture” of the military, and indeed the ideal of masculinity itself, in order to remove any standard by which they and their agenda can be found wanting.

Thus the deconstructionists declare that truth and beauty are oppressive concepts and seek to destroy them.

But behind all these murders, the ultimate murder is the murder of God, the murder by which man becomes God, his will absolute. This metaphysical revolt against God, says David Walsh, results in “the detachment from any finite political objective. Having arisen from a revolt against the comprehensive nature of existence, virtually no tangible result can satisfy the motivating impulse. Only a total transformation of human nature” will suffice. [Walsh, After Ideology, p. 93].

To summarize, the ascendancy of alienation means that every normal value of society is destroyed in the name of whatever is alien to that society. It means, as Joseph Sobran put it in a famous article, “a prejudice in favor of the alien, the marginal, the dispossessed, the eccentric, reaching an extreme in the attempt to ‘build a new society’ by destroying the basic institutions of the native.” Under the racial quota system, black felons become cops. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers can’t fire drug addicts or hostile workers, but must make “reasonable” adjustments to the misbehaving employee. Severely disabled school children must be placed in regular classes, disrupting everyone’s education. Tracking in schools is abolished, placing bright and slow youngsters in the same classes and even in the same work groups, where the bright can proceed no faster than the slow and can receive no higher grade than they. The mentally ill get the right to live in ordinary neighborhoods, so that they turn those neighborhoods into outdoor insane asylums. (In the words of the Institute for Community Living, “every person with a disability has the right to live in decent and safe community housing of his or her choice.”). Women have the right to be in the military. Children have the right to behave badly; if parents discipline them, that is child abuse, for which parents can be arrested and lose custody over their children. Police officers attempting to subdue a dangerous drugged-up career criminal are sent to jail for hitting him too many times, while the criminal is awarded millions and continues on his endless career of wife beating and drunken driving. Primitive cultures are glorified and America is demonized. Immigrant and nonwhite cultures are institutionalized while American culture is eclipsed. Animals, even bacteria are made equal or superior to man.

So this is alienism—an alienation whose goal is “nothing less than the complete inversion of the normal perspective.” And the ultimate form this alienism takes is the openness to mass Third-World immigration. The project of alienism cannot be complete until white America, along with its cultural, political, and genetic heritage, is eliminated and replaced. This is why America’s openness to mass immigration cannot be understood without understanding the culture of alienation of which it is the ultimate symptom.

The final irony in this account of alienation is that alienation has become the dominant culture, enshrined in all our institutions and popular ideals. The alienated today are not the outsiders, but the insiders, not lonely, bitter losers, but the ecstatically self-satisfied leaders of American entertainment, media, politics, religion, education, sports, and business. Since America has now become their America, these elites experience their radical alienation not as alienation, but as participation and joy. They don’t see what they are doing as the murder of America, but as the pursuit of the great American ideals of freedom, openness, and inclusion.

- The End -


Where did the syndrome of viewing America simultaneously as the source of all goods and the source of all evil come from? It came from the “elite,” rebellious cohort of white middle-class youth. The children of the 1950s and ’60s were the most privileged, easy-going, self-regarding generation in history. Their most influential members expected every fulfillment, while despising their middle class parents who had made their comfortable life possible. They expected their parents to pay their way even as they looked down on their parents as “bourgeois,” “repressed,” and so on. This attitude of parasitic alienation, of hostile entitlement, then spread out from a small upper middle class group in the 1960s to inform the entire American culture. In this new culture, people despise America even as they angrily demand that America provide for all their desires. And now even Third-Worlders have adopted this “spoiled adolescent” syndrome vis à vis America.

Thus the attitudes of a small group of alienated, self-important Americans have become the template of a world-wide anti-culture. Instead of Toynbee’s creative minority, which creates the models that form a culture, this destructive minority disseminated the ideas and attitudes that eliminated a culture, by elevating their own warped family drama into a new cultural paradigm.


Malcolm Pollack writes:

Having read with interest the essay you posted today (I won’t weary you with lengthy comments or questions about it at the moment), I stumbled just a few minutes later upon this brief item, written in December by the blogger Deogolwulf:

OUT OF SELF-CONTROL AND INTO OUTER CONTROL.—Self-control is the control and rightful-ordering of desires and passions by the rational self. Liberation, as promoted by liberals, socialists, and other libertarians, is the setting-free of desires and passions from the command of the rational self, the thraldom of the latter to the former, and the manipulation and control of the desires and passions by outer forces over the vanquished self. This is the “free man” which the libertarians promote: the man without self-control, not a master of his passions, but their thrall in “free expression”—and a thrall also to those who know how to manipulate and control the passions of others.

Coming back to Gurdjieff again: as he always said, until we are master of ourselves, how can we be free? How can a machine be free? How can an animal, the slave of its instincts, be free? Only a Man can be free; to be a Man one must be one rather than many, and to be one we must have something constant within us, some fixed principle, some Aim, around which a unitary Self can coalesce.

Liberalism, wisely in terms of its own Aim, is the enemy of all of this.

LA replies:

Of course Gurdjieff (or I would prefer to speak of his student and exponent Ouspensky because I regard the former as a highly problematic figure) would say that traditionalist conservatives and anti-liberals are as machine-like, divided, and asleep as liberals. Still, your point is a valid one. Liberalism, by liberating desire, breaks up and divides the human consciousness, putting man into deeper sleep and mechanicalness and farther from the possibility of a unified state of being, whether we are speaking of the individual consciousness or of proper social-moral order.

Plato in The Republic has a great deal to say about the proper ordering of man’s being, both on the individual level and the social. In fact it’s the main subject of the book. He calls this proper ordering “justice.” It is a state in which each faculty or part of man’s being is doing its proper work and not interfering in the works of the other parts. The reason (represented on the external level by the philosophers) directs the whole man or the whole society; rational fear (represented by the Guardians or warriors) guards the man or the society from external threat; the ordinary instincts, represented externally by the mass of the population and the trades they pursue, provides for the individual’s or the society’s physical needs. (I’m not getting the scheme quite right, but it’s something like that.)

It is commonly believed that the chief significance of The Republic is that it is a proposal for an ideal society, and because some of the specific features of this society are highly unattractive, such as extreme regimentation and separation of children from parents, The Republic is commonly rejected as totalitarian. This is not a correct way of viewing the book, and it closes us off from its greatness and genius. The main reason Plato describes a good polis in such detail is to illustrate in external terms the state of “justice” within man’s being, He doesn’t mean “justice” the way we mean it, as fairness, as people treating each other right. He means the proper ordering of man, so that man is not chaotically divided within himself, but unified, functioning according to his true nature, and directed toward his proper ends. Plato’s aim is fundamentally the same as Gurdjieff’s and Ouspensky’s.

In Book VIII and the beginning of Book IX of The Republic, the greatest and most exciting single passage of genius I have ever read), Plato describes the downward course of the polis from true order to disorder, and one of the things that disorders it is the liberation of desire and diversity. He calls this stage or condition of the polis democracy, and the typical man who inhabits it democratic man. His description of the democratic, diverse polis is amazingly like contemporary America. (I list the main features of Plato’s democracy in my 1991 talk to The Federation for American Reform, “The Real PC,” in which I argue that the PC that drives mass Third-World immigration is much more than an elite or class phenomenon, it’s the all-ruling orthodoxy of modern society.) But that’s not the worst. When all desires are encouraged to run free, ultimately the man who has the strongest desires, who places no limit on his desires, takes over. Plato calls him tyrannical man, and the polis he rules a tyranny. This is the final stage in the downward path of the polis from proper order to demonic disorder.

Malcolm Pollack replies:
Quite so. Even though so many of the ancient traditions that liberalism rejects exist in large part to provide a sturdy framework of inner discipline for our self-perfection, to adhere to them only puts even the traditional conservative at the foot of the ladder; it is of course entirely possible to participate in such traditions in a completely mechanical way.

This esoteric reading of Plato was much discussed in the Gurdjieff group that I participated in for many years. As described in that slim volume I gave you, the Gurdjieff/Ouspensky teaching has deep roots in Greek thought (although G. always liked to call it “esoteric Christianity”).

The problem of the right ordering of the polis—the struggle to create an ordered unity out of a chaotic inner multitude (which we could call E pluribus unum, and I don’t imagine the choice of that expression by du Simitiere, a Mason, for the Seal of the United States was any accident)—is a nearly perfect analogy of the problem that we must solve within ourselves.

February 26

Paul Nachman writes:

Here is your opening paragraph:

At least since the early 1980s, sensitive Americans have been amazed at the human scene on many of New York City’s streets and subways, and in many other parts of the country as well—the bewildering, demoralizing mix of different types of people who have nothing in common with each other, nor with what America is and has been. On any day the subway platforms are filled with people who in their dress, bearing, and facial expressions seem to have no link to the early Anglo-Americans, nor to the determined, intelligent faces we see in the photographs of Ellis Island immigrants, nor to the faces of New Yorkers of the mid-twentieth century. Many of them can truly be described as Third Worlders. Much of our country has become an unrecognizable, meaningless, and, to any person attached to the forms of Western society, deeply disturbing, unsettling, and even horrifying landscape.

And here is part of a current book review at City Journal by Theodore Dalrymple:

It is this small but diverse world, and the dilemmas that growing up in it poses, that Smith, herself the daughter of a Jamaican mother and an English father, explores in her novel. She describes the atmosphere of cultural cacophony in the modern city brilliantly, as one of her characters walks toward and through Kilburn:

Sweet stink of the hookah, couscous, kebab, exhaust fumes of a bus deadlock… . Polish paper, Turkish paper, Arabic, Irish, French, Russian, Spanish, News of the World. Unlock your (stolen) phone, buy a battery pack, a lighter pack, a perfume pack, sunglasses, three for a fiver, a life-size porcelain tiger, gold taps… . TV cable, computer cable, audiovisual cables, I give you good price, good price. Leaflets, call abroad 4 less, learn English, eyebrow wax, Falun Gong, have you accepted Jesus as your personal call plan? … A hundred and one ways to take cover: the complete black tent, the facial grid, back of the head, Louis Vuitton–stamped, Gucci-stamped, yellow lace, attached to sunglasses, hardly on at all, striped, candy pink; paired with tracksuits, skin-tight jeans, summer dresses, blouses, vests, gypsy skirts, flares… . Security lights, security gates, security walls, security trees, Tudor, Modernist, postwar, prewar, stone pineapples, stone lions, stone eagles. Face east and dream of Regent’s Park, of St. John’s Wood. The Arabs, the Israelis, the Russians, the Americans: here united by the furnished penthouse, the private clinic. If we pay enough, if we squint, Kilburn need not exist. Free meals. English as a second language. Here is the school where they stabbed the headmaster. Here is the Islamic Center of England opposite the Queen’s Arms. Walk down the middle of this, you referee, you!

No doubt there is a certain exhilaration in a cityscape of this nature, with its constant stimulation, its kaleidoscopic or hallucinatory variety, its energy, its ceaseless pullulation, its never-sleeping quality. But the exhilaration is superficial, like the buzz of a drug; it soon gives way to a kind of anxiety or agitation. In such a city, the present moment is all, and contact among people is inevitably superficial, because they cannot fully understand one another. A lifetime would hardly be enough to understand the cultures of both the woman in the black tent and the believer in Falun Gong. Who can read Polish, Turkish, and Arabic and thus understand the concerns of the Poles, Turks, and Arabs? No one is rooted anywhere, impermanence is universal, communication with many is by pidgin, if that, and the best that can be hoped for, but not necessarily expected, is mutual tolerance. Mutual incomprehension encloses people in mental and social ghettos because the effort of understanding so many different cultures is simply too great, especially as the amount of time and energy that anyone can devote to the task is so limited. Smith’s mention of the referee is telling because it implies the constant need for adjudication among people who don’t understand one another and whose interests and assumptions are not the same—and may even conflict.

LA replies:

And, of course, Dalrymple, while commenting ruefully on this horror that has overtaken the West, never once remotely hints that the immigration that brought it about was a mistake or should be restricted or stopped or reversed, and if anyone raised that point, he would instantly eschew it. So it’s just meaningless, high toned kvetching which adds up not to resistance to the horror, but impotent surrender of it.

Also, it must be pointed out that Dalrymple’s latest highly negative portrayal of ethnocultural diversity in Britain and Europe appears in City Journal, as so many of them have over the years. At the same time City Journal has never criticized ethnic diversity in the U.S. There’s a neocon agenda at work at that magazine: Europe has terrible problems with its immigrants, Europe is going down, but we in America are just fine. We are assimililating our immigrants.

Carol Iannone writes:

City Journal is against amnesty and is even sceptical about continuing mass immigration. They shut out Tamar Jacoby, imagine that! Steve Malanga has something in the current issue, I think, saying bring in immigrants with skills. Maybe that is even more than some restrictionists would want, but it is in opposition to the mass immigration, Nation of Immigrants, can’t have too many immigrants, give me your tired, your poor, World of our Fathers hysteria that has been the usual “conservative” message.

February 27

Sam writes:

The problem with Dalyrymple is the same problem with John Derbyshire and Heather MacDonald. Dalyrymple is an atheist materialist who nevertheless can see the plain truth that modernity is dysfunctional and chaotic. But he has no concept of the transcendent that could underpin some alternative to the chaos and dysfunction created by liberalism. Thus, he can see what is wrong but he has no alternative vision, because by his own admission he is psychologically incapable of bringing himself to believe in the God of traditional religion. Thus, the reason why he is limited to simply pointing out the dysfunctions of modern life but without proposing an alternative is because by his own admission there is no intellectually viable alternative. He embraces atheist materialist premises, and he sees the havoc that they bring to society at large when they are fully implemented. But instead of rejecting those atheist materialist premises he embraces their conclusions while waxes on about how miserable life has become as a result of them. There can be no effective traditionalism without a return to traditional Judeo-Christian religion. Without that religion, the best we can hope for is smart people like Dalyrymple and Heather MacDonald and John Derbyshire to point out all that is wrong with society but without offering any alternative to the present sickness. They see the sickness, but they themselves are among the sick.

Joe H. writes:

I cannot speak to Dalrymple specifically, but regarding the larger question of this strain of irreligious thought among conservatives, I think the explanation for the growth of this phenomenon is fairly simple:

A wise conservative once said that the liberals’ principle of “only friends to the left” also applies to mainstream conservatives. Leftists like Obama do not care what people on the right think of them, or even worse, they enjoy a frisson from the hatred they instill in their enemies. Mainstream conservatives, i.e. people like Joe Scarborough or Jonah Goldberg, on the other hand, care very much what liberals think of them. They care more in fact about what these liberals think of them than of what the hoi polloi conservatives (i.e. the people they are supposed to be representing) think of them. If it were otherwise, Rich Lowry would not have purged Derbyshire and Weissberg.

The plain truth is that MSM conservatives associate most core traditional values with working- and sub-working class Americans. Rejecting abortion or genuine religious conviction is something MSM conservatives associate with people who do not have the good life. The conservatism of these people starts and stops with some Randian interpretation of free markets. Any moral stand which could cost them money is immediately rejected. This explains why they not only refuse to embrace religion, but why they reject breaking the taboo on race, even when there is a mountain of evidence on their side.

Mainstream conservatives are unwilling to suffer, least of all financially. Exceptions would be Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, or Ted Nugent, who while all far from moral paragons (and far from broke), at least have the fortitude not to care what their enemies think, and sometimes to wear that hatred as a badge of honor.

Handle writes:

I would like to ask Sam what he thinks Derbyshire, Dalrymple, Macdonald, etc. should do about this problem. Let’s say they come to understand their sickness in full, exactly in the way Sam describes, and that they also come to believe that the only true solution for society is to base itself on widespread belief in and adherence to core Christian principles. Nevertheless, they could not themselves genuinely come to believe in the truth of Christianity. What should they do? Should they shut up? Should they compromise their integrity for the sake of a noble lie as in Plato’s Republic? (Wikipedia’s definition: “a myth or untruth, often, but not invariably, of a religious nature, knowingly told by an elite to maintain social harmony or to advance an agenda.”) Or should they continue to write what they believe to be the truth?

I am a man of faith, but I happen to be friendly with many intelligent individuals, sympathetic to traditionalism, but who face this very dilemma. They believe that a Christian Noble Lie would be effective and incredibly beneficial for society at large, but they would still see it as a lie. Some even wish they were religious, and envy their devout friends their belief and the positive influence it has in their lives, and some were once pious themselves but lost their faith at some point, and so they themselves do not (can not?) hear the call. What should these people do?

LA replies:

At the very least, they should stop attacking Christianity and expressing their distaste and disgust for Christian belief and Christian believers. Derbyshire and MacDonald have been doing this for some years.

Sam writes:

Handle wants to know what atheist conservatives are supposed to do with themselves given that they cannot bring themselves to believe in traditional religion. I think the answer is straightforward. They need to ask themselves some simple questions, and then start comporting themselves accordingly. Let’s just start with two questions.

Question one: If I believe that there is no God, and yet I also believe that people’s faith in God tends to make them more likely to be happy, functional, and cohesive members of their society, what should I do?
Should I attack and mock and ridicule people’s faith in God, or should I keep my mouth shut and just leave them alone? I think the conservative answer is clear.

Question two: If I believe that there is no God, and also believe that people’s faith in God needs to be mocked and ridiculed, then why it is more important not to believe in God than to harbor a presumably false belief in God that makes people happy, functional, and cohesive members of their society? Why, in a godless universe, is it imperative for me to make everyone else as skeptical as I am when I know that skepticism doesn’t do anyone any good? Why do I need to spread my doubt? What is it about not believing in God that is so good and so virtuous that I cannot keep it to myself and that I must share it with everyone who might listen?

I believe in God, and I believe that God’s existence can be rationally demonstrated. But I also believe that ostentatious atheism is a form of narcissism. It is a almost akin to a fetish; it is akin to a statement equivalent to: “I know the the real truth, and even though this ‘truth” is harmful and depressing, and makes men miserable, I must nevertheless spread this “truth’ so that other men might become as enlightened as I am.” In other words, I will make other men in my own image even though they will be degraded.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 24, 2013 09:46 AM | Send

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