Introduction for the Orthosphere
I’ve been trying to perfect our basic recruitment poster. On the one hand, it’s hopelessly gauche to tell people that they ought to believe water is wet and pain hurts. On the other hand, the Rulers of the Modern World tell everybody that water is dry and that pain feels good, so somebody has to make a sales pitch for truth.
The other basic problem is that the Rulers lie about almost everything important, so it is tedious actually to correct all their lies. To keep the appeal brief enough to be appealing, I must speak in generalities.
Regular readers know that I tend to be verbose, especially on this subject. This post contains fewer than two thousand words, including these.
You need to be a Traditionalist Conservative
The modern world, the world in which you and I live, doesn’t work. It’s fundamentally broken.
To be sure, there is also much good in the world. Enough good that the world’s brokenness is often masked. But we cannot just ignore the bad. Indeed, the good serves to highlight the bad, and to serve as a hint of how we can oppose the bad.
You can sense the fundamental disorder of the world even if you cannot say in words just what is wrong. This is especially true if, like me, you are old enough to know how the world used to be ordered. Our ancestors lived under much better social orders, even though there has always been much wrong with mankind. In recent decades, though, Western Civilization has begun to unravel in a fundamental way not seen at least since the fall of the Roman Empire, and in many ways the unravelling is unprecedented. This unravelling is largely self-caused, as modern man has deliberately chosen to reject truth, goodness and beauty.
I’m not going to try to give you all the evidence it would take to convince a skeptic, because that would take a lifetime. And it would be a futile enterprise because although there is much evidence that the world is fundamentally disordered, if a man does not want to acknowledge reality, nobody can make him. I’m just saying out loud what many people know in their bones.
And there’s something worse. You are broken too. And so am I. Something is wrong with mankind. Again, there is abundant evidence to back up this claim, but I won’t go through it. Those who are sensitive to truth will acknowledge it when it is asserted and those who do not wish to acknowledge truth will find a way to deny it.
How can a man respond to the disorder in the world and in his soul? He can ignore it, or downplay its importance, or hope it will somehow go away. He can even try to convince himself that the bad is actually good. “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”
Or he can fight it. He can oppose disorder with order.
Now we must get more specific. What is this traditionalist conservatism of which I speak? It is a form of conservatism, but the reader must understand what kind.
“Conservatism” literally means the organized effort to conserve, and the term in its general contemporary meaning arose as a description of efforts to oppose the revolutionary movements that have convulsed Western Civilization since at least the French Revolution. Those who opposed the liberals, the leftists, the progressives, the communists and so on were called “conservatives” because they wished to conserve the traditional ways of life and thought.
But all that has fundamentally changed. As the astute reader has probably noticed, the Left is in charge of Western Civilization, even if its rule is not officially acknowledged. Those who oppose the ways of the Left (abortion, mass immigration, agnosticism, homosexuality, feminism, etc.) face an uphill fight because even when the ways of the Left are not officially established, they are most definitely established, and the Establishment defends itself.
(One of the ways the Left disguises its rule is with an endless succession of campaigns to root out conservatism, i.e., the vestiges of traditional ways of thought and life. That way, it looks like the conservatives still rule and the liberals are still brave reformers. And the Left identifies all of its targets as “conservatism,” even if these targets have little to do with traditional ways. In these ways, and many more, the Left brands itself as heroes fighting a powerful entrenched anti-liberal Establishment, when in fact the Left is the Establishment.)
Therefore a literal “conservatism” will fight to conserve a leftist Establishment. But this is not the type of conservative you should be, because the leftist Establishment is actually your enemy.
Why is it your enemy? Consider the basic appeal the leftist Establishment makes, the basic reason it offers as to why you should give it your loyalty: It offers you freedom.
Freedom to be whatever you want to be. Freedom to achieve whatever you aspire to. Freedom from the “tyrannies” of tradition and authority. Freedom from discrimination and oppression. Freedom from the ignorance of the past. Freedom from the judgments of others. And so on.
Consider: the liberal Establishment tells you that nothing can be known for sure, and those who think they have the truth are dangerous “fundamentalists.” It tells you that you must be tolerant and nondiscriminating above all else, and those who prefer their own kind or the traditional ways of their people are dangerous “bigots.” It tells you that beauty is entirely in the eye of the beholder, and that any attempt to enforce or even promote standards of beauty or decency is dangerous “censorship.” And so on.
To be sure, the establishment usually does not bare its fangs by stating these principles openly. Stated bluntly, these ideas are shocking, and to state them openly would be to invite their scrutiny, leading ultimately to their rejection. So they are usually only given by implication. They are only stated clearly when the occasion requires a stiff dose of doctrine.
And the Establishment also relies heavily on the “unprincipled exception.” This is the allowance of occasional violations of liberal doctrine so that our life can remain tolerable, as, for example, when the death penalty is applied, or especially odious illegal aliens are deported. But these violations of liberalism must never explicitly be identified as such, lest the masses begin to question the rule of the Left, and therefore these exceptions are always unprincipled.
But this leftist ruling principle of Freedom is nihilism, the denial that there is any truth or any reality to which man should be loyal. And nihilism is poison, because man needs truths to guide his life. Everybody believes in some sort of truth, even the leftists who tell us to be tolerant, because man cannot live without truth to guide him.
And what could be said about truth can also be said about (moral) goodness and about beauty. Man needs them, and the liberal Establishment denies them. Therefore the leftist Establishment is your enemy.
How is a man to respond to the Left’s appeal for freedom? There are two possible ways: To embrace the nihilism because it feels good, or to recognize that the nihilism is fundamentally false and destructive of human life. The apparent third way, to ignore the appeal, is actually to join the Left, because the Left is the status quo. To do nothing is to affirm the status quo.
If you recognize that the rule of the Left is poison to mankind, how are you to oppose it? Opposing the Left makes you, by definition, a conservative, but what kind of conservative ought you to be? A traditionalist.
And this is simply because tradition is the only way for you to connect with the wisdom of the ages that you need in order to live well. “Traditionalism” might be thought of as nothing more than following a tradition, but that is not its real meaning. Anybody can follow a tradition blindly, but only by discovering the truth about the world by way of the traditions of your ancestors can you live well. You need traditionalism.
This truth is, apart from physical science, not “politically correct.” It is forbidden, if not formally then by the informal mechanisms of the contemporary world such as the mass media, the bureaucracies, the judiciary, and good old-fashioned social ostracism. The truth about man and woman, sex and marriage, nation and ethnicity, virtue and character, God and religion, is not allowed in the modern world. It can be held privately by individuals, but it must not be spoken publicly as truth that is true for all. But a truth that is not true for all is not a truth. Therefore truth is not allowed in the modern word.
What was said about truth also goes for goodness and beauty. They are not allowed. Therefore, since you need them, you must get truth, goodness and beauty somewhere else than from the official institutions of the modern world. The general name for the deposit of truth, goodness and beauty that we receive from our ancestors is “tradition.” Therefore you must be some sort of traditionalist.
If you are the sort of person who reads essays like this one, you know that ancient man (at his best, of course) was considerably tougher, smarter and more virtuous than modern man. There were ancient failures, of course, but pit the best of the past against the best of the present, and it’s no contest. Give the ancients our present inventions, or force us moderns to operate under ancient conditions, and the ancients would kick our behinds.
And that is because their traditions did not deny truth. They were not as technically sophisticated as we, but they were free from political correctness, the direct manifestation of the taboo-suppression of the modern age. They were generally free to receive and proclaim the truth if they so wished, especially the basic moral and spiritual truths of the world. Specific religious sects were sometimes suppressed, but the general ideas of God or religion were not targeted. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality were not celebrated. Mass incursions by foreigners were not welcomed by the host people. Women and “minorities” were not encouraged to be envious and angry, nor were they formally favored by law. Human activity was not suppressed in order to protect non-human entities. All of these modern phenomena, and many more in the same spirit, are fundamental perversions of basic human existence, and the way of thinking that gives rise to them is the liberalism from which you must free yourself. You need to be a traditionalist conservative.
In the next essay, I will discuss how to become a traditionalist.