A Bit More Optimistic?

I just paid a visit to Bill Vallicella’s website — I hadn’t stopped by in a couple of days — and saw that he had mentioned me in a recent post. Bill quoted a remark he had made in a comment-thread back in 2015:

We need a broad coalition of the sane which would include many libertarians, the few liberals who haven’t lost their minds, and most conservatives, with each subgroup tempering its own tendency toward extremism.

I had replied:

I used to hope for this, and believe it was possible, but now, to my sorrow, I just can’t see how it is ever going to happen. With every passing day, and every tick of the demographic clock, we move faster and faster in the opposite direction, and I can see in America today nothing even remotely resembling a coherent political opposition on the Right. As I wrote in my letter to you, I think we have slipped past the ‘event horizon’, and all future timelines now must pass through the singularity. What form that will take, and what will come after, I can barely imagine — but I don’t think it will be pleasant for anyone.

In his post of two days ago, Bill asks whether I am “a bit more optimistic” now that Donald Trump has been elected. It’s a good question. I’d certainly like to be, but to know if such optimism is warranted it’s important to be clear about what our problems are, and whether they are more likely to be solved now that Trump’s in office. Here are a few:

1) The collapse of the culture. Just today Bill posted a piece by Victor Davis Hanson about the near-total victory of the radical Left in our academies. Given that universities are upstream from the ideological future, and that these are where the next generation of ruling elites are likely to come from, it’s hard to see much call for optimism there. I note also the relentless erosion and corrosion of all civilized norms and mores, and the relentless vulgarization of language and discourse. The level of gratuitous obscenity that is routine in public media today would have been unthinkable when I was younger; for a very recent example there is Stephen Colbert’s referring to Donald Trump’s mouth as “Vladimir Putin’s cock holster” on network television. We have fallen very, very far indeed — and as is usual for falling things, the velocity is increasing.

2) Disintegrating social cohesion. As Bill has said himself, many times, “there is no comity without commonality” — and in contrast to the America of our youth, where there was near-universal commonality of basic cultural, historical, ethical, and social axioms, there is almost nothing that is culturally universal anymore. On the “progressive” left, the only solid principles (and they are not even mutually consistent) seem to be (a) that one must make up one’s axioms as one goes along, even as regards the most fundamental and categorical truths of the external world, and (b) that those axioms must fall within very narrowly circumscribed ideological guidelines, which include, first and foremost, the awarding of status according to a towering hierarchy of “oppression” — with the natural and traditional principles that have always provided the scaffolding of civilization sitting at the apex of that pyramid. (Bill himself has posted, just today, an enumeration of just a few of these incommensurable social and ethical postulates.)

Moreover, an essential element of social cohesion has always been a culture’s sense of extension in time, of the present as a link in a chain between past and future, and of living generations being duty-bound to good stewardship of the labors and heritage of the past for generations yet unborn. This “transmission belt”, essential for the survival of any society, is now broken: where the past is not simply forgotten, it is remembered only to be despised. In 2013 I described this problem, and lamented that “we are cut off from both past and future, imprisoned in the present as no generation of people has ever been before.” This pernicious presentism has only gotten worse in the four years since, and the society that I described back then as “this tottering, gibbering thing, this fly-blown, stitched-together corpse of a “culture””, has only advanced in its decomposition. So: optimism? I think not.

3) Demographic change. The crumbling of social cohesion is accelerated by the pernicious ideologies of universalism, postmodernism, and multiculturalism. They work in destructive combination — and deny, respectively, the existence of persistent and innate differences between human populations, the foundation of objective truth upon which any possible evaluation of such differences might be made, and the importance of commonality for social cohesion (and by extension, social survival). Under this unholy trinity of principles, the West has been flooded for decades now with profoundly alien and unassimilable immigrants, and has willfully blinded itself to the consequences. It may be that the West is slowly arousing itself from its postwar stupor, and awakening to its peril — but I’m afraid it is too little, and too late. (The defeat of Marine Le Pen in today’s elections in France is sad confirmation of this: that she did as well as she did is testament to the awakening, while her resounding defeat by the Eloi cuckold Macron is tragic evidence that it is indeed too little, and too late.)

4) The deepening underclass, and the stratification and encapsulation of the well-off. As I’ve written before, societies that offer high social mobility are subject to a “boiling off” of superior qualities from the lower classes; those who can move up and out, taking their genes with them. Charles Murray’s most recent book Coming Apart looks at this problem in depressing detail, and points out also that people, having risen to higher socioeconomic strata, tend, now more than ever, to find spouses who have similar innate and acquired advantages. This concentrates talent in the upper strata, and concentrates dysfunction below. The effect of this is a widening gap between upper and lower classes, a gap that is deeply resistant to social amelioration because it is due, at bottom, to innate differences in cognitive potential and behavioral traits.

Moreover, there is a strongly correlated difference in birth-rates; members of elite social and cognitive strata have fewer children, and so there is a tendency for every high civilization to produce an ever-diminishing number of offspring having the qualities, both innate and acculturated, that are necessary to carry forward the culture’s store of knowledge, art, and literature, even as that burden grows larger and heavier with every generation. This problem is not going to get better: as far as I can tell, the lesson of history is that it never does.

5) Democracy itself, the universal franchise, and the short-term interests of politicians. I believe that we are seeing in the West the late-stage pathology of the inherent liabilities of democracy — a system that, at the time of America’s founding, had always been well understood to lead, in a few short steps, to tyranny. The Founders were rightly appalled by the prospect of democracy, knowing where it must lead, and so they did what they could to prevent its natural progression in America. But “rust never sleeps”, and so all of the safeguards against democracy that they put in place — subsidiarianism, a limited franchise, restriction of popular elections to one-half of one-third of the branches of government, and so on — have, little by little, rusted away, even as the founding culture and shared sense of heritage that were so clearly understood to be the real foundation of civic durability in America have been deliberately and irreversibly dismantled.

What we see in America now is a perfect socio-political storm: the enormous power now vested in the federal Leviathan makes control of it a glittering, and existentially important, prize; the stakes have never been so high. Meanwhile, this vast expansion of the size, power, and reach of government comes at a time when all of the horizontal ligatures, organic hierarchy, and embedding in past and future time that give a culture health, harmony and order are being deliberately and patiently destroyed. Finally, as I have written extensively elsewhere, the communication revolution of the past decade brings everything into immediate contact with everything else; just as chemical reactions proceed more rapidly under conditions of heat and pressure, social reactions that in earlier times might have taken years or decades to develop now flare and accelerate explosively — far too quickly for any measured or reflective response.

As I said above, these are only a few of the difficulties we face. (As you’ve probably guessed, I could go on at some length about all of this.) So, to answer Bill’s question: am I “a bit more optimistic” in the springtime of the Trump era than I was in June of 2015?

No. Donald Trump’s victory was gratifying, of course, mostly in that it drove a stake through the heart of Hillary Clinton’s political career — but rather than a genuine and lasting course correction, I think it was more like the way a car goes off the road: the driver sees, almost too late, that he’s drifted out of his lane, steers wildly back to center, overcorrects, yanks the wheel even more frantically back the other way, and after a few iterations of this ends up losing control altogether, with disastrous consequences. (The fact that this election came down to Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton is itself evidence of serious and advanced pathology.)

Yes, Trump & Co. are in power now — but do things in America, and the rest of the world, seem in 2017 to be getting more orderly and civilized, or sharply less so?

Do you have the feeling that a fever has passed, and that mutual respect, good sense, and civic health are returning to American society?

Right. Neither do I.

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10 Comments

  1. bob sykes says

    The lost world you lament rested on ethnic/racial homogeneity. Up until 1965, the US had a huge White majority, and their norms were society’s norms. Equality and democracy are impossible in a multicultural society. Such societies are only held together by brute force. Tsarist Russia and Hussein’s Iraq are good examples. Soon the US will be another example.

    Posted May 8, 2017 at 7:54 am | Permalink
  2. Thomas says

    You are right, and Bob Sykes is right. But “soon” is now.

    Posted May 8, 2017 at 11:52 am | Permalink
  3. “but do things in America, and the rest of the world, seem in 2017 to be getting more orderly and civilized, or sharply less so?”

    The man has been in office, what, about 3 months? And the pace of assembling his appointees from cabinet on down has been purposely delayed. Patience please. Rome was not burned in a day.

    Posted May 8, 2017 at 1:01 pm | Permalink
  4. JK says

    Rome was not burned in a day.

    True but, burn it did.

    Posted May 8, 2017 at 2:28 pm | Permalink
  5. Malcolm says

    vanderleun,

    You’re right, of course: the Trump era has barely begun. But the problems I mentioned are larger than this or that presidency.

    Posted May 8, 2017 at 11:08 pm | Permalink
  6. Whitewall says

    Well, be thankful we aren’t France!

    Posted May 9, 2017 at 7:43 am | Permalink
  7. JamesG says

    Righties who use the term “cuckservatives” are adding to vulgarity’s victory.

    Don’t bs me that it really just sounds vulgar because I know and so do you that’s why it is popular in some quarters.

    Posted May 9, 2017 at 11:27 am | Permalink
  8. Jason says

    Your essay, Mr. Pollack, makes me think of what the late Catholic priest Richard Neuhaus liked to say, that optimism is a matter of “optics,” of seeing what you want to see rather than what is really there. Nobody can read your five points, all of which I agree with, and be at all optimistic about our current trajectory. At best we can be, to adapt again Neuhaus’ religious language (with which even an agnostic like myself can concur), hopeful. That is, realizing the situation is in many ways bad and will be so for some time, but that dedicated minorities can still remain vigilant and preserve a civilization that might be built upon in the future, when people wise up and decide they need to repent.

    Posted May 9, 2017 at 12:09 pm | Permalink
  9. Criticus Ferox says

    Great post, Malcolm. I’ve been thinking about many of the same things a lot recently and coming to the conclusion that white civilization as we know it is already dead – Le Pen’s defeat was symbolic confirmation of that – and has been, for quite a while now, simply a walking corpse. I find the typical rallying cries from the right that we just need to organize more, or elect the right people, or that there will be some kind of armed resistance to be mostly delusional and pathetic. It seems extremely unlikely that any of those measures will succeed. The modicum of political resistance that can be gathered in the face of the anti-white cultural leviathan that indoctrinates and mentally enslaves our children from the moment that they are born is insufficient and will be more than negated and outweighed by sheer non-white demographics alone. And armed resistance? Get real. Show me an example of a successful armed _citizen_ revolution in a first-world country in the last century. Worse, show me how that is going to work in a contemporary techno-surveillance state. If you think whites are eventually going to get “fed up” and fight back, I’d say: first, no, they probably actually won’t even do that. Second, even if they do, they will be instantly crushed by the government.

    No, it seems clear that we are entering a Dark Age. I wish it weren’t the case, but I can’t see a realistic alternative.

    This does leave me with a question about how to cope with this situation. Should one have hope? If hope that p is (a) the belief that p is possible and (b) a desire or some kind of emotional attachment to p occurring, why should I have hope that white civilization will flourish or preserve itself? Why have a desire or emotional attachment to something that you can be virtually certain will not happen? Aren’t you just setting yourself up for constant or massive frustration and disappointment?

    I am struggling with these questions and the overall attitude that I ought to take towards the reality we face. Why, e.g., would I be motivated to bring white children into a world where their heritage and ancestors are spit on, their traditions forgotten, mocked, or constantly undermined, their freedom stripped from them, where their children will live as second-class citizens under increasingly anti-white policies – see South Africa for a preview – their daughters raped or, perhaps worse, marrying savages, etc.? Why would I be motivated to spend my time or energy trying to “wake up” fellow white citizens to what’s coming if it’s inevitable? Why “red pill” them when this will just cause them to become aware of the same harsh, depressing reality of which we are aware? Why not leave them in the matrix to live out their lives in (relatively speaking) blissful ignorance?

    I obviously don’t expect you to have answers to these questions. I’m just putting them out there because of I think that they are of deep importance, and because nobody on the right is talking about them. I guess that’s not surprising, as facing down the harsh truth is not easy. But the alternative right is supposed to be a community that is based in the truth. In this case, though, I see the alternative right as engaging in the same kind of denial and wishful thinking that are hallmarks of the left and the mainstream right.

    Posted May 9, 2017 at 1:14 pm | Permalink
  10. stagliano stabitz says

    Your point #1 about the degradation of language is alarming indeed. The F word is heard every where one goes. The younger the crowd the more often you will hear it (step on a college campus for 5 minutes and you’ll have no doubt about that). Even people in “conservative” media like Ben Shapiro have no problem using curse words. And I have no doubt shock jocks like Mark Levin, Sean Hannity, etc would do it if they were allowed.

    Posted May 9, 2017 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

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