An Open Letter to Reactionary Expat

Dear Expat,

I hope this letter finds you well and that you will pardon me sharing what was originally intended to be a private communication. After writing out the document, I found that many of the sentiments expressed might edify a larger audience. Since our interactions have generally been public, I am publishing this with the hope that you might read or listen along with anyone else interested in the perspective. Perhaps, this could be read as a general send-off to your own retired channel, or simply a larger perspective on where we stand in the modern age.

First, I want to congratulate you on your decision to shift your focus from that of politics to that of teaching and self-improvement. This is an encouraging development at a time when I see far too few things to feel encouraged about. Regardless of whether the current fashion of internet blood sports continues or fizzles out, it is beyond question that those of us from a traditional, conservative, or even reactionary persuasion need communities that encourage growth above spectacle. Moreover, I think it will come as no surprise to our audience that the need for these kind of voices is only compounded by the fact that many of the classic sources for traditional wisdom (be they academic luminaries like Jordan Peterson or religious ones like the mainstream Catholic church) continue to lag behind key revelations that might preserve their relevance in our highly chaotic times. As such, I am looking forward to whatever insights you have in store for us in your endeavor.

I will admit here, out of necessity, that there remains a gulf between our worldviews. You do not share my belief in the existence of living God or the possibility of spiritual and earthly salvation for all peoples. This is an important division no doubt. And some have even asked me to explain why I have frequently cite your content as being particularly helpful my own work.

Sure enough, a mutual sympathy for reactionary ideas goes someway to explaining our affinity. You and I share a rather pessimistic perspective on the state of civilization. We both understand that this particular historical moment requires more than modern man has been trained to give.  We understand that humans naturally do not perform the tasks that are required in order to preserve their civilization from ruin; and that drawing on the philosophical bromides of popular post-enlightenment thinkers, so useful to Westerners in times past, is becoming ineffectual in answering our modern age.

We both recognize what sociologist Zygmunt Bauman’s spoke of as “liquid modernity”, the notion that the modernity has in some sense decomposed culture to such an atomized state that it is nearly impossible for us to understand collectively held concepts like “truth” or “beauty”. The internet has become almost a microcosm of this force, forming a medium that does not so much communicate ideas as it does melt them down into constituent parts of validation and drama. These times are not solid and act like the darkened chaotic waters described in Genesis that existed before the light of God’s reason shown forth.  I think both we see the abyss looming in our future.

But while awareness of the defect of modernity separates us from those like Sargon and Vee Monroe, it is ultimately cold comfort. Pessimism is cheap on the internet today and not remarkable. Rather, I think what is remarkable is the fact that we are both speaking to begin with. Despite our pessimism, we are reaching out, we are calling into the wilderness with the hope that people of worth are listening. You have said in other videos that you are not looking to “save everyone”. But I think that by virtue of speaking to begin with, you have shown that you are looking to save somebody. In that sense, we are performing a religious duty of sorts.

Despite our theological differences, we are believers. We both believe that humanity has a chance and an opportunity to resist the modern age and perform an act of heroism that might cast off its shackles and choose something different. We are believers in hope unseen, something beyond our age that is worth fighting for. And whatever else, those of us who wish to battle through modernity are allies in the struggle.

My hope is that those of us who seek solid ground in the age of liquid modernity may develop the spirit of the amphibian, remaining in a subdued and nascent phase within the tumultuous networks of the digital world until solidity within the culture becomes possible and we can pour forth into the empty spaces to thrive once more. This will not be a passive transition, nor should anyone of an active spirit want it to be passive. It will be a journey of measured aggression, of entrepreneurship, and daring.  It will be hard going, but then anything of worth is.

All of this to arrive a final point. Whatever our differences on the right, and whatever avenues we have for chosen in addressing to the ravages of the modern, we are, as ever, allies if only by virtue of the fact that we believe that the human spirit can resist the forces that are attempting to swallow it whole. Many among our fellowship may falter in their quest for something new. Many will fall away, and many more will rise up and take their place. Those of us who participate in this struggle should not be quick to condemn a hasty attack nor despair in another’s tactical retreat. We should, as always, be ready to provide good cheer and comfort to our friends so that, win or lose, we are reminded that we are not alone.

And if, this hope is ultimately folly, I appeal to the wisdom of the Baron Macaulay that:

 “how can man die better

Than facing fearful odds,

For the ashes of his fathers,

And the temples of his gods?”

And with these words, I wish to you, and to all those friends who may be reading or listening, God speed on your mission and God’s blessing in your life.

Yours sincerely,

the Distributist

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My Bookshelf – 2018

On my bookshelf, I am doing some brief recommendations late this Wednesday night. Apologies in advance for the shaky cam. I will do something in the future with a better production qualities.

The Core Books/Theology

The Catholic Study Bible

Complete Works of Aristotle, Vol. 1

Plato Complete Works

Catechism of the Catholic Church: Second Edition

Saint Thomas Aquinas, Vol. 2: Spiritual Master

The Abolition of Man

The Great Divorce

After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, Third Edition

Orthodoxy (Moody Classics)

Fairy Tales

The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition

[(The Annotated Hans Christian Anderson )] [Author: H.C. Anderson] [Nov-2007]

Poetry

W.B. Yeats: Selected Poems (Phoenix Poetry)

The Divine Comedy (The Inferno, The Purgatorio, and The Paradiso)

A Modern Reader’s Guide to Dante’s The Divine Comedy

Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book

Beowulf: A New Verse Translation (Bilingual Edition)

The Unabridged Devil’s Dictionary

Complete Poems and Songs of Robert Burns

Poetry on Record: 98 Poets Read Their Work 1886-2006

The Top 500 Poems by Harmon, William Published by Columbia University Press 1st (first) edition (1992) Hardcover

The Complete Poetry & Prose of William Blake

Literature

WINTER TALES By ISAK DINESEN 1942

The Brothers Karamazov

George Eliot – Middlemarch

The Complete Stories (FSG Classics)

Wise Blood: A Novel (FSG Classics)

Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold

The Third Policeman

Steppenwolf: A Novel

The End of the Affair (Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition)

Heart of Darkness

Dune

A Voyage to Arcturus

Collected Stories (Everyman’s Library)

A Confederacy of Dunces

The Master and Margarita

Gunnar’s Daughter (Penguin Twentieth-Century Classics)

Graphic Novels

The Rabbi’s Cat (Pantheon Graphic Novels)

The Armed Garden and Other Stories

Boxers & Saints Boxed Set

Maze: Solve the World’s Most Challenging Puzzle

Through the Woods

Little Nemo: 1905-1914 (Evergreen)

Music

Country Music, U.S.A.

The Sacred Harp

The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress

My kindle (books I like not currently physically owned)

The Silmarillion

The Black Swan: Second Edition: The Impact of the Highly Improbable (Incerto)

Candide (Dover Thrift Editions)

Closing of the American Mind: How Higher Education Has Failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students

The Screwtape Letters

Gulliver’s Travels

Meditations (Dover Thrift Editions)

War and Peace (Vintage Classics)

The Canterbury Tales

The Art Of War

The Sirens of Titan

A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man

War with the Newts

Waiting for Godot: A Tragicomedy in Two Acts

The Name of the Rose

The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian: The Original Adventures of the Greatest Sword and Sorcery Hero of All Time!

The Complete Fiction of H. P. Lovecraft

Bone: The Complete Cartoon Epic in One Volume

Debate with Kristi Winters

This last weekend I was able to participate in a debate with Kristi Winters on the subject of “the sexual revolution”. The debate video can be found here:

The after-action report can be found here:

The full oppo research file can be found, here.

YouTube Channel Upgrade

Several of my YouTube videos have been seeing an enormous amount of traffic. This has occurred largely in consequence of me dipping a toe into the internet feud between contrarian blogger Sargon of Akkad and the left-side of the internet. The fight concerns his recent petition to disband “social justice classes” on American college campuses.

I haven’t typically posted YouTube videos to this site since the topics tend to be of a more terse format that doesn’t fit into longform blogging. However, you can find my response to Sargon’s petition here, and my reaction to his debate with academic Kristi Winters here, as well as my reaction her “social science” teachings here.

At any rate, since the subscribership has reached 100+, I have created a video intro for the channel, which can be viewed below.

And, of course, my channel can be found here!

The terrible lizards of times past, and those yet to come

Childhood memories are difficult to pin down, but one that still remains vivid was my early love of dinosaurs. Of course a childhood fascination with dinosaurs is not unusual, but the distinct image of “the dinosaur”- depicted universally in dinosaur-themed paraphernalia through the 80s- is difficult to explain to those born after 1991kong9. Long before Jurassic Park introduced realism to cinematic dinosaurs and well before revised scientific images added feathers and contours to make them distinctly animals, depictions of the ancient beasts vivified their Greek name. They were terrible lizards. Ravenous, dimwitted, cold-blooded, and above all primitive, “the dinosaur” existed as a nothing less than a primordial monster. Between the lethargic herbivores and unceasingly ravenous carnivores, there was nothing about the creatures that wasn’t rampant, unconstrained , and dominating. Less some animal that lived a long time ago, more a demon from a chaotic age that might not even exist in our epoch of reason without contaminating it with its own primordial nature.

One image in particular persists in my mind as an icon of what “the dinosaur” once was in the popular imagination. It is a painting of a late-Jurassic battle between an allosaurus and a brontosaurus. Depicted in a children’s book of dinosaurs, the image was nonetheless more gruesome than anything I had encountered as a young child. Even now, looking at the image as an adult, it is brutal. As the allosaur talons cut into sauropod’s flesh, streams of blood trickle down to the swamp and the gentle giant sways in agonizing throws. There even seems to be a sadistic joy in the countenance of the carnivore.

1960-allosaurus-attacking-brontosaurus-by-rudolph-f-zallinger.jpg

The caption originally included beneath the picture only added to the scene’s poignancy. Stuck in quicksand, the sauropod had been overtaken by an allosaur, a predator it could have otherwise fended off with ease. Though unable to escape its doom, in death the brontosaurus had collapsed and crushed its assailant. Thus, the futility of the scenario was further underlined. The agonizingly cruel death of the brontosaurus was mirrored seconds later by the ironically cruel death of the allosaurus. There was nothing that justified the fate, it existed as a product of the futile prehistoric world.

I have found myself reflecting more and more on such futility, not the least when contemplating our country’s current political situation. Sure enough, there might be much in the way of a comparison between the image of two fighting prehistoric beasts and the prospect of a Hillary vs Trump race this Fall. Perhaps, a more apt analogy yet might be the opportunistic and carnivorous Trump sinking his teeth into the immobilized and bloated body of a Republican establishment (probably only to be later crushed under that establishment’s decaying husk). But still, a more disturbing comparison is on my mind.

At this point in 2016, a significant amount of commentary has comprised of “experts” castigating this election’s descent into coarseness and violence as “unprecedented”. More historically-minded pundits have been quick to point out that this might be better characterized as a throwback to a type of politics historically common in 19th century, but long since out fashion. While rare in our modern advanced age, the narrative goes,  2016 is a temporary lapse into a violent populist mode, likely never to be repeated again. But even as I am assured that our politics will momentarily return to their mundane pattern of stale choices and consistent growth, I am troubled once more by a vision of “the dinosaur”.

There was one way that the antediluvian  depictions of “the dinosaur” were accurate. There was a certain insight in the visions of unfeeling titans battling in the shadows of dimly-lit volcanoes. For all their manifest inaccuracies, the old pictures captured a truth neatly hidden away in our modern understanding of living creatures, ancient or otherwise. The truth is nothingimg9006.jpg less than the fact that animals, in their natural element, embody all the cruelty and callousness of the universe that spawned them.

It is easy to forget that when most of our interactions with animals are filtered through the lens of domestication, science, or art. The subtle censorship of the textbook encourages us to think of animals as dissected specimens, just as our experiences with domesticated companions encourages the view that they are anthropomorphic furry humans. But these fictions are paper thin, made obvious in any encounter with a wild animal. The cruelty of animals is one of the truest things about them because their violence is a product of the Darwinian forces that shape every moment of their natural lives.

Nature has a demonic element in its core, and it is a nature that humans share, no matter how our culture tells us otherwise. In modern times perhaps Nietzsche did the most to remind us of this base reality. But it was a fact well known to the ancient Greeks. Even the medieval craftsmen were aware of this chaotic nature in man and beast, and carried it forth in their depictions of animals and wildmen. Could the 20th century popularizers of  dinosaurs have unwittingly rediscovered this oft-forgotten truth?

This brings me back to our present political reality. Although I am not one prone to alarm, there is indeed a reason to be unsettled by auspices hinted at in the rise of Trump, Putin, and ISIS. Regardless of what we might be tempted to think, these actors are not historical anomalies, the persistence of our civilization is. And while it might be true that our present crop of strongmen are passing,

v0033596 (1)so too is the long illusion of continuous progress and ever-increasing economic growth that sustained the previous order. We are in a dying era and everyone, left, right, and center feels the foundations shifting beneath their feet.

It is fashionable to talk of the advancement of human civilization and the spirit of the age. But wise philosophers have long known that Olympian edifices are built upon the bones of the chaotic giants. In fact, the truly wise have known that the giants are not dead, but merely sleeping. When we hear the rumbling of their disquieted slumber, we might be reminded that on any given day the demons of the ancient world may rise in rage against our modern illusions. Because, whatever part of our own lives are folly, their hunger for dominance is real.

I struggle with expressing this sentiment, mostly because I am aware how unoriginal it is. As such,  I hope to close my speculation with words from the poet W.B. Yeats, who said it best of all.

My Conversation with a Cultural Conservative

The author of the website answeringtheright.com, was kind enough to do a chat with me on contemporary culture war issues. The recording of the google hangout can be found here:

It’s pretty long, but hits most of the main controversies. It looks like the website even did a post on the conversation afterwards. It would certainly be fun to continue this dialogue, I think a lot could be said on the contrasting perspective between traditionalists and progressives concerning community building.

Answering The Right

For much of the newer generations, social conservativism is a dinosaur. Not unlike the late USSR, many are sensing the death throes of a doomed system. Marriage has been opened up to include LGBT couples and some (including myself) advocate for polyamorous marriage. Sex can be fun and better controlled thanks to the sexual revolution. Feminist ideas about equality are commonplace. New identities are emerging and gaining acceptance. Secular countries without dominant traditional norms are holding up well.

Who, many ask, would object to this cultural flowering?

I was fascinated to find such an objector with the screenname The Distributist. Unlike the stereotype, however, he isn’t an angry zealot acting out of misplaced frustration. In fact, he is knowledgeable about philosophy, enjoys speaking with progressives, and has a coherent set of beliefs. He invited me onto his stream to discuss sex, gender, marriage, identity, and politics.

Before our conversation, I was sent a list of…

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Three By Chesterton

I recently recorded three of my favorite essays by G.K. Chesterton.

First “A Piece of Chalk”, a reflection on the little ironies in creation.

Second, “On Man:Heir of All Ages”, Gilbert’s perspective on the inheritance of history and religion.

Lastly, “The Medical Mistake” where Chesterton famously answers the question”What’s wrong with the world?”