Cultural Iconoclasm


Commenter JD Cowan asks,
So what does it say about the "conservatives" the stayed out of it [#GamerGate] and let the Ys fail while the "liberals" let their guys succeed?
This tapestry is weaved much tighter than I first thought.
My answer:
It's simple. There are no Conservatives. There never were.
Dissident Ys too often hope for the right politician, the right movement, the right idea to sweep in and make it 1989 again. And this, too, is the nostalgia trap.
We've got to let go of the old era.
In retrospect, I'd be more precise in saying, "the old paradigm"--the Red vs. Blue shell game that only leads America closer to the cliff's edge, though at varying speeds.

The matter must be on many people's minds, because the redoubtable Z Man also addressed it in far more detail in a recent Z Blog post.
It’s not just that it is timid or disorganized. As the Canadian political theorist Ben Woodfinden notes, it is a reaction to the collectivist impulses of the Left. The Left seeks to use the state to reorganize society according to their current fads, so the Right opposes the state as a legitimate entity. Not just the state, but institutions in general, instead promoting radical individualism. Conservatism comes to be defined as something just as radical as what’s on offer from the Left.
What English speaking countries need is a conservatism that will transform the state into something that will strengthen and support traditional institutions. Instead they get a force that weakens those institutions. The conservative revolution of the 1980’s in America, unleashed rapacious global privateering in the name of free enterprise and entrepreneurial spirit. Instead of restoring the damage done by the radicals of the 60’s and 70’s, it created new mayhem.
You see that forming up in Britain and America in response to the rise of archaic socialism, in the form of Sanders and Corbyn. Conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic are now working themselves raw about this new red menace. Instead of examining why these collectivist appeals, including the rise of populism, are attractive to the voters, they lurch further into radical individualism. This is every bit as destructive to the culture as the radicalism it claims to oppose.
The culture war is one side using the state to destroy tradition, while the other side makes it impossible to form a collective defense of the culture. The reason for this is that, at least in the Americas, there has never been an authentic conservatism. America has always been a radical bourgeois project. After the Civil War, that radicalism became the default of the political class and remains so today. This reformist impulse is the distinguishing feature of the American empire.
The old joke that being conservative means tenaciously conserving the Left's progress isn't quite right. First of all, it ascribes some degree of effectiveness to Conservatives. Second, it presumes a false dichotomy.

There have never been conservatives and liberals in America; there are only slow and fast Liberals.

Put another way, there has never been serious, organized opposition to the progressive ideology of making personal self-expression an absolute. So-called conservatives will readily declare their support for individualism. Their version is just slightly less radical.

And due to the constant leftward shift of the Overton window, "radical" is relative.
That reformist impulse has its roots in the founding. On the one hand, those people we call Puritans were collectivists reformers. They believed society was judged collectively, which gave them license to police the community for sinners. Advancing society, social progress, meant bringing the bottom up in a spiritual sense. On the other hand, a man’s relationship with God was his alone. Self-sufficiency was a sign of God’s grace, an indication that the person was in good standing with the Lord.
Both sides of this coin are quite radical, relative to Western tradition. In fact, it is fair to say the Puritans were anti-tradition. They stripped their houses of worship of all ornamentation and any reminders of past practice. They saw tradition and ritual as an excuse for not exercising the spirit through the regular study of Scripture. The collective impulse of the founding, as well as its individualism, are the result of a rejection of European traditionalism on spiritual grounds.
This is why reform in America has been impossible. The periods of radicalism in the name of collective reform have been followed by periods where the institutions are weakened in the name of individualism. These weakened institutions become vulnerable to a new round of radical reform. This cycle has locked the ruling class into a dance that always moves Left. No matter the response of the public at the ballot box, the direction is always Left, just with a different lead.
Ironically, this means that the only way a genuine conservatism can emerge, and in the case of Britain, reemerge, is by overthrowing the current order. This Progressive orthodoxy of radical reformers entangled with radical individualist will need to collapse into a single unified ideology, while something new arises to oppose it. That something new is the defense of traditional order, organic institutions and the popular will expressed through natural identity.
There's a word for rejecting established political, cultural, and religious traditions suspected of being problematic: iconoclasm. America's early Puritan settlers not only shunned religious imagery, they embraced anti-traditionalism in regard to Sacred Tradition.

We see this same suspicion of art and tradition in today's Conservatives. It's to be expected since those ingredients were baked into the cake.

The Death Cult represents individualism, iconoclasm, and anti-traditionalism taken to their logical extremes. They idolize personal preference as absolute. They seek to stamp out the very image of God through abortion, euthanasia, and sterilization. They hold the past in contempt and revile all truth as an external imposition on their license.

One can't help but notice a stronger resistance to the Death Cult among certain Old World countries. Poland, Russia, Italy, and Hungary in particular are staging counterattacks with varying degrees of success.

The current order will not avail us. Those seeking to lay foundations for something new would do well to heed the example of the nations above.

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  1. Brian

    This post speaks to me. I've never been a radical individualist which nothing more than Anglospheric anarchism. Nonetheless I have my reticences towards the state.
    However I've been regressing harder starting with St Thomas De Regno and then researching the school of Salamanca.

    I'm still struggling between Throne and Altar which I oppose and the Two sword which I advocate.

    In I look forward to a spirited discussion about the state and the common good in the comments.


  2. Early Christian iconoclasts believed they were defacing demons. Later ones believed they were rejecting idolatry. The current mob are defacing things because they hate beauty for making them ugly by comparison, artistry for making them look clumsy by comparison, stable tradition for making them look like familial and relational trainwrecks by comparison, and truthfulness for showing up their lies.

    Even the Muslim iconoclasts that defaced other people’s ancient art don’t deserve comparison to the mob.

  3. Various iconoclastic sects have lasted centuries, when much of the Eastern Orthodox tradition fell so early and fast for an absolute modernism in the form of Communism that we now look at their valiant but possibly doomed struggle to recover and say “they never fell”. They did, a century ago. Catholic France fell even earlier. South America has vascilated between one and another form of radical modernism for its entire history, without the aid of any Puritans.

    I sympathise with the regret at defacement, and acknowledge the commonality in the history of the origins of my own sect, but it is assuredly symptomatic rather than causal. In fact I wonder if it is not an attempt at ritual magic: making the fervour happens, to make the change happen, by performing actions that marked previous social shifts. We know these people are at least dimly aware of traditional magical practice, and of its links to the blind urges of human psychology.

    1. That may be so, but it misses the point. The main thrust of the post is that the US never had a true Right to oppose Liberalism. Europe did. The European Right was successfully suppressed in the 20th century, but it's now making a comeback.

      There is a definite and strong aversion to tradition and art among what passes for the American Right. I've seen it firsthand when arguing for Appendix N with the Twitter Libertarian crowd. It's also a major underpinning of the Groyper War.

      If you have a problem, it would be negligent not to study those who've made inroads toward solving the same problem. The fact remains that the nations I listed are faring far better against the Death Cult than the US is. Vox Day is no dummy, and there's a reason he lives in Italy.

    2. Ah, I see. I agree that Anglos have repeatedly committed themselves to stripping away their own culture. Your idea that the American Right is just another Liberalism is well supported in political theory.

      Re-calibrating away from Puritans and towards the anti-traditionalism, I would say you are right with regards America in particular but, as I intimated, also the Anglosphere.

      Mentioning Vox, I wonder if some part of our cultural malaise isn't related to the rejection of ourselves as a nation and national identity? A part of the complex of degradation brought about by commitment to Empire?

      Finally, if any reject Appendix N, let him be anathema!

    3. You hit the nail on the head. There's a reason the globalists' first step was to replace American's original understanding of themselves as Christian pioneers with the nation of immigrants fabrication via the melting pot hoax.

      Re: Appendix N, so it is written. So let it be done!

  4. Quoth the Z Man:
    " A genuine conservatism can be intellectually conceived, but the traditions that it should rest upon have been eliminated, so it will require a dismantling of current institutions and the building of new ones, loosely based on the traditions of the West."
    I think while most current institutions will need to be dismantled, the oldest institutions - the Church and the family - need only to be refined and renewed so they can shed the modernist baggage they've picked up along the way. God instituted the family, in the Garden of Eden. Christ instituted the Church. We've come to this crisis because the world has had a little too much success evangelizing the Church, rather than the reverse. Even so, "the Gates of Hell will not prevail against it."
    Lent starts today. There is no time like the present to humble ourselves and pray, and seek God's face, and turn from our wicked ways, that God may hear from heaven, and forgive our sin, and heal our land.

    1. Good catch. The most frustrating thing about Z Man is how he consistently follows the chain of reasoning but stops right before it leads to You Know Who.

    2. If I may, the Zman proposes, in effect yet another Year Zero, yet another revolution. This obsession with Clean Start On New Foundations is at best a destructive subversion of the emotional magnetism of the work of Christ, and at worst, retarded.

      A refusal to engage with the messy reality, be it a system, nation, family or person; to build them up, strengthen them; but instead to emotively reject them as tarnished and inferior items for our own consumption; this is the problem, not the solution.

    3. @Wreckage: This is a good point. When God called Jeremiah, He said Jeremiah's appointment "to build and to plant," as well as to uproot, tear down, destroy, and overthrow.
      To take a "smash all the things!" approach to reform is to throw the baby out with the bathwater is to hate the dirt without loving the baby. We have to love the good enough to endure the pain of perfecting it.

    4. Yeah, I can't count all the Z Blog posts that follow this formula:

      >Western Europe had a really solid system for upholding culture, tradition, and the nation under Christianity.

      >The rejection of Christian tradition during the Enlightenment started our current woes, which reached a crisis point when the Death Cult spawned by the Enlightenment overthrew the Christian tradition it's a heretical form of.

      >The Death Cult beats Conservatives by going over their economic arguments with moral appeals.

      >Only a superior moral vision can beat a moral vision.

      >Christianity is a superior moral vision and the Death Cult's mortal enemy.

      >Therefore, we should cook up an ad hoc moral system based on beep boop utilitarianism that's basically cringe wignat paganism without the tree worship.


  5. "it is fair to say the Puritans were anti-tradition", this statement is unsupported, and fairly laughable. People not adhering to someone else's tradition isn't anti-tradition.

    "They stripped their houses of worship of all ornamentation and any reminders of past practice" The puritans that made their way to America most certainly did not, they built new houses of worship, and they had the ornamentation that they could muster. As for the their old world brethren, they removed those items from their houses of worship such as they must, grated that it wasn't always done in the most orderly fashion, but war is hell.

    "They saw tradition and ritual as an excuse for not exercising the spirit through the regular study of Scripture." This is mostly nonsense, the regular study of holy Scripture certainly ought to be a part of most Christians lives, and many will do so in a ritualistic way, one that has been a tradition for centuries.

    Z-man does as well as he can, but he is an atheist, at best he can study Christian tradition as an academic. If he wants to affirm the goodness of tradition in a collective, we have a word for that, Church.

    1. You've correctly identified Z's most pernicious blind spot. He rejects God a priori, so his takes on Christianity tend to be rather slapdash.

      Z's hyperbole does just as often contain a germ of truth, though. The Puritans did reject "someone else's tradition", most significantly Sacred Tradition, which is what nudged Christendom down the slippery slope to Liberalism.

    2. Brian

      Is Zman amenable to a book suggestion?
      Eamon Duffy's Stripping of the altars is the one that I'd recommend.


  6. "the progressive ideology of making personal self-expression an absolute"

    In other words,

    "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law."

    Apologies if people are getting sick of me making that comparison, but it always applies.