Our Captain’s Name is Ahab: An Endorsement of Anton’s Latest

“He’s a grand, ungodly, god-like man, Captain Ahab . . . . Ahab’s been in colleges, as well as ‘mong the cannibals; been used to deeper wonders than the waves; fixed his fiery lance in mightier, stranger foes than whales . . . . He’s Ahab, boy; and Ahab of old, thou knowest, was a crowned king.” 

Herman Melville, Moby Dick, or, the Whale (1851)

“And . . . Ahab the son of Omri [began] to reign over Israel . . . And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord above all that were before him.  And it came to pass . . . that he took to wife Jezebel . . . and went and served Baal, and worshipped him . . . and Ahab did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him.”

1 Kings 16: 29-33

I recommend reading the text of a recent address by the always-readable political scientist Michael Anton, since it speaks to the questions of authority and obedience that have lately stirred the placid waters of the Orthosphere.  It also speaks to the deeper question of what Bruce Charlton has taught some of us to call Sorathic evil, the spirit of destruction that is so unbridled and absolute that it includes self-destruction.  We are seamen on a doomed ship and our captain is none other than Ahab.

Anton is more sober and much smarter than I, but even he perceives that our elites—the captain of our ship—are both bad and mad.  He proposes a three-part explanation of this badness and madness: an intensely jealous attachment to their power and privilege, an extreme myopia, and devotion to a demonic doctrine that permits no deviations.  Here is Anton:

“I propose, not as definitive but provisional, three related explanations for elite behavior that fit the observable facts. First, the elites’ top priority is simply to stay in power and self-perpetuate as a caste; what they do with their power is secondary. Second, they think only short-term. Whatever they need to do in the here and now, to get them through this or that crisis, they will do, long-term consequences be damned. Third and perhaps most important, they are in the grip of a faith-like ideology that they cannot question. None of it has been thought through, but its basic tenets (the doctrine) are known to all and treated like scripture from which it is heresy to deviate.”

As I said, Anton speaks to the question of authority, and more especially its destruction by an elite that is addicted to lying and imposing hard penalties on anyone who draws attention to their addiction.   The churches are also in the pocket of the elite, and have likewise been burning through their credibility, but they are nowadays too unimportant to mention.

“In fact, the elites have been burning through the credibility of arguably their two most important institutions: the universities and the news media. These still have enormous power and prestige, but they are now believed and respected by, at best, half the country (it might be as low as a third) and positively despised by the other half. When the most important foundation for your rule is propaganda, this is a problem.”

It is most immediately a problem for the incredulous peasants who find themselves unable to believe regime propaganda and subject to increasingly hard disabilities and penalties for their infidelity.  We already have a New Inquisition, and if you’re not on their list you’re one wily converso.

As I said, Anton also speaks to the question of Sorathic evil, the spirit of absolute destruction.  Here’s Melville’s Ahab once again:

“Thou should’st go mad, blacksmith; say, why dost thou not go mad?  How can’st thou endure without being mad?  Do the heavens yet hate thee, that thou can’st not go mad?”

Good questions all, and especially good to a man born under the name of Smith!

And here, again, is Anton:

Isn’t it possible that they do want to destroy everything, because they are insane, or nihilists, or motivated by self-hatred (or some combination), but that they don’t expect to benefit? That they are too dumb, heedless, and short-sighted to have thought it through?

It is more than possible.  It all but certain because we are seamen on a doomed ship and our captain is none other than Ahab.  Or, if you prefer the Good Book to Melville’s book of badness: consider us peons in the land of an absolute king who’s wife’s name is Jezebel.  Get thee to the grove you churl!

I have not spiked Anton’s argument by adding that word doomed.  Anton is now beyond the now-or-never tocsins of his great 2016 essay the “The Flight 93 Election.”  The Michael Anton of 2022 is more like “now it is never because it is too late now.”

At the risk of sounding defeatist, I don’t know how to dislodge the present elites. It seems to me that their grip on power is so secure that ordinary political action—organizing, voting, governing—will not suffice, especially when half or more of the regime is beyond government control.

All Anton can now think to do make what he knows is a hopeless plea to Captain (or King) Ahab.  Please don’t destroy your seamen (or peons), if only for your own good.

So instead I will make a suggestion to our rulers; it won’t be heeded, but I will make it anyway. Be better tyrants.

But as Bruce Charlton (or poor exiled Ishmael) could tell him, that is not how Sorathic evil rolls.

15 thoughts on “Our Captain’s Name is Ahab: An Endorsement of Anton’s Latest

  1. With this recent hysteria around the Queen’s death and the beginning of King Charles, Charles could probably install himself as the true ruler of the United Kingdom if he wanted to. And move on to consolidate/regain control of Commonwealth countries, and other things along these lines. But he doesn’t. Why not? Because he’s not primarily interested in power, or wealth, or prestige, let alone Good. He’s committed to the project of evil. In particular, this modern form of self-harm, gratification from destruction of Truth, Beauty, Virtue, deliberately destructive perversity form of evil.

    Things make so much sense when you understand modern problems to be self-destruction rather than primarily incompetence, selfishness, whatever. The population doesn’t have problems, the population is imposing harm on itself. The population isn’t looking for solutions to the “problem” of its self-harm, they want death, rather than Life.

    • “Charles could probably install himself as the true ruler of the United Kingdom if he wanted to”

      But not for long as he got not hope to please the two great factions that divide the nation: the friends of corruption and the sowers of sedition; those who hope to profit from existing abuses and those who hope to profit from the disaffection those abuses produce – Hence, the need for the party-system.

  2. I think government officials should be ineligible for election or employment after 65, like most professional service firms require of their partners. But Trump is pure lightning rod; it would be extremely clarifying and entertaining, in a macabre way, to see what lengths the uniparty will go to block him. But I don’t think it will come to that. I think the urban precincts will just gin up the votes they need in the middle of the night, like they did in 2020.

    Sweden’s elections were two days ago. They’re still tabulating “absentee” and “mail-in” ballots.

    It’s clear that the regime is stupid and evil, in addition to having the nukes and the money. It’s also clear that by hunkering down in our suburbs and obediently paying our taxes we are enabling a stupid, evil regime. Not that there’s anything wrong with that; nobody wants to be Waco’ed, whether by a #BLM/antifa mob or by government employees with vested pensions.

    The moral abstractions about “authority” and “obedience” are irrelevant even to their proponents. We have a democratic, mundane government; there is no American king coronated with a religious ceremony. We don’t obey the LGBTQ, pro-abortion, anti-white, anti-Christ US government out of a sense of religious piety; who could possibly do that? We obey it because it has the nukes and because we don’t want to lose our nice, bourgeois stuff or see our families persecuted, even killed.

    It really is far later than anybody wants to think. Can the conservative SCOTUS Justices even participate in public life any more? Rand Paul literally had his ribs broken by his upper-middle class neighbor! An anarcho-tyrannical abyss looms in front of us which provokes deep, fearful anger among bourgeois, ideological conservatives who think if we can just get back to that Old-Time Classical Liberal Religion everything will be fine. This is why Michael Anton has former friends who now hate him and won’t speak to him. I had several friendships and family ties disappear over Trump and the WuFlu. We are approaching a long-overdue civic sorting.

    • You are right, of course. I don’t entirely blame people who keep their mouths shut. I’m suffering a mild martyrdom of ostracism and it is grinding me down. Like many people on our side, I also have dependents and a strong sense of duty to those dependents. The consolations of martyrdom are not great and they are nonexistent when you make unwitting martyrs of your family.

      • I couldn’t agree more.

        The modern church thinks the only proper path is some form of martyrdom, but they will not back up your family in these cases.

        The path is narrow and the way is hard.

  3. I’m glad you continue to find the Sorathic idea useful – as I have. It’s not that this exists in a pure form, but that other kinds of evil are continually moving towards this kind of spiteful nihilism.

    One thing it does is to fix a problem with most ‘conspiracy theories’ – that remain wedded to an idea that the world is administered on the basis of ultimate self-interest by the elite establishment caste – for example, the powerful and ultra-wealthy families and tribes that have been accumulating power/ wealth for decades, or even centuries.

    Yet, because of this progression towards Sorathic evil – these families and tribes are now destroying their own genetic inheritance – very obviously so! Many of the world Establishment have few or zero children; fertility is plummeting.

    They are also destroying the vast legacies of wealth and power that they have accumulated – such that future generations of their own (their children – if they have any) will have a great deal less of w&p, or nothing at all.

    Such is the nature of evil, which increases by feeding upon itself.

    • I’ve noticed that the people who are deepest in Sorathic evil never laugh, unless it is a laugh of mockery. They take pleasure in some things but never give evidence of real joy.

      • Hillary Clinton is a “wonderful” example of this. The only times I’ve seen what looked like genuine pleasure on her face were when she was gloating over somebody else’s pain. The “We came, we saw, he died” moment in her famous video discussing Gaddafi is the canonical example, though there are others. In those moments, she gets a transient look on her face that seems to be the real Hillary poking briefly through her mask, exhibiting an almost erotic satisfaction.

      • She doesn’t laugh, she cackles. I suspect that sadism plays a role. I suspect many sadists are drawn to liberalism because sticking up for the little guy gives them so many opportunities to hurt people.

  4. The Ahab thing occurred to me more than once, during Obongo the 1st’s reign. I see the self-destruct attitude in addicts, prostitutes, and others who wind up without hope for redemption of any kind. That, I think is their meter and their raison d’etre, because rationality was abandoned by them when they adopted the self-abuse of communism. The “elite” are playing at socialism/communism, but they’ll abandon it in a flash if something else gratifies them. And I do believe that self-immolation is what they’re after, since logic can’t explain it. An explanation, or even a reckoning is not in their plans. This suicide will not be painless.

  5. “First, the elites’ top priority is simply to stay in power and self-perpetuate as a caste; what they do with their power is secondary”

    I am reminded of Talleyrand, the Great Survivor, who wrote: “Governing has never been anything other than postponing by a thousand subterfuges the moment when the crowd will hang you from the nearest lamp-post, and every act of government is nothing but a way of not losing control of the people.”

    Power, once attained, must be retained as the only means of survival: the alternative is la lanterne

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