2020/01/13

Boromir Did Nothing Wrong

Boromir Ring

Conservatives are fond of invoking the Ring of Power from J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings as a symbol of government power. It's easy to see the attraction that metaphor holds for them. Having raised individual liberty and limited government to cardinal virtues, a talisman of ultimate control fits their image of the shadowy, vaguely superhuman bureaucracy in Washington.

In Tolkien's masterpiece, the plot was a type of anti-quest wherein the heroes had to overcome long odds--not to recover some powerful artifact, but to destroy it. Meanwhile, a Dark Lord seeking world domination was after the same prize. The spoils were winner take all with no silver medal for second place. Those conditions set a nuclear doomsday clock-sized timer that kept the tension high.

Conservatives' penchant for equating the One Ring with government explains itself when you consider that it lets them cast themselves as the underdog Fellowship striving to destroy the source of tyranny--or in their case, return America to Constitutional government. It's a highly flattering image.

There are a couple of problems with that allegory, though. First of all, the Fellowship's goal wasn't placing checks on the Ring. They were out to destroy it, specifically because its power was illimitable. Following the analogy to its logical conclusion, Conservatives actually propose something more along the lines of Frodo's original idea: managing the Ring by keeping it out of the wrong hands. Due to its corrupting influence, that also meant refusing to use it himself.

Tolkien staunchly resisted attempts to frame Lord of the Rings as an allegory, and here we have a good reason why. Plugging "government" into the story for all values of the Ring results in something more like anarchism. The story itself contradicts this reading, since one of the good guys' victory conditions is crowning a new king. Tolkien's opus can more readily be seen as two groups of monarchists slugging it out with a small faction of distributists deciding which monarchy wins.

The other issue is that it's far too late to destroy the Ring. Proposing a return to the Constitution is closing the barn door after the horses have not only left, but have been shipped to China for stew meat.

Here's Conservative commentator Bill Whittle declaring that the Enemy already had the Ring way back in 2012:


If a normiecon like Whittle considered Obama-era shenanigans a Game Over scenario, we have to see runaway tech censorship, the jailing of political prisoners, and police snipers enforcing the corruption of children as the Eye of Sauron triumphant.

The Conservative project might've had merit while there was still a chance of bringing the state to heel through grassroots organizing and voting in the right people. Now, by their own measure, Conservatives are about as relevant as the Whigs. The folks running establishment Conservatism know this. That's why their operation has shifted toward milking Boomers for cruise money while pushing butt stuff on college kids.

Point this out to Conservatives, and they'll often quote from Lewis' Abolition of Man or Tolkien's line about fighting the long defeat. That attitude makes sense coming from British men of letters who held a vestigial fondness for pagan stoicism and who'd seen the two apocalyptic 20th century wars. One wonders what they'd say if they saw that England will be minority English by next century and heard that the state can rip children from their fathers' arms for summary castration.

Tolkien never showed us what would happen if Sauron won. Now we're seeing it firsthand. Clown World thwarts the Ring metaphor.

Perhaps an alternate timeline sequel to LotR would have seen a daring burglar stealing the Ring back from under the Dark Lord's nose. 2016 actually gave Conservatives the chance to play out that scenario--to try Boromir's way and use the Ring now that all bets are off--or else destroy it. They squandered their last chance to do both. The urge to languish on the sofa and sigh about the long defeat proved irresistible.

Conservatives' utter and repeated failure has taught us at least one thing: The Ring can be wrested from its wielder's hand. Unlike Tolkien's preternatural talisman, government is a human institution meant for human use.

The rising tide of dissenters won't make the same mistakes. Our task is to slowly scale the mountain until we stand where Boromir did. And this time, we'll use the Ring.

For a story where the heroes put this strategy into practice, check out Combat Frame XSeed: CY 40 Second Coming.

22 comments:

  1. "Constitutional" Conservatives have done just as poor a job at conserving America as the necons have.

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  2. Somewhere among the ruins that our civilization will leave upon this world, another free market miracle civilization will burst upon the scene.

    And sooner-or-later, one of its well-meaning citizens will stumble upon this very ring and be tempted to wear it.

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  3. The problem I have with guys like Jonah Goldberg is that they seem to think this is all some academic debate with no real world (for them anyway) consequences. In trying to be above it all, they are missing the fact that the other side of this fight wants to permanently shut us up. If given the power to do so, they will.

    So arguments that "no true conservative" can support tariffs or immigration control miss the point. You have to look at who and what is on the other side. The battle is no longer about which think tank gets a seat at the table. It's about whether the table will even be there.

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    1. The thing to remember is that pundits like Goldberg do in fact speak for the leaders of official conservatism. When he says, "No true Conservative can support X," I take him at his word. That's why I haven't called myself a Conservative in a decade.

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    2. Chris

      Which is why I've always found Anglophone conservatism very shallow. It's either liberalism on a treadmill or Anglo American anarchism aka libertarianism.

      There's very little serious intellectual reflection or works. Roger Scruton's recent death highlights this. Who's the heir that continues his intellectual reflections and contributions?

      xavier

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  4. Yeah, the Ring is its own unique problem. It has a LITERAL corrupting influence because it has an actual mind of its own and literal magic powers. There's no real world analog.

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    1. Well, there are real-world analogs in occult practices… but they don't seem to ever provably _work_ for their primary effect, thanks be to God. They do have the corrupting element, though.

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    2. Good point. That's another reason why Tolkien resisted giving the Ring an allegorical meaning.

      It's a freakin' magic ring.

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    3. Tolkien always said it wasn't sn allegory. Maybe it's time everyone stopped looking for an allegory.

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    4. Regular weapons or tactics don't have a corrupting influence. They give power, something that can be used for good or ill depending on the morality of the person using it.

      The Ring was created to bend the people who use it towards evil and ultimately work toward Sauron's ends. The people who wanted to use it for themselves were arrogsnt to think their will was steonger than Sauron's, eho was the equivalent of a fallen angel. Plus it was invented by him for its purpose. It had to be destroyed. The same isn't true of, say, censorship.

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    5. Athletic and WhitesplosiveJanuary 14, 2020 at 2:00 PM

      I interpret the ring basically as the sum of all vices, or as temptation itself. Like temptation, it is the custom-crafted tool of Sauron (obvious analogue of Satan), and can only ever serve destructive ends.

      The temptation to use ANY power to harm another or to advance and glorify one's self at another's expense becomes someone's personal "ring of power". Like in the book it threatens to corrupt both the great and the petty,from political leaders with aspirations of world-domination (Saruman), to lowly cultists who want to sexually abuse and surgically mangle their children into talismans for media approval (like gollum, who throws his life away, for what? To live like an animal and be more wretched than a beggar).

      And like the ring, temptation cannot be defeated through the human will alone, but through surrendering the object of our temptations to one far greater than ourselves, God, who has destroyed sin with his sacrifice (though mount doom make a poor analogy for Christ, I must say).

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  5. While it is true "Tolkien never showed us what would happen if Sauron won," but he did show on small scales what reclaiming what had been lost to him might cost. The Hobbits got all the way to back to the Shire to find it ruled by Saruman and his henchmen. They had to restore the Shire to its rightful order and win their homes back before they could find rest in them from the work of carrying the Ring to its unmaking.

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    1. Walking Tall:Hobbit Edition. :)

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    2. I consider The Scouring of the Shire to be the narrative pay-off of the Lord of the Rings. The work Frodo and company do setting their own country to rights illustrates their character growth. Merry and Pippin return as arms-men of Rohan and Gondor respectively, having survived the Pelennor Fields and the Black Gate. Frodo, though he has fallen in the past to the power of the Ring, does not allow the Hobbits to kill Saruman. They have learned both the uses and the limits of violence.

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    3. That's why the chapter is there alright. Peter Jackson tried to convey the same feeling with the scene in the green dragon. Everyone is dancing and having fun while our favorite Hobbit foursome is looking at each other thinking "if only these people knew". Four veterans sharing a moment.

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  6. The Ring corrupts not through Power, but by the mind of it and the mind behind it. I still wish people who grok that Acton was wrong. We had good, virtuous, faithful, God-fearing kings in Europe...not that the propagandists called Teachers ever taught us about them...need to lie and obfuscate to make the case that Liberal democracy is the best system ever invented (thanks Churchill, you drunken, debt-ridden, (((Eskimo-bought))) whore warmonger).

    If Power contains the seed of sin in it, Tolkien would have done the corruption/temptation another way in the story. Also, what does that say of God and Christ, who have all the authority and power they wish to wield?

    It’s time to work for a government run by the virtuous and the good, with the wicked living on the periphery rather than in the throne room. Course now you have to deal with the heresy of pacifism that many Conservatives by into to absolve their cowardice and weak stomachs.

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    1. Durandel

      One of the most impactful chapters was Gandalf's unmasking of Grima Wormwood.
      We need to do similarly unmask and expel those weaken our resolve through deceitful words

      xavier

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  7. It's funny seeing this, because a couple weeks ago I said to a good friend that I find myself thinking like Boromir more and more.

    I look at the Left and how they have erected an empire built on a complete rejection of reality. The cradle-to-grave propaganda state of schools, news media, and entertainment allow the Progressives to exercise near-absolute control over a significant portion of the population. I find myself wondering what could be achieved if those institutions were turned towards service of the truth.

    I would also posit that "corruption" the way the media portrays it generally doesn't exist. Acquiring power doesn't cause a good person to suddenly go bad. It allows a fallen and sinful person to act on the desires that they always had, but suppressed because they live in a society.

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    1. If those institutions were turned back toward the truth, they would achieve their original purpose or educating, entertaining, and governing the people.

      Power doesn't corrupt, but it does attract corruptible people. Look at how many CEOs are sociopaths.

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    2. The anti-smoking campaign in the US was largely based on a previous campaign to end jaywalking. Both were successful at modifyin human behavior on a social-cultural level. But others also saw how the jaywalking campaign, based on ideas of Freud’s nephew, the father of propaganda and modern marketing, Edward Bernays, and leveraged it towards promotion of vice: sexual revolution, consumerism, promotion of following one’s emotions and urges, etc. to increase profits and control at the expense of increasing vice and demoralizing the population.

      Yes, imagine if we flipped the script, and used the tools at hand to promote goodness, virtue, truth, beauty and prudence, and other true goods of given by God? If it’s good, truly good in the eyes of God, why oppose it and who would?

      Suddenly freedom of religion, speech, press, and others that have been abused by the Left are more clearly seen as the proposed freedoms of the degenerate, the lying, the manipulative, the witch.

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    3. I guess the part that disturbs me is that I no longer want to disassemble the edifice of censorship and restriction of information that the Progressives have created. I just want to change what's being censored. The track record of democracies has led me to conclude that the "unenlightened masses" are not just a meme.

      As for the attraction of sociopaths to power, that's why I am coming around to the opinion that power should be hereditary, at least on the state and national levels. Those who are best disposed to handle power are those who have been raised from birth in a Christian culture to use that power responsibly and have wielded power their entire lives. Contrary to the Captain America movie, handing power to the powerless is often the worst possible move that can be made.

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    4. If you put a gun to my head and made me pick one Leftist initiative that's actually been salutary, it would be the anti-smoking crusade. I'm old enough to remember when restaurants, airports, and even hospitals smelled like Centralia, WV.

      That, and conservationism, are two parades we'd do well to jump in front of.

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