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Awake! Arise, Britannia! Or Be Forever Fallen! Part II – The Need for Nationalism

‘And Arthur and his knighthood for a space
Were all one will, and thro’ that strength the King
Drew in the petty princedoms under him,
Fought, and in twelve great battles overcame
The heathen hordes, and made a realm and reign’d’

— Tennyson, Idyls of the King

I have been speaking rather rudely up to this point, at times even invoking our great satirists so that I might with the greatest possible force and acerbity expose and condemn those persons and ideas that have done us, and continue to do us incalculable damage.  But criticism and satire can only take us so far.  The sickness has, I hope, been more or less clearly diagnosed; let us turn now to a discussion of the cure.  This will be no easy task, because all of this that we have been speaking of hitherto is really a matter best considered in the light of political philosophy. Before deciding how things ought to be ordered in our country, we must ask the following question: What is the cement of a society, what is it that holds a society together, what is that element without which, a society will begin to come apart, and end in more or less complete dissolution?  There are two basic answers to this question.

The Civil Society: Reason, Self-interest, and The Law

The first answer, the fashionable answer, the one that all our young scholars pursuing a degree in the Social Sciences are expected to learn well and accept without question, has to do with the concept known in the jargon of political theory as ‘civic (or ‘civil’) society.’ Britain, Germany, France, the United States &c., we are told, are all ‘civil societies’ societies with ‘civic cultures.’   This theory of the Civil Society is based on two assumptions. First, it is assumed that all men in a civil society, regardless of their upbringing, intelligence, ability, character, and certainly regardless of their ethnicity and religious affiliations, are equal; they are all equal in that they have all been equally endowed from birth with a capacity to reason, to think rationally.  Second, it is believed that all men, as a general rule, are self-interested; that is, each man will always do what is in his own best interests, will always seek those courses which promise him pleasure and profit, avoid those that promise pain and privation.  Now, this is the key to the argument: If all men are rational, and self-interested, then all that is needed to keep them in order is a well-conceived set of rules and regulations— Laws.  Why is this so? Let us single out one of these rational, self-interested citizens for closer examination. Let us say that this little citizen of ours happens to hate his boss, hates him so much in fact, that he would like to kill him. Now, here’s what’s supposed to happen. This fellow thinks to himself: ‘O, how I would like to kill the bastard!’  But then, in the famous words of Hobbes, he recalls “what he has seen follow on the like crime before, having this order of thoughts; the crime, the officer, the prison, the judge, and the gallows.’ In these days our government kills only the innocent, so prison is the worst that a criminal may anticipate. Thus our citizen must conclude ‘What little satisfaction I might derive from the killing of him, would in the end be overshadowed by the torments and privations of a long prison sentence. This undertaking promises heavy penalties and meagre rewards, and – and therefore, I shall not go through with it…’ This is the crudest of all examples, of course, but it does demonstrate one of the ways in which the system is supposed to work.  Certain undesirable behaviours, behaviours that are destructive of a society, that left unchecked would lead to anarchy, are prohibited by laws, with punishments devised to deter those who would break them. Thus it is hoped that in most cases, our rational, self-interested citizen will choose to obey the laws, because his reason will tell him that to do otherwise would not be in his best interests.

We have discussed one of the forces said to operate on the minds of citizens in a civil society: ‘fear of punishment.’  On the other side, of course, there is ‘hope of reward.’ The rational self-interested members of a civil society are supposed to understand that their obedience to the laws will not only secure them from punishment, but also, in the law run, even redound to their benefit.  How? Let us again turn to our little citizen, and suppose that, having put away his designs against his boss, he has now taken up the idea of defrauding our social services for some benefit or other.  ‘Well,’ he says to himself, ‘I probably could file a false claim and collect quite a tidy little sum. Chances are, I wouldn’t get caught… However, if I refrain from defrauding the government, and if other people, thinking along the same lines as I am, also refrain, then the government will be able to keep costs down and in general run things more efficiently.  This will mean better services for everyone, and better services for everyone will mean better services for me, whenever I may need to avail myself of them.’  It is essential in a civil society, that each citizen identify his own self interest with the interests of society at large.  Ideal, if he understand that by contributing something to society (and this contribution may take a variety of different forms) his contribution will in the long run bring palpable benefits to himself.  This identification of one’s own self interest with that of the whole community may, in certain individuals, amount to no more than a vague intention to refrain from wrong-doing where possible.  It must also among certain others assume the character of deliberate positive action. The highest form of this (again, ideally), is public service: when a man decides, for example,  that by serving on the local council, he may be able to improve the quality of municipal services, from which he himself, like others in the same community with him, will benefit. All public service, according to this theory, is what we might call a sort of ‘enlightened selfishness.’ This is supposed to be sufficient to inspire ‘social’ (as opposed to ‘anti-social’) behaviour among the general population, and among certain individuals, in whom ‘enlightened selfishness’ has developed to an extraordinary degree, a desire to improve the state of society by positive efforts of one sort or another.

Such is the theory.  I will not claim, as I have in the case of multiculturalism, that there is nothing at all in it.  Something there to be sure.  But as a foundation for a society at any stage of  development, or underdevelopment as the case may be, it may hardly be deemed sufficient.  Even a very cursory review of history and of current events will confirm the proposition that a society held together by ‘enlightened selfishness’ and nothing more, is a society that is not long for this world.  There must be some additional bond between man and society, for among the various forces which are apt to influence a man and inspire his actions, this ‘identification of individual self-interest’ does not rank very high.   It is a statement of the patently obvious to say that the Islamic terrorists of 7/7 clearly were not worried about the condition of public transportation in London when they blew themselves and fifty-five innocent people to smithereens. Nor, we may say categorically, were they much concerned that they could be sent to prison for murder. Whatever concern they ought to have had for the public purse, supported in part by their own tax money, and the country’s system of law and order, was easily overridden by a far more potent motivating force: their passionate desire to serve Allah and the cause of global Jihad by gruesomely murdering as many of us as possible. Mere abstract civic virtue, which encourages all citizens of a commonwealth to serve the public good, and not to pillage and destroy it, because it is in their best interest to do so, is utterly powerless in the face of religious fanaticism. According to a series of polls conducted in the last few years, roughly a hundred thousand Muslims living in Britain are in favour of further terrorist attacks on the British public. In reality, the number is very likely much higher, since it requires some courage to admit openly that one is a terrorist, and courage is not the natural condition of man. These Muslims are incapable of participating in British society and contributing to the public good because they identify with its enemies. It would be fruitless to try to appease them with material benefits, or to otherwise cajole them into ‘returning to the fold,’ for in their souls they are devoted to a different ‘commonweal,’ that of militant Islam.

Terrorism, we readily admit, is an extreme case. How, one may ask, does the notion of ‘enlightened self-interest’ fare among the less fanatical? The fact is, civic virtue and the rule of law are bound to be overwhelmed by any strong feeling of ethnic loyalty or religious devotion which happens to conflict with them. This conflict of interests and loyalties may not lead to terrorism in the majority of men, but, be assured, it will have other dire consequences!   Consider, for instance, the internal investigation launched by the Metropolitan police some time ago to determine why complaints of misconduct and corruption against Asian officers are 10 times higher than against their white colleagues.  The report concluded, to the universal condemnation of hapless liberal idiots throughout the country, that ‘Asian officers and in particular Pakistani Muslim officers are under greater pressure from the family, the extended family … and their community against that of their white colleagues to engage in activity that might lead to misconduct or criminality.’[i] In other words, Asian officers are, on the whole, more corrupt than British (white) officers, because of their overriding loyalty to their own ethno-religious communities. Though they may have sworn an oath the serve the Crown, and though they have the threat of dismissal and legal punishments hanging over them, these Asian officers nevertheless choose to serve their own communities through corrupt means at the expense of the British public. There are other more recent cases we might refer to. Systematic studies of this sort of problem are quite rare however, for reasons we can easily guess. A thorough-going study of ethnic minority corruption in Britain would no doubt be quite revealing, if only a courageous Social Scientist (oxymoron?) could be found to conduct it.  Yet we have evidence from at least one sector that the incidence of corruption among the native British is far lower than among non-British citizens of the UK, in the case of Met officers, 10 times lower. This is no coincidence.

‘Public affections’ and National Identity

I have attempted to demonstrate that ‘enlightened selfishness’ is an insufficient basis for society.  It is insufficient because there are other feelings, other motives, in the hearts of men and women, which have a stronger influence on their actions.  Self-love, love of family, and love of one’s ethnic or religious group can easily override any rational considerations concerning an abstract ‘public good’.  If enlightened selfishness does not take root, or is overridden by human passions, as happens inevitably, the only hold that society has on such persons is its power to punish them though the legal system, if in their general dereliction they happen to run afoul of the law, and if they are caught doing so.  But it is clear that no legal system, however efficient, can serve as the sole guarantor of the civil order.  When anything more than a small number of miscreants engages in corruption, criminality, desertion, and treason, then the legal system is soon overwhelmed, and unable to cope, and society begins to break down. What is required, then, for a healthy and cohesive society, beyond an individual’s calculating self-interest, is what Edmund Burke called ‘public affections.’  Citizens, said Burke, must have heartfelt affection for the social and political order in which they live.  Ideally, their affection for their country must at least approximate their love for their own family.  Just as the private man loves his wife and children, sees something sacred in his bond with them, and would therefore never betray them, so it must be with the citizen in regard to his country.

How, then, one might ask, can citizens be made to feel affection for the country in which they reside? This question would seem to address the problem, but in fact it does not. For affection, or love, is among those human feelings which are either given freely, or not at all.  Though one may be able to force a person to feel hatred, revulsion, and other negative emotions by abusing or torturing him, it is impossible to forcibly extract feelings of affection from a person. The object which you want him to love will either inspire feelings of admiration in his heart, or it will not. However, let us not suppose that love and affection are so mysterious that we cannot say anything definitive about what inspires them. A few thousand years ago, Aristotle wrote that, as a general rule, ‘there are two things which most cause men to have a care and to love: that [the object of their care or love] is their own and is lovely.’  (Aristotle, Politics 1262b23-6) We love and care about the things that are our own and which we find to be delightful. Thus, for a citizen to love his country, he must feel that it is his own (not someone else’s or no one’s) that it is lovely (not vile and ugly). In other words, he must have a sense of national identity.

We have now at last arrived at the second answer to the original question, ‘what is that essential element that holds a society together?’ I believe that national identity is the foundation upon which the whole edifice, including the civic order, rests.  For national identity allows us to feel an almost personal, almost intimate connection with persons we have never met. Because they are our countrymen, though they may reside in the county furthest from our own, they are nevertheless members of a national extended family of which we also are a part. We owe loyalty to them, just as we owe loyalty to our own families, and to the members of our own communities. And we owe loyalty to the state (the governing institutions) whose only purpose is to serve our national family.

How does national identity accomplish all of this? Before we answer this question, it would be best to attempt to define ‘nation’.  Edmund Burke gave the following definition:

The nation is not an idea only of local extent , and individual momentary aggregation ; but it is an idea of continuity, which extends in time as well as in numbers and in space.  And this is a choice not of one day or one set of people, not a tumultuary and giddy choice; it is a deliberate election of ages and of generations; it is a constitution made by what is ten thousand times better than choice, it is made by the peculiar circumstances, occasions, tempers, dispositions, and moral, civil and social habitudes of the people,  which disclose themselves only in a long space of time.[ii]

The nation, then, according to Burke, is not merely a political contract or club, to which anyone may sign his name and join if he so chooses; it is much more than merely the aggregate of individuals currently living within a legally defined set of geographical boundaries. The nation is a specific people, which sees itself as a collective entity, descended from what Burke elsewhere refers to as ‘an ancient race of ancestors.’ The nation is both the spiritual essence and the physical embodiment of all that this specific race of people has experienced, and created over many centuries.  All that the people possess, and all that they are, flows from those centuries of experience: their national personality, their rites and traditions, their laws, their system of government. And since all that the people presently possess are things that they have either received from ancestors, or have built anew on foundations laid by ancestors, the nation is an idea of continuity, of a never-ending process, or progress, begun long ago by ancestors, continued by us in the present, and to be taken up in future by our descendants. Continuity, of course, entails an obligation of different generations to one another. As Burke wrote, it is precisely in this sense that the nation is a contract, ‘not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born.’[iii]

Given this definition of the nation, national identity, then, is simply an awareness of the true nature of one’s nation and an acknowledgement that one’s personal destiny is tied to that of the nation. Academics, such as the communist Eric Hobsbawm, have long argued that nations, and national identity are artificial formations; that national narratives were created by elites in order to fool the masses and divert them from seeking their ‘real interests’, whatever those might be. While it is true that the modern concept of nationalism was not formulated by intellectuals until the 18th century, that still does not mean that nations and national identity did not exist long before that time. The fact is, even as an intellectually formulated ideology, nationalism is more in tune with human nature than any other modern ideological system. This explains its success, and the powerful resonance of its ideas with peoples throughout history and throughout the globe.

National identity will arise of its own accord among any population that shares racial, cultural, and religious heritage. Consider, for instance, one of nationalism’s central ideas, ‘continuity.’  There is a passage toward the end of William Morris’ novel News from Nowhere in which Ellen, a young woman,  contemplates motherhood: she says, ‘I shall have children; perhaps before the end a good many; – I hope so.  And though of course I cannot force any special kind of knowledge on them, yet, … I cannot help thinking that just as they might be like me in body, so I might impress upon them some part of my ways of thinking; that is, indeed, some of the essential part of myself; that part that was not mere moods, created by the matters and events round about me.’ What parent has not had such thoughts? By having children, we ensure continuity, the survival of at least some part of ourselves after we ourselves have ended our life’s journey. So much poetry has been written from time immemorial about the human dilemma of mortality, and the dream of immortality. It is a perennial feature of mankind. It is natural for mortal human beings, who cannot take the world with them, to wish that people like themselves in body, and bearing some of the essential part of themselves should inherit their world.

National identity does not need to be painstakingly inculcated in the way that the doctrines of artificial ideologies such as communism or multiculturalism must be, so that populations might be made to accept them.  National identity does not rely on intense programmes of indoctrination. The germ from which it grows will occur to people naturally from their daily experiences.  Men and women living in the town or city of their birth need only look about them, and a mere moment’s contemplation upon what they see will reveal to them one of national identity’s central ideas, the feeling of the great debt owed by them to ancestors. As Thomas Carlyle wrote,

It is all work, and forgotten work, this peopled, clothed, articulate-speaking, high-towered, wide-acred World.  The hands of forgotten brave men have made it a World for us; they, —  honour to them; they, in spite of the idle and the dastard.  This English Land, here and now, is the summary of what was found of wise, and noble, and accordant with God’s Truth in all the generations of English Men.  Our English Speech is speakable because there were Hero-Poets of our blood and lineage; speakable in proportion to the number of these…  I tell thee, … [our ancestors] had not a hammer to begin with; and yet Wren built St. Paul’s: not an articulated syllable; and yet there have come English Literatures…[iv]

It is a sign of wisdom in the statesman, who, seeing national identity as a natural outgrowth of civilized life, understands the necessity to cultivate it and thereby allow the people to benefit more fully from the feelings of solidarity and patriotism which a mature sense of national identity engenders.  The wise King Alfred, called The Great, understood this very well. Most of the books the king produced as part of his literacy campaign in the last decade of the 9th century were intended to improve the Christian morals of his people. But King Alfred also endeavoured to give the English a clearer sense of their national identity.  According to historians, the writing of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, undertaken by Alfred, was intended to provide the English kingdom with a ‘united and ordered’ history.[v] Likewise, the translation of Bede’s Latin Ecclesiastical History of the English People into the vernacular, commissioned by the king, made a compendium of stories of English heroes and saints available to the populace.

Given the great importance of a healthy, mature sense of national identity to the social and political well-being of peoples, it behooves us to be very specific about the particular conditions requisite for its formation and the particular manner in which it, once formed, is experienced.  National identity forms on the basis of racial and cultural commonality. If we survey European history, and in particular, the history of our own country, we will see a gradual process of political consolidation which joined together tribes already sharing racial and cultural characteristics.  Even though political consolidation often involved armed conquest, the use of naked, and sometimes downright barbaric force, the resulting political formations, nevertheless, were able to survive and function because of the racial and cultural commonality of the tribes and factions being brought into them.  In cases where there was not sufficient commonality, the conquered tribe or kingdom often had to undergo very significant transformations before it could be incorporated into the growing political unit. For example, the Danelaw could have proved unassimilable to the expanding kingdom of the Anglo-Saxons, had it not been for the wise policy begun by King Alfred, and continued by subsequent Anglo-Saxon leaders.  Racially, the Anglo-Saxons and Danes were virtually indistinguishable. But, culturally, they were quite different. Their main difference lay in their religious beliefs, the Anglo Saxons being Christians, and the Danes Pagans.   This would have been an extremely volatile mix. But King Alfred, upon defeating his Danish opponent, Guthrum, demanded as a condition of peace that the Pagan king convert to Christianity. King Guthrum assented, and thus began the Christianisation of the Danes, allowing for their eventual incorporation into a Christian English kingdom.

Those conditions which allowed for the formation of a nation must remain in place if that nation is to continue to flourish. For as we established earlier, in order for a person to love and care about his country, he must feel that the country is his own, and that it is lovely. And in order for people who have never met to feel that they are part of a single national family, they must feel a sense of common ownership and they must agree at least to some extent upon what precisely they love about their country. This presents difficulties, because the nation itself, as a concept, is rather abstract, until one can put a human face, or faces, on it. People cannot own abstractions, nor, in most instances, can they love them. Love and intimacy are for that which is tangible, for that which we can see and feel. Thus, national identity depends most of all on common national symbols, which crystallize and embody for us the essence of the nation, the essence of the common bond joining individual communities together into a great national family. These symbols take a great variety of forms: they can be historical events, particular scenes or moments in art or literature, national heroes, and particular deeds performed by them in the service of our country.

Our national myths are often just as important as our verifiable, real history, for myths are a kind of exemplary history: in them are embodied our national ideals and lessons of our cultural and historical experience. Consider for instance, the following moment from Sir Thomas Malory’s tales of King Arthur. Arthur and his knights, having decided that England should no longer pay tribute to the Roman Empire, go on campaign in Europe to defeat the Romans and thus establish England’s independence. The campaign is a success, chastening the Romans and bringing many new dominions into English possession. In the conclusion of this episode Malory provides us with one of those moments which crystallize what it means to be English:

Thus the king gave many lands.  There was none that would ask that might complain of his part, for of riches and wealth they had all at their will. Then the knights and lords called the king to a council on a fair morn and said,

‘Sir king, we beseech thee for to hear us all. We are under your lordship well stuffed, blessed be God, of many things; and also we have wives wedded. We will beseech your good grace to release us to sport us with our wives, for worship be Christ, this journey is well overcome.’

‘Ye say well,’ said the king, ‘for enough is as good as a feast, for to tempt God overmuch, I hold it not wisdom. And therefore make you all ready and turn we unto England.’[vi]

So many elements of our English national character are evident in these few lines from a mid-15th century text.  The journey, so ‘well overcome’ is undertaken to secure complete independence from foreign domination, something our island nation has always fiercely striven for. Here we notice also the English people’s famed  prudence and moderation, the belief that ‘enough is as good as a feast.’ Having achieved their end, the king and his knights do not wish to prolong the campaign for the sake of further conquests and riches. And finally, we see here the beginnings of English democracy. The decision to make war on the Romans is first taken by the king after consulting with and securing the approbation of his knights and lords. And it is the suggestion of the men, readily assented to by the king, which puts an end to the campaign and brings the whole army home to England.

King Arthur, then, as well as other elements from the legend which surrounds him, is among the many cultural symbols with which all English people can identify.  The legend of Arthur told in Malory and in subsequent accounts is about us, our origins, our ideals, our historic struggles. Arthur is one of our national icons, and a loveable character. Though this is a hero of legend (about the real, historical Arthur we know very little) he is nevertheless an embodiment of Englishness. Indeed, the essence of that love of country necessary for social cohesion, whether we term it ‘public affections’ or ‘national identity’ might well be thought of as a common admiration of the same persons and things. When all the English can admire a single person, and what that person represents, or a single legend, and the thematic content thereof, this provides a basis for our notion of ourselves as one people, with a common heritage and common aspirations.

Knowledge of the grand sweep of our national history, and literature are crucial for the development of a mature sense national identity in the population, and for the flowering of public affections. Yet perhaps more important than either of these things are the real living symbols, the national heroes who trod the very earth we tread, and whose accomplishments are there for all to see.  Love is specific; intimacy involves personal closeness.  National heroes are men and women like ourselves, whose genuine thoughts and feelings we can know, whose struggles can elicit our sympathy, whose achievements can evoke our admiration. They are thus the dearest of all embodiments of the national spirit; our admiration for them unites us in love of our country like nothing else. For instance, as Thomas Carlyle wrote, the English could thus say of Shakespeare that ‘Yes, this Shakespeare is ours; we produced him, we speak and think by him; we are of one blood and kind with him.’[vii]

In point of fact, the importance of the phenomenon Carlyle called ‘hero-worship’, and of our having proper heroes to worship, cannot be overstated.  These days, the tendency is to ignore this most vital question of all civilized life: how to distinguish human worth from human unworth, and how to learn to love the one, and despise the other?  The effete liberal-Marxist chattering classes, as well as the current crop of politicians and community leaders, do not like this question, perhaps because they know that they themselves are essentially worthless, and could never inspire genuine feelings of admiration in anyone; that the British people, could they but remember how to distinguish worth from unworth, would sooner hate these intellectually and culturally stunted ‘elites’ with a perfect hatred than love them. Let them continue to ignore it, but as long as human nature remains what it is, this question also will remain. Carlyle revealed an important truth about human nature when he said ‘It is the very joy of a man’s heart to admire, where he can; nothing so lifts him from all his mean imprisonments, were it but for moments, as true admiration. Thus it has been said, ‘all men, especially all women, are born worshippers; and will worship, if it be but possible. Possible to worship a Something, even a small one…’ Indeed, humans have always been inclined to worship persons and things which have seemed greater and more glamorous than themselves. How vital, then, that the objects be worthy of worship! ‘What sight is more pathetic,’ notes Carlyle, ‘than that of poor multitudes of persons met to gaze at King’s Progresses, Lord Mayor’s Shews, and other gilt-gingerbread phenomena of the worshipful sort, in these times; each so eager to worship; each, with dim fatal sense of disappointment, finding that he cannot rightly here! These be thy gods, O Israel?’[viii] It is unfortunately even worse with us now. Whom or what do European men and women worship today? At least in Carlyle’s time they sensed that the ‘gilt-gingerbread phenomena’ were not the real article. But now an alarming proportion of our countrymen fanatically worship Hollywood actors, rock-stars, professional footballers and other sham heroes. These be thy gods?

The point I wish to emphasise here is that national heroes are needed not only to reinforce a sense of commonality, but also to spur the individual and collective achievements that make civilized life sustainable, and progress possible. When we love and admire worthy persons, we are more likely to do after their example, and to do so joyfully.  As Carlyle wrote, ‘The grand summary of man’s spiritual condition, what brings out all his herohood and insight, or all his flunkeyhood and horn-eyed dimness, is this question put to him — What man dost thou honour? Which is thy ideal of a man, or nearest that?’[ix] A person who idolizes Hollywood actors, rap musicians, or footballers is unlikely to aspire to anything worthy or useful. In order to aspire to do good and great things, men must admire goodness and greatness, and real human manifestations thereof. It is true that a nation is sustained in part by mere selfish individual initiative (capitalism), the promise of cash and comforts to be received in exchange for goods well produced and services well rendered. But there are many indispensable professions which demand extraordinary exertions and selfless sacrifices, and offer material rewards incommensurate with what they demand. One must own that the soldier is miserably paid, when one considers the work he does. The same might be said of the teacher, the scientist, the statesman (unless he is a dishonest embezzler as so many today are). Yet so much of a nation’s general prosperity depends on whether these particular men and women do their duty well or ill. All progress, all advancements, all great achievements in science and art are the result of individual human talent and skill properly inspired and properly channelled. Humans need heroes to inspire them by example to great feats and deeds of self-sacrifice. And nations need national heroes so that their populations should be inspired to realize the full potential of their individual natural gifts and to do so in service of the nation.

The deed of a national hero provides inspiration, instruction and a standing challenge to all members of the nation.  When an Englishman contemplates the lives of English heroes, an instant connection is established between him and them. He sees that men and women of his own blood and lineage were capable of great things, and understands that he too, by virtue of the genetic and cultural heritage he shares with them, must have something of that same greatness in himself. He sees a loveable human and familiarly English example of success, and discerns, without having recourse to philosophy, the personal qualities and values which allowed the hero to be successful. He apprehends likewise the importance of the particular goals that the hero sought to fulfil. The hero, he  perceives, believed that the welfare of the nation was an objective good which merited all the exertion and self-sacrifice. And once he has come this far, there is nothing left but for him to accept the national hero’s challenge to his countrymen: ‘I did what I could in my time. Can you be to your time what I was to mine? What will you do with the gifts that you have inherited? How will you protect and build upon what I and countless others bequeathed to you?’ Unlike abstract philosophy, the challenge of the national hero can be heard and answered by all members of the nation. Take a one of those working class English pupils whose ‘underachievement’ the NUTters have recently deigned to notice, and recount to him the life-story of Sir Francis Drake. Will he not want to make something of himself? Will he not say to himself: ‘That Francis Drake, a poor son of a farmer from Devon, sailed round the globe, mapped the west coast of North America, claimed many new lands for England, brought great riches to the English crown. And when England was under threat of invasion from the Spaniards, he sailed for Spain and “singed the King of Spain’s beard”: he sacked one of Spain’s main ports and set back the invasion for an entire year. If he could do all that and more, what might I do? What can I do for my country?’

[Continuation in Part III]

[i]. ‘Secret report brands Muslim police corrupt’

[ii]. Edmund Burke, ‘Speech to the Electors of Bristol’

[iii]. Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France

[iv]. Thomas Carlyle Past and Present

[v]. Erich W. Guthrie, ‘King Alfred’s Literacy Program’

[vi].Malory, Works

[vii]. Thomas Carlyle, On Heroes Hero-worship and the Heroic in History

[viii]. Thomas Carlyle, Past and Present

[ix]. Ibid.


Awake! Arise, Britannia! Or Be Forever Fallen! Part I – Multiculturalism

Observe… how nations sink, by darling schemes oppress’d

— Johnson, ‘The Vanity of Human Wishes’

Multiculturalism, if we will be honest, is only the very latest in a series of ‘darling schemes’ by which our nation has been oppressed in the last fifty years or so. It is the latest, and quite possibly the most baleful of all the ideological enchantments whose influence we have hitherto come under. Just how it all began, just how we managed to fall into this state of the darkest, most dreadful all-enveloping confusion, which now threatens to wipe us from the face of the earth if we do not at once contrive to extricate ourselves from it – just how all this came to pass, I am not prepared to say. Thomas Carlyle once remarked that ‘it is indeed strange how prepossessions and delusions seize upon whole communities of men; no basis in the notion they have formed, yet everybody adopting it, everybody finding the whole world agree with him in it, and accept it as an axiom of Euclid; and, in the universal repetition and reverberation, taking all contradiction of it as an insult, and a sign of malicious insanity, hardly to be borne with patience.’ It is indeed strange – quite unaccountable, really, a phenomenon such as this! But, all the same, it is a fact of our lives just now. Have we not asked our New-Labourites and other Liberals time and time again, just what are the real benefits of this thing called multiculturalism? And have we not found them, on every single occasion, to be totally incapable, for all their zeal, of delivering a coherent explanation? What man or woman among us has heard a real argument from the likes of them? It is always the same incoherent, cloying ‘repetition and reverberation’ that we are forced to listen to. And all one has to say is ‘Well sir, I don’t buy it’ and suddenly one becomes ‘maliciously insane,’ an ignorant racist, and what’s more, a Nazi and a denier of the Holocaust! Impossible to say how we managed to get ourselves mired in such utter foolishness; suffice it to say that we are in it, in it very deeply just at present, and, God help us, we must find our way out of it!

Failure of Liberal Thought

I have said that multiculturalism has no real basis, that, as an idea it is but a semblance; has in fact no substance. Though in reality it has no basis at all, this has not prevented Liberal theorists from trying, by various philosophical conjuring tricks, to invent one for it. Perhaps it will be worth-while to explore some of these ‘theories’, since most of us no doubt have been left quite bewildered by the endless ‘jangle and babble’ of the journalists, politicians and other ‘talking heads’ in our society. In defence of multiculturalism, some Liberal ‘scholars’ like to dredge up the old Utilitarian doctrines of Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill. They start with a very simple proposition, namely, that man is at bottom nothing but a selfish pleasure-seeker, and that the world is, in its essence, a very large and elaborate amusement park. They express it less offensively, of course, with much meaningless jargon thrown in to confuse the matter, but if their doctrine does not boil down to this that I have said, then, I say, it boils down to nothing at all. For this selfish pleasure-seeking man our Liberal theorists have cooked up, all things in this world are objects of prospective pleasure; that is, all material goods, religions, cultural activities, and even other persons are mere things from which he may derive some amount of pleasure, and that is the extent of their meaning to him. It being assumed that the summum bonum (‘greatest good’) for a human being is pleasure, it is concluded that the best human society will be that in which the absolute maximum quantity (or ‘diversity’) of commodities, religions, customs, and everything else imaginable is available for the pleasure of the public. Each individual, born into a multicultural society with its various commodities, religions, customs &c. &c. will have infinite prospects of pleasure open to him, and therefore each individual will be able to lead a happy life, or so the theory goes.

Humans are merely shoppers

Allow me to re-state the argument in simpler terms. Many of you have at one time encountered the old Utilitarian slogan, ‘the world is a workshop, and man is the worker in it.’ Well, the new Utilitarian slogan should be, ‘the world is a department store, and man is the shopper in it.’ Simply put, the liberal theorists referred to above believe that man is a shopping animal, an animal whose purpose in life is to go shopping. Moreover, they believe that the world is essentially one gigantic market-place where this shopping can occur. They assume that in order to be happy, a man needs to be surrounded at all times by multifarious consumer goods, which he can sample or purchase at his pleasure. They then claim that multiculturalism is a natural extension of their universal shopping principle. Man must not only be surrounded by multifarious consumer goods; he must also be surrounded by multifarious cultures and religions. Multiculturalism is said to broaden the range of ‘pleasant experiences’ that a shopper can have. Just as a man may go shopping at the marketplace of consumer goods, so may he go shopping at the marketplace of cultures and the marketplace of religions. Thus are his chances of experiencing pleasure and amusement increased dramatically. But is it really possible to take any of this rubbish seriously? Is religious worship nothing but an ‘intriguing experience’ to be had every now and then for a diversion? Is culture but a series of ‘entertainments’ to be paid for, enjoyed for an hour or two, and forgotten the next day? Honestly, what could be more absurd than a theory such as this? Let us consider for a moment a young British man. This man learned the value of hard work early, and has supported himself since he was eighteen. He now has a wife and two small children who attend church with him on Sundays. Like any conscientious parent in these times of ours, he worries often about what the future has in store for his children. I ask you, how shall it please him to know that there are so many thousand mosques in his country? In what way will it be comforting to him to know that he might go and experience the Islamic Faith at any time, without even leaving Britain! In fact there’s a mosque just across the way there! How convenient! Never mind that their manner of worship is completely alien to him, that their religious principles are quite contrary to his own, and that, with that little gold cross hanging from his neck, it is doubtful they would even let him past the door — How joyful it would be to visit there, and experience an alien religion!

Cultural void

Another rather different theory of multiculturalism goes something like this: It is assumed, first of all, that all creativity in individuals and societies is the result of conflict, the clash of different ideas and beliefs. That proposition made, it is asserted that all the great artistic and literary productions that we now see in our national museums and libraries are to be credited not to the individual genius of the artists or writers who produced them, but to whatever religious or ideological ferment may have been in existence at the time. Never mind the inspiration of true genius, or the noble perseverance, the hard work of truly devoted men and women; we have only the conflicts of the times to thank for all our art and literature! The claim is then made that as religious and political strife have brought about creativity, so must a clash of cultures, a clash of races, a clash of religions. What an extraordinary claim! I think we have all seen what delightful things have been produced in the last 30 years or so by racial and religious tension of this kind. But perhaps that’s too cynical. Surely it has created something, not brought us death and destruction only. Well, yes, to be sure, we have seen that too. Not too long ago I saw something called a ‘cross-cultural rap’ featured in one of our newspapers. This particular piece, far less aggressive and uncouth than most I have encountered, was touted by the editor as an example of the ‘creativity’ coming out of our so-called ‘multicultural communities.’ Some of you have no doubt seen this or other similar ‘works of art’. What, then, are we to make of it? Perhaps if we were to try to define what precisely rap is, as an art form? This is not so easily done. Properly speaking, it cannot be called music, nor yet, I think, may it be described as poetry. What then? – a sort of semi-articulate disharmonious chaotic jangling mishmash of the two, as near as I can tell. Very well, but that is only the form; I suppose art doesn’t necessarily have to be pleasing to the senses. Perhaps it is, for all that, grand and inspiring, tender and moving, profound and edifying, or even mildly thought-provoking in some way?

These naive liberal theorists seem to have forgotten, or else, in order to support their erroneous theories, have found it necessary to deny, what creativity in reality requires: that is , most of all, two things that your ‘rap artist’ does not have, and never will have, namely, Genius and Devotion. Genius, at least in an artist, is simply an ability to see things clearly, an ability to discern in all things the eternally true from the eternally false. It is, above all, an immense power of discernment, which only a select few among us can boast of. And of course, such genius also involves an uncommon talent of self-expression, an ability to express oneself, whether in song, on canvas, in poetry or prose, in a way that is irresistibly inspiring. That is what I take to be ‘genius.’ Equally important is devotion, of utmost importance, I say, that the creative genius focus his immense powers of perception and expression on something worthwhile, a subject of great significance both to him and to us, his audience. We British have been blessed with many such devoted geniuses in the course of our long history. It can be argued, I think, that the greatest poets our nation has ever seen were all ardent patriots, all devoted to their country and their people. Such poets wrote with the express aim of enriching our culture and language. It is well-known, that whenever Milton had occasion to sign his name to a document, he would make sure that there could be no confusion as to his nationality; ‘John Milton, Englishman’ thus always did he sign his name. This is the man who resolved at the age of 30 to

fix all the industry and art I could unite to the adorning of my native tongue; not to make verbal curiosities the end–that were a toilsome vanity– but to be an interpreter and relater of the best and sagest things among mine own citizens throughout this island in the mother dialect. That what the greatest and choicest wits of Athens, Rome… did for their country, I in my proportion with this over and above of being a Christian, might do for mine: not caring to be once named abroad… but content with these British Islands as my world…

Milton did not disappoint; he wrote about our Christian religion, and I know of no Christian poet or prophet who has since surpassed him. Tennyson, our poet laureate during the latter half of the 19th century, wrote in celebration of our ancient notions of chivalry, of our legends of King Arthur. Shakespeare is called by many a ‘universal’ poet, but what, then, are his Histories, Henry the Fifth among others, if they are not national epics? These men of genius used their talent for the glory of England; each was in his own time the voice of England. And their voices are still heard, I think, at least by those of us who have not yet succumbed to the cult of multiculturalism that has swept over these islands in recent years. All our great achievements in art and literature were the products of great minds and devoted souls, such as our Shakespeare, Milton, and Tennyson had. What need have we, then, of the black rapper, with his head full of ‘racial tensions’ and a few other extraneous noises, utterly empty of all else, what need have we of him and other cheap imports like him? What contributions these people of the Third World may make in the way of culture are as nothing compared to what we British already have, nothing compared to the culture we have developed over a span of more than a thousand years.

No need for immigration

Such a lot of extraordinary rubbish our liberal journalists have cooked up, it would seem! Yet, I think we ought to give them credit for at least attempting to find some method in all of this multicultural madness. Trouble is, that in the last analysis, there simply is no method to be found in it, no method whatsoever in the government’s mad policy of forced multiculturalisation. Truth be told, multiculturalism offers no advantages to the native British population, offers disadvantages only. Far from improving our quality of life, far from making our lives more exciting and enjoyable, it makes life more dangerous and bitter for many among us, especially for those living in our Northern communities. Third World immigrants do not enrich our culture; on the contrary they contribute to its impoverishment. And what of other issues, such as Crime, and the Economy? Strangely enough, it appears that crime rates have gone up throughout our island in proportion as immigration from the Third World has increased. Furthermore, the government and the media always insist that mass immigration will be necessary to maintain our economy in the coming years, but even these so called purely ‘economic arguments’ of theirs don’t hold water. According to the EU’s own numbers, if Europe wants to maintain its 5-to-1 ratio of working-age persons (15 to 64) to pensioners and elderly (65 and over), Europe must import — 1.4 billion people from Africa and Asia by mid-century! Such as scheme as this is not only unfeasible; it is simply fantastic! If, in order to meet their economic targets, the EU bureaucrats find it necessary to import 1.4 billion people from the Third World, then it is clear that their economic targets are unrealistic. Clearly, it is time for the EU planners to go back to the drawing board, or, better yet, it is time for said ‘planners’ go before another sort of board, if not to the gallows directly, and allow the sovereign states of Europe to tackle their own economic problems individually.

Blair & Co. and the Proponents of “One World”

Something here must be said, I think, apropos of the recent and present occupants of Number 10 Downing Street. Not at all clear, however, what ought to be said about them. On the one hand, it is very tempting to dismiss Blair, his successor Brown, and the new LibCon creature, Cameron-Clegg, as typical politicos, men who, notwithstanding their impressive talent for tongue-wagging, are in all other aspects that we are apt to consider in a leader of men (to wit: intellect, know-how, integrity, courage, accountability) sadly, sadly deficient! The manifold failures of this government, daily unfolded in our newspapers, would appear, on the face of them, to be attributable merely to the negligence and incompetence of worthless men. These are not men of long views; they do not consider what is in the long-term best interests of this country. These are men who look forward to the next election only, they look ahead no farther. Perhaps that really is the whole extent of it. On the other hand, one is tempted to see them in an altogether different light, to see them, in Carlyle’s words, as ‘Councillors of state [who] sit plotting and playing their high chess game whereof the pawns are men.’ In all likelihood they themselves for the most part pawns of the multinational corporations that fund their election campaigns. But there is something more sinister at work as well.

A review of any of the former Prime Minister Blair’s asinine speeches will reveal the same tendency in his thinking. Blair wanted to ‘foster global interdependence and make it a force for good, for our own nation and the wider world.’ He goes on: ‘The only way to deal with this is if there’s pain all round so that there can be gain all round,’ and suchlike phrases. Everyone knows that Blair, and his successors, are firm believers in globalisation, but we must understand is that globalisation is much more than a merely ‘economic’ programme. At the heart of it is a certain species of fanaticism, much akin, as it happens, to the fanaticism of Karl Marx. In the words of a contemporary journalist, ‘It is inevitable that at some time in our collective future, this planet, with all its many shades of humanity, will unite into a single whole.’ Note the use of the word ‘inevitable,’ a very emotional word. Marx too thought that the unification of all nations by Communism was ‘inevitable.’ Lenin believed him, so convinced was he of the inevitability of it, in fact, that he resolved, by hook or by crook, to make it happen. He attempted to make it happen, and a great people, the Russian people, was brought to its knees, and still has not recovered from that experience. But what has this to do with Blair and Brown and Cameron-Clegg? Very simple, if you accept the premise I’ve laid out above. Why do Labour and LibCon governments refuse to clamp down on immigration, against the clear wishes of the British people? Because Blair, Brown and Cameron-Clegg have partaken of that poisonous elixir, fanaticism, ‘whereof,’ says Jonathan Swift, ‘whoever drinks, that person’s brains fly out of his nostrils.’ Because Blair and his clones sincerely believe that ‘the unification of all shades of humanity into a single whole’ is inevitable, and they have resolved that by mass immigration they shall bring it to pass. But in their hysteria, they do not seem to realise that it is only white countries that will be ‘unified’ in this manner. In Alien Nation, a book about America’s immigration woes, Peter Brimelow reports the responses of the Chinese, Taiwanese, and Indian embassies, when asked about the possibility of immigrating to their country:— China: ‘China does not accept any immigrants. We have a large enough population.’ Taiwan: ‘You need Taiwanese relatives by blood or marriage’ India: ‘Are you of Indian origin?’… Long after Britain, Europe, Russia and America have been ‘unified’ and ‘multiculturalised’ beyond recognition, China, Taiwan, India, and in fact most non-white countries will have retained their dominant ethnic majorities. We will then be no closer to the ideal of ‘universal brotherhood’: South America, that great experiment in racial mixing, will continue to be a racially stratified mess. And the African tribes, Hindus, Muslims, and Chinese in their billions, disdaining to mix with each other, will continue to vie with each other for regional and global dominance, while members of the Caucasian race will find themselves outnumbered and unwelcome in the homes of their ancestors.

[Continuation in Part II]

Parts II and III examine some key arguments of nationalist political philosophy and discuss questions of national identity in Britain.


The Encounter as Reminiscence (A Review of ‘Encounters’ by Paul Gottfried)

Last year, ISI Books released the quasi-autobiographical book Encounters: My Life with Nixon, Marcuse and Other Friends and Teachers by Professor Paul Gottfried. I say ‘quasi’ because it is not a cut-and-dry autobiography. The acknowledged pater familias of the current incarnation of the paleoconservative movement has written something which is not so much an extended treatment of his life as such, but rather tracing exactly what it says on the cover — the extraordinary people he has encountered throughout his life. What he shows, through what he admits was a difficult selection of some subjects to the detriment of others, is the trajectory which passes through these great coordinates. From the outset, he attempts to stress that this work is, if you like, a detailed treatment of remarkable people and events which played a part in an otherwise unremarkable life.

I finally read Encounters at the beginning of this year. The period during which I had set aside time to do so, along with the tone of the book itself, made this a fairly leisurely reading. This review article benefits from the time taken on this first reading, as well as from a subsequent (and much quicker) second reading. Like any good meal, Encounters should be digested slowly and properly.

An illuminative and responsible review should ask the question: ‘What marks this book [in our case, Encounters] as distinct from other biographical writings?’ The answer is largely, if not wholly and simply, the author’s style. In his writing, as in conversation, Gottfried is very natural, relaxed and easy. There is an apparent effortlessness to his writing which Encounters best typifies. In this book, he delves into anecdotes and his characteristic digressions which, despite being such, never detract from the storytelling or its balanced pace. Gottfried, albeit a tenured professor, never lectures from on high or commands his reader ex cathedra. Rather, he speaks to the reader. He relates the mutually distinct experiences he has of the book’s different subjects. The writer himself seems to function merely as the locus of Erfahrung or continuous experience. Where some writers try to relate (certain pictures of) themselves through the conduit of an autobiography, he instead treats himself, where he stood at the time, as a conduit through which each person he portrays becomes, to a greater or lesser extent, miraculously accessible.

In a way, Encounters is a collection of surreal stories, but their rewardingly mundane and authentic flavour is undeniable. The people he writes about are human, with all the ingrained foibles and delicate virtues that entails. (Encounters is affectionate, but far from mere hagiography.) Part of Gottfried’s mastery of this slightly-out-of-genre piece is the way in which he is able to capture the all-too-human aspects of his encounters with others. It is worthwhile to note at this point that the title of the book is very important. Gottfried does not merely describe ‘events’, as ‘objective’ historians are wont to do; beyond such dry demonstrations, he relates genuine encounters — that is, his own unique experiences of equally unique people. His subjectivity augments, rather than limits, the historical pursuit.

Gottfried’s introduction, a preparation for the book, sets the tone. What we are given is a series of memoirs tied loosely (but deftly) together with a thread of intellectual (auto)biography.

The first chapter, Apam (meaning ‘My Father’), is an intensely personal portait of Gottfried’s father. One might sense that he strives to be as even-handed in this depiction (objectivity per se is neither possible nor desirable in this sort of work); and the spirit of fairness shines through — albeit shining through his obvious respect for his apja. This chapter perhaps provides the bedrock of the book — even as it describes how the bedrock of Gottfried’s character was formed.

Chapter Two is Gottfried’s recollection of university life. It’s arguably the closest which he comes to cut-and-dry autobiography in the whole book. Even then, it appears to be in the book far more to tie the memoirs together than to self-aggrandize. It also informs a fair amount of what is said in the chapters which follow. Certain enjoyable and enlightening digressions later in the book refer back to what is covered in this chapter. In a very important sense, the second chapter is the bridge from Chapter One (broadly speaking, his childhood) to the rest of his life.

Perhaps the more interesting passages of a scholarly (and, indeed, more than scholarly) bent, are those about the Marxists, former Marxists and merely nominal Marxists whom Paul Gottfried has known over the years. Some of these stand out very clearly, given the stylistically supple treatment which Gottfried achieves throughout Encounters. It is perhaps because we are often the blindest to our own behaviour. Encounters, in places, is an effort (perhaps unintended) to fulfil our unfulfillable wish ‘To see oursels as ithers see us’, in the words of Burns. Gottfried paints life-like pictures of supposed Marxists who, in an almost comical sense, seem to be the last to know that they are not destined for Marxism.

One particularly startling example of this is his discussion of Paul Piccone as a thinker. Despite differing with Piccone on details of opinion, Gottfried lays out these details fairly. Few writers these days can argue for a position, without making it either a straw man or a badly thought-out closing argument some lawyer might insincerely give to dazzle a jury. Paul Gottfried deftly avoids such traps. His exposition of the ideas so passionately articulated by the Telos editor/publisher seem to express them in the best voice possible. In fact, Piccone’s opinions are laid out in such a way that I could relate to them while reading. It seems that in the debate over the merits of bourgeois civilization, I would be inclined toward Piccone, although I substantially agree with Professor Gottfried on a swathe of political and cultural issues. In any case, this was one of the most enjoyable parts to read, of a wholly enjoyable book. One might be left wondering whether or not it was one of the most enjoyable parts for Gottfried to write.

After all, in this book, he writes comparatively little about himself.

One gets the impression as one reads that Professor Gottfried is a humble man — even self-effacing. This is an accurate impression. His humble style of writing is not a façade which the good Herr Professor affects for an audience. There is no deception involved. His resistance to praise — and conspicuous lack of self-praise — is a startling exception to La Rochefoucauld’s maxim that such resistance is indicative of the wish to be praised twice. I have both read Professor Gottfried and met him. In correspondence and in the flesh, the surreal sincerity of his humility is one of the very first things I noticed about him. In his published articles and books, I find that he is not as explicitly opinionated as one might expect from one who has defined (and even named) the political movement to which he still contributes. Perhaps this is because, as he says in the book, he was forced into the kind of political, polemical writing for which he is best known. He is not being trite when he implies that his political interests are largely borne of a more fundamental interest in intellectual consistency.

This leads inevitably to my next point.

The only failing of Encounters has nothing to do with the book itself. There is nothing wrong with what he writes — but rather with what he fails to add in. It seems that Gottfried fails to give himself credit where it is due. He leaves out the importance of his own contribution to the encounters which he describes. Nevertheless, the reader can almost feel the vivacity of these contributions emanating from the pages, even as he focuses on the subjects of the book. This is due, of course, to the humility which is mentioned above. This is a quality which he displays to a fault. So, the shortcoming of Encounters is merely that it is not a different book. However, one can pursue this to a reductio ad absurdum — that being written any differently would destroy both the focus and the consistency of the book, two things which are important to Gottfried. Also, since this quality is per accidens — and the most tenuous sort of accidental quality — one must feel bad for pointing it out. Therefore, this is no shortcoming at all. Rather, it is precisely the strength of Encounters that it is not another book. The ‘negative dialectic’ of this supposed failing will surely please Gottfried, as one familiar with Hegel and as the supposed “right-wing exponent of the Frankfurt School” (which is how Gottfried encapsulates David Gordon’s “amusing” misrepresentation of him).

We see Gottfried the historian at work, too. In a somewhat surprising way, Encounters displays his mastery as a historian more clearly than some of his straightforward academic-historical work. This is not because those works somehow lack something, but because Encounters has something which supererogates the ordinary duties of historical writing. Nor does it wax hagiographic, as I have already said. The book captures the kind of subjective vividness one would expect from the likes of Jacob Burckhardt, only with the added intensity which comes with Gottfried having personally known his subjects. In this sense (and many others), Encounters is an astounding success for what it is intended to be.

The choice of men to whom the pages are devoted is, in a word, fascinating. A rather remarkable aspect of this book is that — besides the more esteemed and, yes, famous figures discussed (e.g. Marcuse and Nixon, respectively) — it contains fair and lengthy discussion of a few thinkers who, I fear, might soon be forgotten. Such a sad fate would be nothing short of inexorable, but for Paul Gottfried’s conscientious intervention.

Furthermore, Encounters itself is a perfect example of why we should not forget Paul Gottfried. Far from it, we must learn from him all that we can. We must realise what he means personally to those of us who know him, as a compagnon du voyage, and what he means to our ‘movement’, so to speak, as it stands today, in his capacity as its godfather, its mentor and still, undeniably, its foremost intellectual.

Encounters is a fruitful read. Those who don’t have the pleasure of knowing Paul Gottfried or even being familiar with his other works will nevertheless benefit richly from what this book says; and those of us who do, on the other hand, will benefit from its allusions to what he has imparted to us. Supposing I recommend only one book to read over a couple of days this Summer, it would indubitably be this fine offering from this fine thinker.

Encounters: My Life with Nixon, Marcuse, and Other Friends and Teachers is published by ISI and has been available to purchase since 2009. It can be found in hardcover via its listing or the one on, as well as from various other good booksellers. It’s well worth the price.


Freedom, Justice and Revolution

In this article, I have set out to explore three terms. They are named in the title. ‘Freedom’ (or ‘Liberty’), ‘Justice’ and ‘Revolution’. These are very attractive terms, to be sure. There is no doubt about that. They are, in fact, so attractive that those who understand them least use them the most. Despite being left ill-defined, these terms, when used in political discourse, have a strong impression upon us. What definitions and conceptions of them which we do have are — quite simply — false, misleading and harmful.

Usually, what makes the use of these terms counter-productive is not their original meaning. Rather, it is the dishonest deviation from this meaning. They are de-historicized and neutered. Rights which were interpersonal, social, legal, contractual become merely (and dangerously) metaphysical. Where origins are forgotten, there the flower of ignorance — monstrous and erroneous — blooms. Specifically, wherever one forgets how and when rights have come to develop (and lacks even a mythical description of this development), there the exploding bud is the ‘Rights of Man’.

What was once understood as historical and contingent, is supplanted by a twisted facsimile — an ahistorical, universal and static parody, suspended awkwardly over history.

Nevertheless, there may yet be something which can be salvaged from them.


The Ancient Greeks were preoccupied with man’s place in the community and his prosperity as an individual. It must be noted right away that the Ancients saw the two as being inextricably linked. Mutatis mutandis, the same applies to the ancient Roman, the ancient Norsemen and so on. It is only today that the individual in conflict with the body politic.

In the ancient world, the most honourable men associated out of selfishness. This made perfect sense to an ancient Greek, Roman, Nordic or Brahmin. To us, being Westerners in the world of today — with our paltry conceptions of liberty, rights, selfishness and so on — this is rather more difficult to understand. When it comes to liberty, our ‘modern ideas’ obfuscate matters, rather than illuminate them.

Where we have normalized relations with certain parties, we have expectations. These expectations are contingent upon these relations. So long as these relations continue, they will be formalized. Once formalized, they are represented by ‘rights’. So, why is it harmful to forget this origin — or even, to forcefully break with this origin? First, because rights are contractual and conventional. Only with provenance can one prove rights. Secondly, because this opens the door to the error of making rights metaphysical. Since rights are conditioned by the power to provide for them, if rights are assumed everywhere, we cease to take account of reality. Our flight of fantasy sacrifices the ‘is’ for the ‘ought’. Moreover, the justification garnered from making it a moral issue adds impetus to the most horrifying conclusions.

It is from the nobility that we have the men who create, inherit and guarantee rights. It is only proper, therefore, that they hold the first and highest rights of all, and grant these to their sons. More fundamentally, these liberties are based on their valuations and are most at home in the same kind of soil they were born in. The differences which informally (yet invariably) lead to men falling into roughly two distinction groups — (1) the best, and (2) the rest — also lead the first of these groups to form an entire worldview based on their own extraordinary nature. In the class distinctions which follow from this, we find the formalization of qualitative differences. What is made formal is the inequality which is the precondition of rights. What does this mean? Simply, the class-system provides the basis for all rights, as well as the guarantee of liberties. Beyond this, authentic freedom (in a more fundamental sense) is only possible for those with the aristocratic spirit.

Nietzsche’s master-morality (Herrenmoral) neatly and essentially encapsulates this. Also, he tells us that there are no rights without an inequality thereof. Moreover, equal rights only exist between equals — i.e. between those who can requite themselves. Those who can equal one another, in deeds. (“Equality for Equals, Inequality for Unequals” he suggests as a mocking slogan.) Drawing on another use of the word ‘equal’, we might say that one only has equal rights where one is equal to these rights.

Excavating terms (and therefore, concepts) embedded in our language, Nietzsche set out — with great success — to prove this. The etymological ancestry which he thus traces vindicates his theory of a twofold history of morality. What he more or less demonstrates is that we begin with the primary distinction: good-bad. This distinction starting from the declaration: this benefits me, therefore it is good; or, more simply, ‘if it’s good for me, it’s good’). It is, however, to be distinguished from the evil-good distinction (which begins with evil — in short, with what is Other, what is hated, what is to be reacted against). The reader may notice I called the good-bad distinction the primary one. This is what I would call the primal phenomenology of human existence. It is self-consciousness.

On this point, it would be irresponsible not to mention Hegel. Why? Is this due to a fear of influence not being acknowledged? No. Rather, I wish to show the chief, irreconcilable difference between this conception and Hegel’s conception of ‘Herrschaft und Knechtschaft’ (or ‘Lordship and Servitude’) from The Phenomenology of Spirit. Put simply, Hegel incorrectly ascribes the impulse of self-consciousness as residing with the servant, not the master. The Master is the creator-conqueror — he is the originator and arbiter of value. He spontaneously develops the good-bad distinction.

The Master — that is, the superior — has primacy of self-awareness. In his consciousness we have the origination of self-consciousness. The ‘I’ is his contribution to ontology. This is fundamental, in his value-system. The good-bad distinction is underived from anything other than the Master’s own experiences of the world — and his innermost, ownmost feelings. In short, the good-bad distinction originates in a sort of ‘ipsissimosity’. One might call this ‘own-most-ness’, for want of a better form of expression.

Moreover, the Master treasures different things. He reveres that which carries the marks of age; and he reveres tradition. Nietzsche emphasized that “all law rests on this twofold reverence”. Conservatism is indelibly ingrained in the value-system of the nobility, even if they are born and bred risk-takers. Nietzsche argues, furthermore, that faith in one’s ancestors and partiality towards them are noble traits, surely indicative of “the morality of the powerful.” Legal relationships are based upon their profound conservatism.

Naturally, then, it is among such value-creating men, among the nobility, that law is first taken seriously — as in Rome. (“Jus est ars boni et æqui” — that is, “Law is the art of the good and the right”. The Roman would naturally assume — and correctly — that this referred to the nobility.) It is among men of approximate power, who see the advantages in avoiding open contest, that legal relationships — and thereby civil association — first arise. Similarly, it is only among peers that one can have justice proper.

Justice is not based upon everyone being equal, but on the opposite — upon our radical inequality.


In revolutionary leftist politics, there is a tendency to condemn what is considered reactionary.

However, the proletarian condemnation of ‘everything’ reactionary is insincere. The accurate identification of the bourgeoisie as reactionary is beside the point. That middle-class commoners are reactionary does not make lower-class commoners any less reactionary. They have more in common with each other than either would like to admit. Indeed, more than either has with the nobility. It is this, and not purely economic ‘forces of production’, which makes the capitalist system a hot-bed for revolutionaries. Moreover, it is also precisely this which plots the coordinates for the middle-class Angst so characteristic of the modern age.

One of the few things which is in any way unique about the middle-class is that exists between two classes. The virtually extinct class above it has been everywhere betrayed by the money-grubbers. They feel inadequate next to this, which accounts for all their show. All middle-class ‘selfishness’ is not based on self at all, but based on pursuing what everyone else pursues. They are long on vanity and short on self-esteem. Their ‘self-interest’ consists wholly of the extent to which they are suckers. Knowing that they are unable to match those they have betrayed perpetuates an inherited guilt. Put bluntly, they feel, even if only unconsciously, they have robbed the world of something they know to be beautiful and matchless. Something which, for all the ‘forces of reproduction’ at their fingertips, is irreproducible.

Perhaps that’s why they must deify capitalism and reinterpret history in a whiggish fashion, to marginalize the part of the nobility in securing ancient freedoms. In fact, the nobility did not make a mere contribution to the concept of liberty. Liberty itself is the aristocratic contribution to European life! This is somewhat like Freud’s interpretation of monotheistic religion as being founded upon feelings of guilt (and perhaps remorse) over killing the father-founder. Given their utter inadequacy as a ruling class, they must feel, given their inability to live up to the responsibilities of a genuinely ruling class — by the ruling class.

Such guilt is compounded by their fear. There is a kind of collective neurosis in the middle-class. That is to say, there is a vague fear of something, and that trembling expectation is, in fact, a dim recollection of their treachery. Note that it is ever the adulterer who is quickest to accuse their spouse — and it is ever in the adulterer’s mind to suspect adultery, just as surely and as soon as the adulterer’s heart is capable of adultery. Adultery is only wrong when and insofar as it is treachery. This explains the discomfort and the otherwise inexplicable outbursts of the middle-class ideologues — fascists, libertarians and generic right-wingers — against the aristocracy, whenever this sore point is even lightly brushed.

Adducing Nietzsche’s counterpoint to the aristocracy’s abovementioned respect for what is old and traditional might clarify. He says that this respect is indicative of “the morality of the powerful; so, it is just as sure a sign that when, conversely, men of ‘modern ideas’ believe almost instinctively in ‘progress’ and ‘the future’ and show an increasing lack of respect for age, this reveals clearly enough the ignoble origin of these ‘ideas’.” How seriously are bourgeois belief-systems committed to tradition and veneration of the old over the new? The answer is: Not nearly enough.

The vulgar temperament is secondary and reacts against what is old, inherited, traditional and so on — often, it even does so when it tries to do otherwise. On the other hand, a retention and reiteration of origins is aristocratic and primary — and, therefore, not reactionary.

So, what is really reactionary?

Reaction is weakness. That is, one reacts in the political sense out of weakness. When a person or group react politically their conditions of life, with some kind of demands, they are reactionary. Reaction is the closest that commoners, the weak (formerly known as the bad also), can come to requital. (The repayment of acts — good or ill — is the crucial precondition upon which one is regarded ‘good’ in the sense of master-morality. The ‘bad’ are identified as those unable to return either generosity or wrongdoing.) They cannot repay the debt, so they would rather wipe it out altogether. Revolution is a form of acting out so as to erase one’s origins — even if only temporarily.

What is revolutionary, therefore, is invariably and necessarily reactionary.

To be genuinely and fundamentally reactionary is to feel the weight of another’s existence more heavily than one’s own. Complaint is the act of signalizing one’s permeability. It is virtually consent. Complaining, as we usually think of it or act it out, is the acceptance of victimhood. Implicitly, one admits that another is the victor and oneself the vanquished; or ‘worse’, that another is lord and oneself the vassal. Revolutionary violence in the name of freedom, social justice or some other such nonsense is going too far. It is an over-compensation for the inescapable knowledge that one is and always will be a slave.

Revolution is always slave-revolt; and the slave-revolt is the acknowledgement of one’s status as such. In politics, the slave doth protest too much. For example, gay-rights activists invoke the latter-day iteration of Judeo-Christian metaphysics as their own basis when they champion their cause as homosexuals — a category invented by nineteenth-century physicians. They, as a once-frowned-upon minority, are revolting against the societies which “oppressed” them by its own terms and on its own playing-field. This is just a particular case of a general phenomenon.

The slave admits and internalizes his irremediable status as a slave by the very act of revolution. Revolution does not abolish or disprove the master’s view of the low-born (that is, the view of them as wretched and predisposed against virtue). Rather, it vindicates this view.

The slave is always profoundly unfree, even when he is unchained.


The question of what freedom is, what it means to be ‘free’ (if one can indeed be free), is of crucial importance.

Liberties, like rights, have a basis only insofar as they have a provenance. Not only is this manifestly and demonstrably true, it has to be accepted by conservatives. Similarly, Liberty itself — or Freedom — can only be regarded as authentic if we can find out where she belongs. Supposing She is our totem, we will find a place for Her among ourselves and our own origins.

So, how is the term ‘liberty’ used politically? We could digress indefinitely in answering this, so let us look at one particular answer.

Incidentally, another triad of terms containing the term ‘liberty’ was the rallying cry of the French Revolution (Liberté, égalité, fraternité). This at first sounds appealing, until one realises that it completely misunderstands the nature of the very first term: liberté. Did the Revolution bring liberty? Do revolutions in general allow greater liberty? Is equality the same as justice? Is revolutionary ‘brotherhood’ better than civil association? The reader is now in a better position to answer these questions. Indeed, I can answer them right now.

The French Revolution opens the door to an interesting ‘cast study’ of sorts: France in the modern period.

My position on the inheritance of guaranteed rights can be largely summed up in the thèse nobiliaire. The reason why is quite simple. One need only look to the environment in which this thèse was passionately expressed. There is a perverse continuity between the projects of the centralized, absolute monarchy and the motivations behind that series of events making up the French Revolution, the ‘Reign of Terror’ and the progressive décadence of France thereafter. Moreover, both of these involved rationalistic State-building projects (explicitly, in the case of the Revolution; implicitly, in the case of the Bourbon monarchy).

So, the thèse nobiliaire is the only one which conservatives can accept. Anything less and one is no conservative at all. Metaphysical rights, without history, without precedent and without limit, have ever been the justification of usurpation; and liberties will ever be the justification of unchecked state expansion — and of tyranny. This is what genuine conservatives have ever railed against. Montesquieu can be correctly called a conservative in his efforts to prove the case for this thèse.

Incidentally, the Constitution of the United States is based — albeit imperfectly — upon the framework observed by Montesquieu. It includes a separation of powers — the trias politica — albeit in a form quite different from what Montesquieu actually envisaged; but it does not contain the corps intermédiaires or pouvoirs intermédiaires — that is intermediary ‘bodies’ or ‘powers’ — which are, in fact, crucial for the proper operation of government. The flourish of the baron’s pen is in that founding document of supreme law. In fact, Montesquieu’s influence upon the Founding Fathers — both Federalists and Anti-Federalists alike — was various yet vast. Even these democratic dreamers were swayed by his pluralism. It is little emphasized today, but this is an important influence in early American (constitutional) history. The intermediary powers — or “little platoons”, if we want to use Burke’s turn of phrase — in securing the separation of powers and the privileged place of liberties is an important part of the history of the Founding of the new political order. Debates about the role of the Senate brought this to the fore. It was, in fact, the Anti-Federalists who were anxious for the Senate to hold the “natural aristocracy”. The Founding Fathers were swayed by the pragmatic pluralism of this. Such a well-ordered diffusion — favoured by Montesquieu, Hume and Burke — promotes the general welfare within the States, the integrity of the Republic, and the soundness of the laws. It is a conservative position.

Of course, Montesquieu is supportive of something even further down the road than this: a separate and self-protecting upper house with a suite of unique powers. Needless to say, this is also something which would be forbidden by the contemporary understanding of the Constitution. Clearly, the separation of powers was more nuanced in the mind of its most famous formulator. A powerful and self-concerned “upper house” of the legislature would represent the nobility. More importantly for modern political theory, it would serve a functional purpose: a body counterbalancing the fads, errors and careerism of unrestricted democracy. This house would also exercise judicial powers in cases involving peers of the realm — just as such bodies had done in Europe. The nobility was allowed the privilege of protecting itself; they could not be subjected to popular magistrates. Montesquieu is no democrat. It is only when taken out of context, can Montesquieu be said to support either pure monarchy or democracy. Montesquieu is a pluralist, yes — but he is a conservative also. On this latter point, Boulainvilliers before him can likewise and a fortiori be called a conservative.

Both of these men — Boulainvilliers and Montesquieu — may be tentatively placed into a particular tradition of thought. Both men take the position of the thèse nobiliaire, although their arguments take slightly different forms — Montesquieu gives almost utilitarian reasons, because it makes for a workable mixed government and yields the best results, but Boulainvilliers establishes that it is customary and it enshrines the prerogatives of the founding stock of France’s political and legal order. In any case, both men adduce proof in a fundamentally conservative way — by showing evidence that there are inherited rights, liberties and so on belonging to the aristocracy as such, and independent from the Crown. At least in this — that is, in considering their most sacred rights and franchises as an inheritance — they are as one with Edmund Burke. Even if it were only in that, this is still sufficient to prove their conservative temperaments.

The Bourbons seriously invoked the ‘divine’ right of kings, while failing to consider the actual nature of this right and its legal origins. Nietzsche wrote, incidentally, that there is no right that is not granted from some other source (in other words, were there are rights there are relationships); we only regard a right as inherent once we have forgotten who granted it and even that it was granted. (Again, regarding rights as inherent necessitates a misunderstanding of the very nature of rights.) In the case of the Bourbon kings, they forgot that it was the nobility who granted their ancestors and predecessors rights as extraordinary arbiters in settling disputes between noblemen. The monarch is an instrument of an aristocratic form of social organization. Once this is forgotten, he becomes a tyrant — and an enemy of aristocracy. Such a tyrant must rely on popular support, or at the very least, the contentment of the masses. He must provide them with bread and circuses, offices and (unjustified) titles.

Tyranny reliant upon popular support has a name: despotism. Note that this is the distinction which Montesquieu makes in his L’esprit des lois. Additionally, it is the only definition of despotism which really meaningfully distinguishes it. (This is a distinction so obvious that even a Marxist — namely Althusser — can admit it!) The House of Bourbon, especially from Louis the XIV onward, was engaged in a continuous campaign to circumscribe and enervate the nobility. This was a concerted effort between the monarch and the commoners to dispossess the nobility of that which was righ2tfully theirs. Absolute monarchy, therefore, is just another name for despotism — and democracy is a hair’s breadth from despotism. Montesquieu is at pains to show that both are harmful — and to show something else which they have in common. This factor is the nobility. There is no ability to protect the mixed government without a class system. Nor, for that matter, is it possible to hold the state and civil society apart — without an aristocratic component in each.

Of course, this is what has been learned throughout the twentieth century. Popular government is accountable to itself — i.e. to no-one. (One sees the same problem in libertarianism. In this respect, the doctrine is identical to liberalism. Libertarians, like liberals, are so busy looking for ways to secure civil society against interference from the State, that they forget to do vice versa and secure the State against such interference from the masses. Libertarianism provides a despotic model for government. This is invariably the case for libertarianism — unless taking an outright anarchistic form, in which case the divorce from reality is complete.) This unmoderated government derives from the French — or, as Nietzsche insisted, English — error. The Bourbon absolutism was dynastic, but it paved the way for dictatorship. To put this in Carl Schmitt’s terms, the framework for political decisions is completely accessible to the fickle masses, and therefore inefficient, beleaguered and compromised. In such a situation, there is a kind of “short-circuit” so to speak, in civil society. Unprotected, the circuit dies — and with it, the realm of liberty. When dealing with the public and private spheres, there is a distinction and a distance between them which must be respected in both directions.

The nexus of these two spheres is the class-system which maintains both. It is the aristocracy which alone can hold these spheres apart and maintain their mutual integrity, like Atlas holding the sky and the earth apart from one another. So long as this distance is maintained, there shall be no tyranny — popular or otherwise. Liberty thrives within a genuine class-system. This brings us to our problem. The absolute monarchy of France destroyed liberty only and precisely insofar as it destroyed the class-system. This point cannot be emphasized enough, given its importance.

In modern liberalism, we see the same divorce from origins as in the latter-day ancien régime. The French Revolution was the turning point, as we have seen, at which the emboldened commoners (the same bureaucratic bourgeoisie which the absolutist monarchs of France had artificially and illegally empowered) took the remainder of the power which the Kings had not already granted them. Maistre wrote that the French Revolution happened as if it could not be stopped. Indeed, the Revolution occurred like a force of nature — precisely because the heedless Bourbon dynasty had injudiciously prepared the way for it. The existence of the Parti de l’Ordre in the Second French Republic is an echo of the spirit which led to France’s bloody and ignorant democracy in the first place. In actuality, it enabled the same bourgeois bureaucracy which had been enabled by Kings since Louis the XIV. What we see throughout is the steady disenfranchisement of the nobility, with much more continuity than would at first appear.

What is sure is that from Louis the XIV, the “Sun King with his unprecedented, unrestricted political power and his massive State bureaucracy, down through his dynastic successors, to the French Revolution and beyond, the ancient privileges, rights, liberties and prerogatives of the French have been under continuous assault.

So, there are lessons to be learned from France, in the lead-up to the Revolution. One’s answer must not exclude other such events, however.

Our modern understanding of ‘rights’ is flawed. Human rights (civil rights, individual rights, social rights and so on) are an obstacle to, not a foundation for, liberty. The bias behind this is slave envy. It goes without saying that appeals to ‘social justice’ arise from the same motivation. There is a whole slant which runs through all of these misunderstandings, whether wilful or not. The slave-revolt accounts for this perversion — or, more accurately, inversion — of our deepest values.

Clearly, the Judeo-Christian (also the Jacobinliberaldemocraticsocialistsocial-democraticlibertarian and so on, ad nauseam) understanding of legal/political concepts, like rights and liberties — not to mention, of actual freedom — is both limited and flawed.

Nothing cut off from its roots lives long afterwards. It is not assuming too much to extend this, by way of metaphor, to our liberties. The species of ancient rights and liberties to which I refer may grow in other climes — as in the Vedic class-system which prevailed in the Indo-European civilization in the Indus Valley — but it must ever be in the same kind of soil. There must be a value-system, a class-system and a background amiable to their growth. Moreover, they must have an aristocratic provenance, just like the men who were for so long their guarantors and protectors.

In short, our rights and liberties must have nourishing roots.


Our treatment so far has clarified where these terms ‘stand’ in their contexts.

To clarify, we may separate the three terms into two groups. We misunderstand the meanings of ‘freedom’ and ‘justice’, but reasonably think them good; on the other hand, we understand largely what is required for revolution, but should accordingly think it bad. Yet it is thought good — and that is most probably because we mis-recognize the first two terms.

So, there is a profound méconnaissance here — it is singular, but has a twofold significance. It affects how we view the words ‘freedom’ and ‘justice’ on the one hand; and, on the other, the word ‘revolution’. This is, of course, the inversion of values mentioned above. In our depraved efforts to abolish aristocratic prerogatives — the only political approximation of freedom — we, as Westerners, have not brought ourselves any closer to achieving freedom for ourselves. Rather, as revolutionaries — that is, as reactionary killjoys — we are the enemies of liberty and justice. Our Revolution is an Inversion.

This leaves us Westerners, then, with a sobering thought. We are not only unfree; we are unjust.

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