“What does the ruling class gain from destroying its own cities? I’ve asked myself this a thousand times. I can’t come up with an answer.”
Michael Anton, “A Tyranny Perpetual and Universal,” American Greatness (Aug. 28, 2020)
Anton is a shrewd observer of the American political scene, but like too many conservatives is blinded by an essentially Marxian worldview. You may think it is ludicrous to say that many American conservatives are essentially Marxists, but the statement is obviously true. Marx argued that everything resolves to capital accumulation, which is to say moneymaking, and many American conservatives agree. Marx argued that all culture is ideology that legitimates capital accumulation by the ruling class, and as we can see in this excerpt from Anton, many American conservatives think that Marx is right.
Anton cannot answer his question about the destruction of cities because he understands the word “gain” in the materialist and Marxian sense of money and power, whereas a real conservative knows that men and women also crave redemption.
Christians speak of Christ as their redeemer because they believe that humans naturally belong to Satan. Our race sold itself to Satan when Eve ate that apple, and it was the office of Christ to buy us back with his blood. Although very few members of our ruling class accept the particulars of the Christian story, they are still human, and are therefore subject to the spiritual disease that the story of the Garden and the Cross attempts to explain and resolve.
Christians describe this disease as a sense of dread. Specifically, they describe it as the dread of Hell, to which Christians say we are naturally bound because Hell is the home of our natural master. Christians call themselves a pilgrim people who are on their way home to Heaven, but the unregenerate are also pilgrims. They are pilgrims bound to a different master on the road to a different home. And to that place they must go unless someone buys them back.
I submit that dread of what Christians call Hell is the default position of the human psyche, and that this explains our universal craving for redemption.
In the secular mind, memory has replaced the afterlife. They tell us that we will live “in the memory” of those who come after. They call their rites of burial “memorial services.” They encourage us to imagine that we will leave behind us something they refer to as our “legacy.”
I will let T. S. Eliot tell them what really happens.
“O dark dark dark. They all go into the dark,
The vacant interstellar spaces, the vacant into the vacant,
The captains, merchant bankers, eminent men of letters,
The generous patrons of art, the statesmen and the rulers,
Distinguished civil servants, chairmen of many committees,
Industrial lords and petty contractors, all go into the dark.”
That is the new Hell. The Dark. And the Dark is that from which our secular ruling class craves redemption. Money and power are very fine things for now, but they do nothing to relieve that dread of the Dark, that dread of passing, just like everyone else, into blank oblivion. Indeed, one might say that the Dark is especially dreadful to the rich and powerful. The rest of us have spent our lives learning that we are nobodies. Passing into the Dark will merely ratify what we already know.
* * * * *
The secular mind falls back on pagan remedies for the universal dread of the Dark. As I said, they propose a very shadowy sort of afterlife in an underworld of human memory. We are redeemed, they allege, when friends and relations recall that we once existed, and perhaps vaguely (and briefly) regret that we are no more. Memory of the exemplary lives of secular saints and villains is perpetuated in history books and monuments. But as recent events have shown, history books are eventually rewritten, monuments are eventually pulled down, and even the greatest heroes at last join the throng and pass out of memory into the Dark.
The only satisfactory remedy for this dread of the Dark is, therefore, to secure a promise of escape from the universal ruin of this perishing world. Christians do this through a spiritual unification with the eternal being they call Christ. Our secular elite does it through a spiritual unification with the eternal ideal they call Equality. They know that their money, power and name must all pass into the Dark, but believe their spirit will be somehow redeemed by the triumph of this deathless ideal.
I must observe that spiritual identification with the ideal of Equality does not require a corresponding equalization of material circumstances, and would suggest that to say it does is akin to the Christian doctrine of salvation by works. Our equalitarian elite is decidedly sola fides.
The anarchists destroying cities are the holy men and women of the cult of Equality. Just as Christians once looked up to monks and nuns because their spiritual commitment to Christ was so much greater, so our secular and equalitarian elite looks up to the rampaging anarchists because their commitment to Equality is so much greater. This is why they give these holy men and women alms, and it is why they do not protest when they burn temples of Mammon to the ground.
Holy anarchists in the streets of Portland are like holy cows in the streets of Mumbai. This is an indulgence that affords our elite some relief from their dread of the Dark, and that feeds their universal craving for redemption.