This began as a comment to Kristor’s latest post, but then grew into something more.
The most read Orthosphere post of all time is Alan Roebuck’s “Why You are Demoralized and What You Must Do About it,” which he published eight years ago, on June 8, 2012. More than 25,000 readers have so far profited from Alan’s essay, and site statistics show that number continues to grow.
Alan describes the subjective experience of demoralization as “disaffected, put off, bummed out, bored with all the cynicism and happy talk,” a perceptive list that I will condense into the single word ennui. Ennui is a lack of motivation to do anything because nothing seems especially worth doing.
Alan says that you feel this spiritual ennui “because they have taken from you the most important goods you need in order to live well.” If certain physical nutrients are removed from your physical diet, you will experience physical lassitude. If certain spiritual nutrients are removed from your spiritual diet, you will likewise experience spiritual lassitude. These spiritual nutrients are “the most important goods you need in order to live well,” and because your spiritual diet lacks these spiritual goods, you feel demoralized and weighed down with ennui.
Alan tells us that three key spiritual nutrients have been withdrawn. First and foremost is the firm conviction that there are such things as spiritual nutrients, and as a corollary to this, that there are such things as spiritual junk foods and poisons. This key spiritual nutrient was withdrawn by the doctrine of tolerance, non-judgmentalism, and cultural relativism. This doctrine states that each of us is free to choose our spiritual nutrients according to our own individual tastes. Every “good” chosen is therefore equally good, from which it follows that none of them are really good at all.*
As the doctrine of tolerance destroys belief in objective value—the belief that anything is absolutely true, good, or beautiful—there is an unsurprising proliferation of ugliness—of intellectual, moral, and aesthetic ugliness. Truth, goodness and beauty are nutrients that revive the spirits of men and women. Ugliness is the spiritual toxin that makes them feel a morbid desire to go and hang themselves from a rafter in the barn.
The dolor of this spiritual wasteland has been further deepened, Alan tells us, by a false and malevolent history that alienates us from our ancestors and our past. He is speaking here particularly of white people and Western civilization. When it comes to white people and Western civilization, the doctrine of tolerance and non-judgmentalism is suspended in favor of scathing judgments and resounding damnations. It is hard for anyone to keep his pecker up in the spiritual wasteland, but it is especially hard when the loudspeakers boom that he is part of a cursed people that has been found wanting in the balance of history. It is demoralizing to learn you are the world’s one and only unchosen people.
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There is a great deal more in Alan’s excellent essay, and I encourage you to read it if you have not done so already. If you read it in conjunction with Kristor’s latest post, I think you will find that it explains the basic themes that unify Kristor’s trenchant bill of particulars. While doing so, you must not be distracted by the moralistic bluster of this year’s lockdown and “racial reckoning,” or by what you have heard politicians say about their devotion to truth and science.
You must, rather, ask yourself these three questions.
- Compared with last Christmas, is there more or less ugliness in the world—intellectual (lies), moral (villainy), and aesthetic ugliness? Has the world over the past year come to look more like a garden or a wasteland? This is Alan’s second theme.
- Compared with last Christmas, are you more or less resigned to the spread of this ugliness? Do you more or less often think that the wasteland is all that ever was, and that the garden (i.e. absolute goods) was nothing but a fanciful dream? This is Alan’s second theme.
- Compared with last Christmas, do you (if white or otherwise Western) feel more or less like a stranger in your own land? Do you feel more or less hated? More or less afraid? More or less like history’s cursed and unchosen people? This is Alan’s third theme.
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The title of Alan’s essay is, “Why You are Demoralized and What You Must Do About it.” What you must do about your demoralization is reverse the process that demoralized you. Think of it as spiritual detox. You must:
- Reject relativism and recover a belief in objective truth, beauty and goodness. This begins by recovering a belief in the one true God that is described and worshiped in orthodox Christian religion. There can be no spiritual absolutes if there is no spiritual absolute, and there certainly can be no spiritual absolutes if there is no spiritual. If there is no one true God, we are all just wanking in the void.
- Reject tolerance and become judgmental and discriminatory. This does not mean persecutorial. Spiritual tolerance for ugliness (the mendacious, the transgressive, the grotesque) is like physical tolerance for alcohol. You will stop vomiting but go on destroying your liver. When you are spiritually intolerant, you will avoid all forms ugliness whenever you can, and you will curse them whenever you cannot. When you cannot curse them out loud, you will curse them under your breath.
- Reject the poisoned myths of your enemies and keep faith with your fathers. This filial piety is not uncritical, but it is intensely jealous. Alien criticism is either ignored or treated as casus belli.
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These are the antidotes of spiritual detox that reverse the process of demoralization. There are no other. And all three have become far more difficult since Alan published his essay in 2012. They have become next to impossible since Christmas last year.
- Although many churches had already cucked to the false god of tolerance and diversity, traces of the one true God remained in their liturgy, psalmody, and architecture. All churches were this year closed or rendered barely accessible by law. This occurred at the same time that the Covid panic was making everyone think of himself, and of everyone else, as an actual or potential body of diseased flesh. Hence the sinister symbolism of the ubiquitous face masks, which mark the mouth as a pestilential cesspit rather than an organ of the logos.
- The death of a petty criminal was mourned with a pomp never granted to our greatest soldiers, scientists and statesmen. It is hard to imagine an uglier transvaluation of values. To say this does not mean we should have danced on the grave of George Floyd—he was a human being, and only a petty criminal. It is to say that the orgy of national mourning was a grotesque inversion of spiritual reality. A grotesque inversion of spiritual reality deadens the spirit.
- The destruction of monuments was ugly. But the casual acceptance of the destruction of monuments was far, far uglier. The poison myths of our enemies are very close to becoming official truths; objections to those poison myths are very close to becoming official crimes; and the jealous faith we ought to keep with our fathers has decayed into something like a demoralized acquiescence in cuckoldry.
*) Jeremy Bentham famously stated the relativistic doctrine in the line, “prejudice apart, the game of push-pin is of equal value with the arts and sciences of music and poetry.” This is from his Rationale of Reward (1825), where the grim utilitarian also has this to say of spiritual goods: “they are useless to those who are not pleased with them: they are useful only to those who take pleasure in them, and only in proportion as they are pleased . . . . Every other species of pre-eminence which may be attempted to be established among them is altogether fanciful” (book 3, chapter 1).