Relative evil

Because the Devil is the prince of this world, we have a useful check to know when an ideology or social movement is net-good or net-evil. When it waxes, it is net-evil; when it wanes, it is net-good. One can only apply this rule to the the last three centuries, of course, because it was only during the Enlightenment that evil per se became a distinct force in the human world. Before that time, one may speak of cruelty, selfishness, or error, but it is only in the age of Voltaire that segments of mankind began to rebel explicitly against the divine order. Within that time, though, the rule is quite informative.

Liberalism waxed in the 18th and early 19th centuries when it was primarily a rebellion against the Christian order of Europe; it waned in the late 19th century when it had become primarily a defense of the remains of medieval humanism and decentralization against the totalizing fanaticisms of socialism and nationalism. Nationalism waxed in the 19th century, when it was primarily a drive to smash local cultures and medieval/Christian competitors to the power of the state; it waned in the 20th century when it became primarily a defense of national culture and political authority against the inhuman forces of international socialism and finance capitalist globalism. Communism waxed in the 20th century when it constituted the most comprehensive rebellion against God yet seen outside of hell; it waned in the 1970s-80s when the sexual revolution had transformed the West into something even more evil. At the moment of their downfalls (1945 for nationalism, 1989 for communism), these movements were net-good, despite their own substantial evils, because they were holding in check, or at least fighting against, an even greater evil. If their existence was net-evil, the world’s prince would have kept them in place. Indeed we see that around a decade or two after the defeat of fascism/national socialism/Japanese imperialism by communism, and again after the defeat of Soviet communism by New Leftist democracy, the world took drastic turns toward more comprehensive evil as the remaining net-evil force found itself unchecked.

Yes, I am saying that the current order is more evil, is a more comprehensive rebellion against God and human nature, than fascism and communism.

During the 19th century, there was a strong desire on the part of some Catholics to find a way for the Church to reconcile herself to the supposedly legitimate aspirations of the Revolution–liberalism, democracy, national self-determination, or whatever. The contradictions, however, seemed insuperable, and 19th century liberal and nationalist Catholics strike us as paradoxical, almost tragic figures. In any case, patience alone often triumphs where effort is vain, and I have found that there is a certain ecumenism of the ash heap. Namely, as soon as a historical force is spent, as soon as it is consigned to ignominy, its reconciliation with the Church happens naturally and effortlessly. Many have noticed that in an anti-Christian West, the differences between Catholics and Protestants don’t seem so important anymore, but this phenomenon applies even to forces that were once anti-Christian. A 21st century American Republican performs no intellectual effort to reconcile Christianity and classical liberalism; to him, they are inseparable. No forces were more clearly incompatible in the 19th century than Catholicism and Italian nationalism, but they combine easily in Italy’s Prime Minister in the face of the hatred the evil force ascendent in the world holds for Christianity and the Italian people together. College student play-revolutionaries retain an attachment to the word “socialism” and won’t be handing it to Christianity anytime soon, but the working class–now small, powerless, and despised–is ours.

The devil is the world’s prince. Such is the theological reason why the net-good side always loses. One can also understand it from the light of natural reason. The winning side is more powerful, more able to impose its will, so it will generally find itself attacking, while the weaker side will find itself defending. Thus, formally, the stronger side is the “revolutionary” side, imposing a changed order, while the weaker side is the “conservative” side, attempting to preserve an existing order. This is structural and will be true regardless of each side’s legitimating ideology. Now, attack is not per se morally superior to defense, but it lacks the moral and spiritual opportunities of defense. The conservative, the defender, may give an ideological reason for defending an existing order, but his motives can transcend the ideological, because his order is a distinct, existing thing, with haecceity, and so capable of inspiring the motives distinct to particulars: loyalty, gratitude, love. The revolutionary is motivated to create a new order, and because that order does not exist yet, its justification can only be ideological. As history moved past the liberal, the nationalist, and the communist, the underlying appeal of their commitment that once could only have been abstract principle became more and more mixed with affection for the familiar but endangered. Thus, in the late 80s, newsmen often spoke of “conservative communist hardliners” in the Soviet Union, and everyone knew what they meant despite the formal contradiction.

The ecumenism of the ash heap doesn’t help us win. Does it perhaps enrich us? The dream of Lamennais is fulfilled–anything legitimate in the Revolutionary program finds shelter only in Christianity–although unfortunately only because the Revolution itself has discarded them in its advance to purer evil.

29 thoughts on “Relative evil

  1. Spengler in “The Hour of Decision” points out that Marxism was essentially not a movement of workers/proletariat, i.e. the industrial urban laborer, but of the “work shy,” what we would now call the voluntarily unemployed. That included criminals, vagabonds, layabouts and moochers, intelligentsia and “professional” revolutionaries. The actual workers seemed to have been more for Christian democracy, national socialism, types that look like Spengler’s Prussian socialism. The laborers actually enjoyed their work and the living standard it produced overall.
    I think recent events may have moved beyond the “work shy” being the backbone of the revolution. The professional managerial class, at least since Burnham, has been dominant in Western liberalism for a while but they used the work shy as street muscle and voting bloc. I think their methods and needs may have now finally moved those to the net-good. The system is sufficiently fixed that voluntary unemployment (all else being equal) is a net-good compared to working to improve the system. I am not an accelerationist or consequentialist so I would not say actual criminals are a net-good.
    Perhaps there is a limit and barbarism as net-good (the natural living arrangement of the work shy) is the last step, a la sack of Rome. Or it may rather be Dr. Charlton is right about the species of evil.

    • I don’t think this is accurate. Communism, like poltical correctness-woke, is a movement of the managerial class, meaning intellectuals, civil servants, managers in companies and the like. The people with a higher education who work with the brain. That is, people like you guys and me. Now you know why you have to hide your ideas in your workpkace.

      These guys think they are superior to everybody else because they were praised as the best ones by their elementary teacher. They think they should rule the world because they think they are smarter than everybody else. When they see that Peter, whose grade in school was C, is rich because he has created a successful company while they struggle to make ends meet, they think the world is unfair and the revolution will fix things.

      Who were Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Fidel Castro, Mao, subcomandante Marcos and every other Communist leader? intellectuals. Every. Single. Time. No exception. The dream of Marx was being an university professor but he was rejected. Working class and work shy are fooled because managers tell them that Communism will improve their station in life but the core is managerial.

      Every Communist revolution and every political correct takeover ends up with the managers in power, doing what managers love to do: plans, laws, rules, codes, symbols, group thinking, ostracization.

      Since Communism failed in the West, the managers created political correctness as the way of seizing power.

      • That is a good point. The work shy have been, I think, the main tool of Communism and political correctness (e.g. the Civil Rights riots in the U.S., and the Summer of George Floyd.) So, I wonder if the work shy will be bypassed in the next stage, or even the actual managers themselves? I think that could be part of the obsession with AI, to eliminate even the need for human managers, power directly in the hands of the 400 names, world controllers, etc.
        And for the work shy, criminals, etc., neuralink type devices and tailored pharmaceuticals could transform them more directly.

  2. I agree with Paul Gottfried that Woke-ism is significantly more vile than communism. Communism, though wrong-headed, made SOME kind of sense, at least in terms of narrative, and didn’t attempt to eliminate the dimorphism of men and women, it didn’t seek to destroy its sources of reliable energy, and it didn’t suggest that if all white people were murdered utopia would be achieved, for that can be the only logical inference of anti-white racism.

    • James Lindsey has a podcast “New Discourses” where he discusses at length the Marxist origins of wokeism. It essentially replaces class and capital with identity. It sees whiteness as a form of special property, he explains. It’s pretty illuminating although his snarkiness can get tiresome.

    • The Marxists had to abandon the working class as too white, too provincial, too religious and too armed. In place of classical Marxism (itself a product of homogenous Europe), the Left pivoted to bio-Leninism.

      In America, this began in the 1960s with the emblematic Hardhat riot and later with the Boston busing riots. These events generated iconic photography.

      Wokeism is the new religion as Christianity gets dropped by the elite and retreats from the public square, and the hierarchs align with the atheistic State. Politics are no longer ideological; they are theological or, perhaps more accurately, umbilical. A lot of conservatives have not processed this.

      • “The Marxists had to abandon the working class as too white, too provincial, too religious and too armed. ”

        Robert Redeker suggests that, after the Cold War, the Left has replaced “sovietophilia” with “islamophilia,” and that “Palestinians and the contemporary Muslim masses replace the proletariat in the intellectuals’ imagination” as the pure, ideal alternative to Western capitalism. (Le Monde, 11/21/01).

        For many young people in Europe, the world is divided between what Pierre-Andre Taguieff calls “the Unholy Trinity” – The United States/Israel/the West on the one hand and on the other, the “dominated and the oppressed.” Thus, the New Left recycles Right-Wing stereotypes, the rich Jew, the dominating Jew under the “varnish of progressivism.” The Jew is once more the stand-in for capitalism, imperialism, cosmopolitanism, indeed the whole economic order.

  3. Anthony Sutton how Wall Street financed communism with 25 million. Main problem is the revolutionary even if well intended simply lacks the expertise of the Kings and must learn how to rule and at best taxes and volume of laws go up. Since the best is a take away from the masses the revolutionary has an incentive to kill large numbers if discontent rises. Church looting disrupts a vast charity system increasing discontent. Looting and murder go hand in hand less the losers reclaim the assets.

  4. [I]t is only in the age of Voltaire that segments of mankind began to rebel explicitly against the divine order.

    I would place it a good deal earlier.

    Modern atheism arose in the 1300s and 1400s with the Renaissance rediscovery of ancient Greek and Roman pagan atheists such as Democritus, Epicurus, Lucretius, and Lucian. Reading these pagans produced a large number of these modern atheists, many of whom were Italian Humanists, such as Marsilius of Padua (1275–1342), Poggio Bracciolini (1380–1459) and leading figures in the revival of Classical scholarship: Lorenzo Valla (1407–1457), Pietro Pomponazzi (1462–1525), Pietro Aretino (1492–1556), Cesare Cremonini (1550–1631), Lucilio Vanini (1585–1619).

    Then there was Italy’s most famous atheist, Niccolò Machiavelli (1469–1527), who believed that all religions were bunk, but should be used by clever unbelieving rulers to better control the credulous masses. He would certainly have accepted Gibbon’s description of the age of the Julian Emperors: , “The various modes of worship, which prevailed in the Roman world, were all considered by the people, as equally true; by the philosopher, as equally false; and by the magistrate, as equally useful.”

    French scepticism was the product of the Wars of Religion ending in a stalemate. Catholics and Protestants could not both be right, but they could both be wrong. Montaigne marks the beginning of that school of thought. Similarly, in England, the atheism of Hobbes was a product of the English Civil War and the religious stalemate, as was Hume

    • I think 18th century impiety had a different flavor. One notes that skeptics of an earlier era, like Hume and Montaigne, were conservatives, and epistemic humility was more often than not an argument against innovation in society and religion. The defining feature of the Enlightenment was dogmatic certainty in a childishly simple belief: that if only the Catholic Church were destroyed, utopia would automatically follow.

      Perhaps I am motivated to draw this distinction sharply because I actually like the earlier skeptics.

      • “I actually like the earlier skeptics.”

        I share Miss Anscombe’s opinion of Hume (She was my Philosophy tutor):

        The features of Hume’s philosophy which I have mentioned, like many other features of it, would incline me to think that Hume was a mere – brilliant – sophist; and his procedures are certainly sophistical. But I am forced, not to reverse, but to add to, this judgment by a peculiarity of Hume’s philosophizing: namely that although he reaches his conclusions – with which he is in love – by sophistical methods, his considerations constantly open up very deep and important problems. It is often the case that in the act of exhibiting the sophistry one finds oneself noticing matters which deserve a lot of exploring: the obvious stands in need of investigations as a result of the points that Hume pretends to have made… hence he is a very profound and great philosopher, in spite of his sophistry.

        He provides many powerful solvents of ideology.

        Pascal, one recalls, was also taken with Montaigne.

  5. “The conservative, the defender, may give an ideological reason for defending an existing order, but his motives can transcend the ideological, because his order is a distinct, existing thing, with haecceity, and so capable of inspiring the motives distinct to particulars: loyalty, gratitude, love. The revolutionary is motivated to create a new order, and because that order does not exist yet, its justification can only be ideological. As history moved past the liberal, the nationalist, and the communist, the underlying appeal of their commitment that once could only have been abstract principle became more and more mixed with affection for the familiar but endangered.”

    That the conservative can transcend ideology because of an actually existing thing that he loves is a great insight, Bonald. Also seems like a pretty plausible explanation for why things that were formerly associated with the left later become associated with the right.

  6. Under present circumstances it is the Left that is concerned with preserving democracy in the United States and the maga types (who are supposedly on the right) who wish to see it undermined.

    • Yes, “our democracy” is definitely net-evil, now if not for decades to centuries. I suppose MAGA type right-liberals agree with that, but if you take them at there word (and why would you not, if you take leftists at their word?) they do not want to undermine “our democracy” so much as return it to an imaginary pristine past. As their rhetoric suggests, they are reformers of the reform, so to speak. As a reactionary, I obviously don’t care about “our democracy” or it’s reform, but they certainly do. The trick is that “our democracy” was never so white as it is painted. Ballot harvesting, political machines, politicized court cases, whatever, have been with us since the beginning and will be with us evermore.
      You might as well say it’s the Left who are the conservatives for wanting to conserve “gay marriage” or Civil Rights law. I agree with the anti-Gnostic, ideology, especially mainstream partisan ideology, is losing its power. Now it is more openly “who, whom?” If it mattered, we could say that obviously the Left-liberals are and have been just as much a partner in that dance as right-liberals. Regardless, “your democracy,” whatever you imagine that to be, is a dead letter and there is no bringing it back. Let the dead bury their dead.

    • This is bait from the resident Eeyore, but I’ll take it.
      The Left’s mail-in ballots, ballot harvesting, drop boxes, and prolapsed extension of the franchise are transparently anti-democratic. They raise the influence of the vote-counters over the voters.
      Substantvely, for starters, democracy doesn’t scale beyond the town locals voting on a new water tower. Once you have to draw up voting districts and apportion representatives, democracy rapidly becomes too attenuated for an individual’s vote to matter other than as a marginal phenomenon.
      Second, there is no overriding theological or rational imprimatur for strict majority-rule. Young people whose neural networks aren’t fixed (so they operate more on hormones and emotion until around age 22) shouldn’t vote; government employees and other net tax consumers shouldn’t vote; habitual criminals shouldn’t vote; the mentally impaired shouldn’t vote; non-citizens and dual citizens shouldn’t vote.
      Historically, only a minority of the population, the society’s electors, have ever voted, to the extent voting happened at all. Outside of secular states, human organizations vote by ownership shares.
      Democracy is useful in that we are counting up the rifles and agreeing to go home instead of duking it out in the streets, but that’s all we’re doing. When the majority become net tax-consumers through voting, then the democracy is on borrowed time. Democracy is a means, not an end.

    • To borrow from the great philosopher, Everett McGill:

      Democracy is the most fiendish instrument of torture ever devised to bedevil the days of man.

      Keep the women; away with democracy.

      • I get that is your position. However, when you and others defend Trump’s claims of widespread election fraud you seem to be couching your argument in terms of protecting some authentic version of democracy. Your real reason in agreeing with Trump’s unfounded accusations however seems to be to undermine democracy as a means of destroying it. In the long run it doesn’t really matter but it is curious to observe.

      • @ winstonscrooge – our position is if those are the rules, then follow them. You show up with a picture ID proving you are who you say you are, and you cast an auditable vote. Mail-in ballots are the very rare exception; ballot harvesting is prohibited; drop boxes are prohibited. When you do that, it turns out Miami-Dade is 55% Republican instead of the reverse; Florida is solid Red State America and not, in fact, a “swing” State.

      • I get that is your position. However, when you and others defend Trump’s claims of widespread election fraud you seem to be couching your argument in terms of protecting some authentic version of democracy. Your real reason in agreeing with Trump’s unfounded accusations however seems to be to undermine democracy as a means of destroying it. In the long run it doesn’t really matter but it is curious to observe.

        Huh? I don’t hate Mr. Trump, but I’m a fan of his either, as I’ve stated many times over the last umpteen years. But to more particularly address what you wrote:

        I was once in a discussion with my (emotion-driven) mother which quickly turned to politics and religion. At a point in our discussion, my mom said to me that I should “probably take your own advice and ‘love it or leave it’.” Meaning America, of course. Now, as God is my witness, I have never in my life said to another, political friend or opponent, to “love it or leave it.” Granted that people who tend to agree with my position on other things have said that, but I never have, nor will I ever say it, for that matter. So, what is my point and what is the issue here? It is of course that my mother (wrongly) attributed to me what people who agree with my position on certain other things have said. Essentially she libeled me, and when I challenged her to cite a single instance in which she specifically remembered my stating the phrase in question, she couldn’t. No surprise there.

        Similarly, and perhaps a bit more to the point, the RNC once sent me a questionnaire asking my opinion of certain of “Dubya’s” policies when he was president seeking re-election. I don’t remember all of the questions asked, but I do remember vividly that not a single one of them provided enough (multiple choice) answers, and one in particular got under my skin more than the rest. Namely, the question asked what I think ‘of President Bush’s initiative to allow charitable organizations to do charitable work within their own jurisdictions and retain their tax-exempt statuses’. The problem with the framing of the question was of course that this was in no way “President Bush’s Initiative”; it was the initiative of conservatives at the local level who had “had enough” of leftist policies questioning and trying to eliminate the tax-exempt status of *Christian* charitable organizations doing charity work unabashedly under the banner of Christianity.

        I’m not “defending Trump’s claims of widespread election fraud,” for goodness sakes. Widespread election fraud is a fact of life in modern (“democratic”) America. It’s as plain as the nose on my face, in other words. If it isn’t to you, well, I don’t what to say to help you. I’m not “defending Trump’s claim” in other words; I’m defending that which I know to be true by a preponderence of the evidence and beyond a reasonable doubt. I’m defending *my* claim, in other words.

        The main thing I “like” about Mr. Trump above all is that he is the perfect Yankee Clown to usher Clown World (‘Murika) into its next phase – Clown World Hell.

    • I’m afraid most commenters are missing winstonscrooge’s more interesting and relevant point, that the Left is, at least sometimes, using preservationist rhetoric, so many of them may genuinely think that they are preserving an existing, particular system. Would they not then share in the spiritual benefits of this stance?

      I suppose some of the more naive of them might, but considering Leftist rhetoric as a whole, I don’t think it’s accurate to say that the influential ones adopt a conservative stance toward the society they control. All aspects of existing society, they claim, is systemically racist and heteronormative, which are for them words for “evil”. Its entire past is shameful, and all aspects of it must be comprehensively restructured. Given such a stance, it would be hard to believe that they want to preserve democracy because it is part of a familiar and cherished social order. “Democracy” in this sense can only be an abstraction–a universal, not an individual, as a philosopher might say.

      One might counter that the Left’s common locution “our democracy” serves to particularize/individualize “democracy”, i.e. that the Left is committed not just to democracy in the abstract, but to America’s unique historical flavor of democracy, marked by the more accidental features of the constitution (its particular division of powers, its electoral college, state borders the arbitrary stipulation of nine Supreme Court justices and stipulations on voting age). In fact, the Left does not claim to cherish accidental features of American democracy, but seems in fact to be more open than their opponents to altering such things if doing so results in a purer instantiation of democracy.

      In summary, I’m pretty convinced that the devotion of intellectual Leftists to “our democracy” is devotion to a universal, not a particular. I doubt any of them would disagree.

      • And further to Winston’s point, I’ve gotten over my nostalgia for “America.” When people say they admire America’s “legal history and traditions,” they mean Anglo-America. Anglo-America’s hardware no longer matches its software–this happened in my lifetime. Has any country ever undertaken such a radical demographic and legal overhal in a single lifetime? The die really is cast on this one.

        Let the dead bury the dead.

      • Not all people on the left harbor the woke point of view. In fact many (myself included) are very much against it – particularly it’s identity approach to all matters, it’s animosity to free speech, it’s harassment and cancellation of those who do not share its views, it’s equating non life and civilization affirming lifestyles with their opposite and many other things.

        That said, I have an admiration for America’s history and legal traditions and don’t wish to see them undermined by either the extreme right or extreme left. Especially not through false accusations.

      • The Leftist position is that when their tribe wins it’s “democracy” and when the Right tribe wins it’s “populism,” which is #literallyHitler. There is no way the Right is winning that debate, and that’s what the normie-cons think we’re in, a debate. If only, this mentality imagines, people would just read this exquisitely-worded George Will column! Here, let me link it for you on Facebook!

        That’s not how to win. Politics are umbilical, not ideological. If you want a conservative country, you have to have conservative voters. One way to do this is cheap land and dear labor so people who want to marry and have kids can affordably do so. Another way is to attract conservatives by keeping your State open for business and lowering taxes and letting the police police.

        The proven way NOT to win is elect genial goobers who conflate the means and the end and think gay marriage is now a conservative institution.

      • “If you want a conservative country, you have to have conservative voters.”

        Should be: “If you want a conservative country, you can’t have voters.”

        (Necessary, not sufficient).

    • . Lord Acton’s description of Turgot (1727-1781) and his influence should be borne in mind.

      Turgot it was, who “proclaimed that upward growth and progress is the law of human life.” “He imparted,” says Acton, “a deeper significance to history, giving it unity of tendency and direction, constancy where there had been motion, and development instead of change. The progress he meant was moral as much as intellectual… His analysis left unfathomed depths for future explorers, for Lessing and still more for Hegel; but he taught mankind to expect that the future would be unlike the past, that it would be better, and that the experience of ages may instruct and warn, but cannot guide or control.“

      “He is eminently a benefactor to historical study” but note, “he forged a weapon charged with power to abolish the product of history and the existing order. By the hypothesis of progress, the new is always gaining on the old; history is the embodiment of imperfection, and escape from history became the watchword of the coming day. Condorcet, the master’s pupil, thought that the world might be emancipated by burning its records.” (Emphasis added)

      In the 19th century, Turgot’s worldview of Progress and Enlightenment was all but universal. Even a High Tory like Alfred Lord Tennyson could write of Britain as

      A land of settled government,
      A land of just and old renown,
      Where Freedom broadens slowly down
      From precedent to precedent:
      Where faction seldom gathers head,
      But by degrees to fulness wrought
      The strength of some diffusive thought
      Hath time and space to work and spread.

      Acton was one of the few to identify its revolutionary implications.

      Perhaps, the great Classical scholar and poet, A E Houseman was nearer the mark, when he wrote

      The troubles of our proud and angry dust
      Are from eternity and shall not fail


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