This is episode 5, Toward a Functionalist Understanding of Religion, Pt. 2
This is a continuation of my previous episode, and the analysis I am about to present will make a lot less sense if you haven’t heard that one.
Part 1 - intro and genealogy
My purpose in this series is to explain how I think about religion using a functionalist framework.
To be successful in this analysis, we must approach the topic from the outside, with as much impartiality as possible
I have identified six components of religious belief:
Gnosis - the life-changing hidden knowledge
Nemesis - the enemy who wants to hide it from you
Ecstasy - the transcendent mental states that are given to the elect
Taboo - the forbidden actions which those with gnosis understand to avoid
Eschatology - a model of how the world will end
Telos - a prescription for how to spend your surpluses beyond the necessities of survival
My functional taxonomy is not the gospel truth. It is a model, and all models are wrong, but some are useful.
The power to understand the distinction — understand it in your heart — has not been granted to everyone. And there are many who, no matter how you explain it to them, they cannot grasp it
It’s like trying to explain to a human being how to fly by flapping his arms. He doesn’t have the hardware to soar
What I have tried to model for you, in part 1, is what you might call our metaphysical needs. We think of physical needs or psychological needs, and most people are familiar with that moral abomination called Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
And we have also heard, mostly from religious people admittedly, that men possess a yearning for god, they say there is a god shaped hole in man’s heart.
But rarely have I seen anyone interrogate the shape of the cardiovascular chasm, as if to learn something about the shape of the deity thereby
I have observed purely on my own, by making a study of myself and the people around me, what yearnings, or longings, men are trying to satisfy when they search for religion
In the Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis describes a man who is kept from all manner of devilry and vice by his mundane enthusiasm for liver and onions
Lewis believed that everything good and wholesome flowed from the Christian God, no matter how trivial. So for him there is an inexorable wholesomeness to simple earthly pleasures which could very well stave away sinful temptations.
And I invoke this story because I think it illustrates how our metaphysical needs don’t have to be complex or profound.
But in everyone you meet, if you get to know them, you can begin to divine their personal religion, their gnosis, their eschatology, their taboos and so on.
And sometimes those things bear a family resemblance to the official gnosis and eschatology and etc of a church, or one of the big-name religions
But what we increasingly find, when we dig into other people’s values, is that they don’t align to any of the classic religions, and yet they are mostly of a kind.
That is, my neighbor and your neighbor, if we try to elucidate their gnosis, their eschatology, and so on, these things can be clearly articulated,
but they aren’t Christian or Buddhist or Hindu or Islamic or anything else.
It’s an Evolian insight, I think, that anyone who is aware of a tradition as something of which you can be inside or outside is by definition outside
That a living tradition doesn’t conceive of itself as a tradition, only a zombie tradition does that, a dead man walking
Bronze Age Pervert has noted that even among obscure tribesmen living in South America or Africa, they may cleave to their ancient ways, but there is still something deliberate or artificial about it
They have lost the innocence of tradition because the act of reflection, of seeing our modern ways and choosing to reject them, causes a kind of discontinuity. They know something their ancestors did not know, and could not have known.
And the same thing may be true, more or less, of religion, which is a kind of tradition
Notice that there are no real theological debates within Christianity any more, there are only ancient historical debates, heresies and orthodoxies, schools of thought in well-worn channels that have long since petrified
But in this other thing I’m talking about, this thing which seems to furnish the spiritual life of most Americans, of most of the people we meet around us
It does have active theological debates, such as “who is more oppressed by heteropatriarchal society: a transwoman or a black amputee?” This is a real question that pious Americans wrestle with.
American Civic Religion
I don’t expect that many of you who are listening need to be led to this conclusion: the religion we are talking about, the one that furnishes these metaphysical anchors, is the American civic religion, which I will sometimes call the ACR for brevity;
Most people think the American Civic Religion means the Fourth of July, The pledge of Allegiance, thanksgiving, reverence for the founding fathers, this sort of thing.
That is not what the American Civic Religion is. Those rituals are only the detritus of its molting and maturing. What Niccolo Soldo calls the desquamation of America.
The real American civic religion, the living thing, not it’s dead image, does not see itself as a religion at all, does not define itself by its rituals. It defines itself by its FAITH.
The core of the American Civic Religion is its faith in progress. In realizing utopia on earth, in the idea that the world can be made perfectly equal and perfectly fair for everyone. That all differences, all racial differences, all sexual differences, all differences of all kinds—
All differences of all kinds can be, if not precisely eliminated, then at least totally nullified, that human nature can be erased, that humanity can be remade and perfected according to an egalitarian ideal, and the only thing that will be left after that, somehow, miraculously, will be freedom.
Freedom from everyone and everything and every imposition. Never mind that the moment people are free, they begin to de-equalize themselves. This is so alien to the progressive mind that it’s not even false, it’s not a thought they are capable of interacting with or entertaining in any way. We’ll come back to that
All of this is right there in the constitution, a document which, by the way, the American Civic Religion will ultimately find it necessary to abolish entirely in the name of freedom. Of course it will! Perhaps this has already happened, in fact. Perhaps it has happened several times.
But before we get into that, I’d like to give a special consideration to what is called wokeness or wokeism, which I claim is functionally the same as the American Civic Religion, and that it differs in praxis but not in principle.
we have heard this take til we are sick of it, that wokeism is a religion. Rather than declare this equivalence to be true or false, I have sought instead for an understanding of the way in which is is true.
And for this reason I developed my functionalist understanding of religion. There is a sense in which wokeism isn’t a new phenomenon,
A sense in which it has been around for decades at least, it’s the same thing as political correctness, only it is more brazen in its exoteric delimiters.
What do I mean by that? “Exoteric delimiters” — in its visible signs of allegiance. In the signals that people send to each other to show their adherence to it.
We can try to trace wokeism back to the civil rights movement, we can find traces of it in second wave feminism.
We can find people online who will tell us that it’s the same thing as the French Revolution.
We can even find people who will try to trace it back to the garden of Eden. To when sin was first introduced into the world.
But I think this kind of approach overgeneralizes. It fails to make useful distinctions, fails to understand that leftwing thoughtforms, like all thoughtforms, continue to grow and evolve.
At some point, you rack up enough mutations and speciation occurs. It is telling that classical liberals and boomer communists, the kind who think all this race and gender stuff distracts people from focusing on class consciousness, they all recognize the woke as something apart from themselves.
Though it’s probably more the case that they are refusing to recognize their own children, refusing to recognize to accept responsibility for the whirlwind they are reaping.
This desire to find the genesis of a current intellectual trend ever further and further back in the past is rooted in a kind of one-upmanship. It does not stem from any will to truth, only from a will to have the last word over your fellow scholar.
So quickly all these genealogies and cladistics descend into bickering over meaningless trivia as academics and their layman imitators squabble to be the man who has read the least important book.
Genealogies are tools for dissection, for examining the dead. But the American Civic Religion is alive, and when you try to pin it down, it squirms on the table and dodges the knife.
No — what we need are tools for vivisection, to pull apart that which is living. It does no good to criticize the wokeist by attacking Marx. What does she care for a dead white man? For the colonialist, imperialist, sexist and heteronormative “western canon?”
The wokeist doesn’t care because she bears witness to the living testament of antiracism, the testament of the lived experience of blacks and queers and transsexuals and so on.
Just like any other church, there are sectarian divides within the American Civic Religion, and the Woke are a relatively new sect
Not only that, but they are a zealous sect, they are an extremely pious, sanctimonious, idealistic sect
They take all the beliefs of the American Civic Religion and they amplify them, they try to embody them as fully as possible, they try to extrapolate the spirit of the American Civic Religion and live in accordance with it
And as much as we try to dig down and claim that the seeds of wokeness were present in America a hundred years ago, we need to recognize that it’s simultaneously an old thing and a new thing, a new sect, a new religion built out of components that America had lying around the house.
We’re going to talk about a few of those components now, but first I want to clarify that there is almost no value in deep-diving the genealogy of woke. An excavation of the writings of 2nd-wave feminists or German idealists doesn’t tell us anything about how to stop the wokeists, and it doesn’t even give us any special understanding of them
Learning too much about this is a trap, because it fools you into thinking you know something, it gives you the feeling of knowledge, but it doesn’t help you in any way. And many people become addicted to that feeling.
At most, understanding the genealogy can suggest to us what kinds of schelling points we need to create in order to prevent a similar ideology from forming in the future, or what ideas we need to heavily police within our own ranks
The woke are exactly what they appear to be, they are a collection of sexually feral women, male homosexuals, and yes even some normal straight white men whose moral conscience for whatever reason is badly miscalibrated.
Understanding their ideological history can give us an impression of how they got to be the way they are, but it cannot tell us why those particular moral teachings happen to resonate with some individuals and not others, why it is that some men heareth the word of the kingdom and bring forth a hundredfold, yet for others it takes no root in their heart.
Woke, as far as I can tell, is an almost entirely millennial and post-millennial affliction, and it more or less comes together when posters on tumblr start applying ideas from critical theory — not only critical race theory but also gender theory, queer theory, and so on — into every day life
We all recognize some of the superficial characteristics of woke vs. normie. The garish, unnatural hair colors, the ugly, androgynous clothing, along with various exosemantic gang signs, certain turns of phrase or ways of speaking that both signify group allegiance and reinforce group norms.
I’m tired. That scares me. Black bodies. Folx with an X. Amplify queer voices. Heteronormative. Erase women of color. Microaggressions, othering, decolonize, say her name, be an ally, black girl magic, it’s called being a decent human being, and so on
We could make a similar catalog of the idiolect of the online right. Based, redpilled, bantu, wordcel, chudmaxx, soyjak, it’s over, we’re so back, we’re all gonna make it. Some of these straddle tribal boundaries. Some are more specific. Club Tropicale Excellente, retire all government employees, the woke are more correct than the mainstream, I have sugars I need milk…
But enough of that.
The American Civic Religion goes back all the way to America’s founding, it has to. We have these ideas like freedom of religion, all men are created equal, certain inalienable rights, and so on.
The idea of the revolutionary war, of the rejection of all kings, of establishing a more perfect union, these are the founding ideas, these are the tenets of the ACR.
The ACR has a real come-to-Jesus moment in the late nineteenth century, it frees the negro slaves, it ratifies the 13th amendment into law, it incorporates a waterline of negrolatry into itself.
Around the same time you have the women’s Christian temperance union, emphasis on Christian, which was agitating for proto-feminism all the way back in 1890.
These trends are endemic to protestant america, and we’re going to run short on time if I go into this, but I suggest searching for American Malvern, to learn more about the history of protestant agitation for wokeness in the first half of the 20th century
Freedom of religion
Now, how does America implement this idea of freedom of religion? It’s a pretty simple trick, once you realize it, there’s only one way you could possibly do it, and that’s to subordinate all religion to a shared principle which is higher than any religion
Of course it was Jesus himself who said you cannot serve two masters — let’s call this principle “conservation of sanctity” — it’s one of the big lies in our political formula, that religious sentiments can be orthogonalized away from civic and political sentiments.
religious people of all stripes have long and bloody histories of violence against people with differing beliefs, and no matter how peaceful or tolerant or gentle and meek their idiosyncratic beliefs might be, this is the case
But in America especially and in most of the liberal world today, we don’t see any christian sectarian violence at all, Ireland excluded, but then this is a talk about religion, not a talk about racism
And so the important question we must ask is: how has this miracle been achieved? How is it that Baptists and Methodists, or Catholics and Protestants, are able to live side by side in harmonious religious pluralism, without so much as the occasional pipe bomb between frenemies?
There is an idealistic answer to this question, which holds that there has been some kind of dialectical accumulation of moral insight up through the centuries as each successive generation has learned from the errors of their ancestors,
and it has culminated in a mass enlightenment predicated on the training of Man’s rational faculties and the temperance of his passions.
In this narrative, it is the culmination of our moral progress through history that we have learned to live with each other and mutually respect our intellectual differences.
I think this idealistic answer is transparently false, because it’s not the case that people are tolerant of ideological differences, not even slightly.
We’ve all seen these hysterical performances, especially by women, where they renounce, scream, cry, demand violence against people who don’t conform to their liberal ideology. It’s honestly a wonder more men don’t go out and act on their behalf.
And I always get the sense that it really wouldn’t take much at all for the average person’s ideological intolerance to boil over into violence. It’s only the physical distance between keyboard warriors that stops most of them from coming to blows.
But then it’s only the physical distance between keyboard warriors that allows them to be so inflammatory to each other in the first place. Online anger is an anger born of impotence.
But the idea of liberal tolerance is a myth, I think we all know that. Liberals won’t even blink, in fact they sleep soundly, shutting off your bank account, going after your family, your job, and so on, if they suspect you of ideological dissent.
You can dissent against any religion except the state religion, that’s how it works.
So that’s the first major thread underlying wokeness in the original ACR, that’s at the heart of it.
But then there’s clearly a lot more going on, there’s a second thoughtline in wokeness, which is the integration of marxism into the American Civic Religion.
And there’s not even one strain of marxism there, but several: there’s the strain from Communist International, Comintern, represented by the actions of Willi Münzenberg, who was a personal friend of Lenin. More on him in a moment.
There is another strain of marxism coming in from the Frankfurt school, which some conservative sites claim was cofounded by Münzenberg, but I can’t find any evidence of that, it appears to be really sloppy scholarship, a bad game of telephone
If you have been in the online right for any amount of time, you will have heard of these people, Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer and Herbert Marcuse among others.
They were Freudo-Marxists whose main goal was to pathologize normalcy and right-wingedness as mental illnesses, and they largely succeeded.
They wrote that sexuality and homosexuality should be taught to children, and that it was a hallmark of mental health to hold left-wing political views
They invented a new type of pathology, a made-up pathology, wherein right-wing politics were held to stem from an “authoritarian" personality which, if left unchecked by polite society, would cause the rise of fascism and a second Holocaust.
It would not be wrong to say that Theodor Adorno was the founder of Holocaustianity.
Herbert Marcuse argued that all masculine characteristics must be removed from society, he invented the concept of toxic masculinity, though I don’t think he used that term, and said that all masculine ways of being must be negated in order to prevent future wars.
There is a third strain of marxism that comes in through feminism, people like Simone de Beauvoir and Betty Friedan viewed women as the Marxist revolutionary subject and tried to emancipate them from anything like femininity, feminine gender roles, the patriarchy and on and on.
Just to clear the air here and to satisfy the wignat contingent, not that I really can satisfy them, I will go ahead and mention that almost all of these people were Jewish communists, but I want to emphasize that they didn’t so really subvert the American Civic Religion, though that was their intention.
What they actually did was throw gasoline on a fire that was already burning.
The Jewish communists are not evil wizards casting dark magic on all the hapless helpless innocent goyim.
Whites who want to play the eternal victim against their wicked jewish oppressors have everything in common with the woke snowflake class they claim to despise.
Oh pity us poor whites, oh the jew is taking advantage of us, oh we are so guileless and pure, totally unable to defend ourselves from their jewish tricks
“They make our women into sluts, they rob us of our agency.”
If you think that way you are already dead inside, the great replacement has already occurred, your race has already faded away
But I want to return to Willi Münzenberg for a moment. His goal, in the 1920s and 30s was to convince the middle classes of the West that beliefs which served the foreign policy of the soviet union were derived from the most essential elements of human decency
What Münzenberg did, 80 years before we really had this term, was manage the opinions of social media influencers, before we had social media. Backed by Soviet money, he manipulated writers, journalists, artists, film-makers, scientists, and publishers, disseminating opinions to them through front organizations. He referred to these people as Innocents, and to his organizations as “innocents clubs.”
He did this to control the intellectuals, the people who made opinions for the middle class. He pushed crypto-Stalinism on a generation of westerners, and the way he did it was by conflating and coupling Stalinism with everything that his target western cultures held to be morally salient.
Americans at the time already felt that the treatment of negros was society’s highest institutionalized crime, and therefore crypto-stalinism would take the highest possible moral ground on the negro question.
Understand this. This is the reason I tell this story, the key to Münzenberg’s method is to try to attach Stalinism to what westerners already believed
The English saw philistinism and middle class repression as a great evil, therefore crypto-stalinists embraced sexual libertinism, bohemianism and flamboyant homosexuality
It’s truly astonishing to learn about the extent to which Münzenberg manipulated public intellectuals, going so far as to install his operatives to befriend them, arranging for female soviet spies to become their girlfriends and wives.
I’ve already cautioned you about this, because I think it gives ammunition to some of the worst tendencies of online cranks, imagining that everything in the world is controlled by shadowy secret conspiracies, when in fact these things quickly take on a life of their own
Münzenberg referred to his process as “breeding rabbits” — once the ideas were spread and associated with high status and deeply held moral sentiment, they would propagate outward from center organically, and multiply and multiply without any additional assistance
Some examples of ideas that Münzenberg tried to instill in Westerners:
The prosperity of the West is built on ruthless exploitation of the Third World; therefore Westerners actually deserve to be impoverished and miserable.
Crime is the fault of society, not the individual criminal. Poor criminals are entitled to what they take. Submitting to criminal predation is more virtuous than resisting it.
The poor are victims. Criminals are victims. And only victims are virtuous. Therefore only the poor and criminals are virtuous.
Violence and war are never justified. It is always better to be a victim than to fight, or even to defend oneself. But “oppressed” people are allowed to use violence anyway; they are merely reflecting the evil of their oppressors.
When confronted with terror, the only moral course for a Westerner is to apologize for past sins, understand the terrorist’s point of view, and make concessions.
So these ideas, if they are adopted by the people, are suicidal ideas. And Münzenberg insinuated them into Western thought by attaching them to moral notions that were already present in the host population, in particular he tried to attach them to already-ascendant negrolatry of the day
Of course it would be insane to claim that America’s founding fathers were Marxists, but they were in almost every way the progressives of their day
We look back and read them now and they are racist and sexist which is to say, they were sane, but the ideals in the founding documents are undeniably progressive and egalitarian.
The woke are something new: they are open Marxists. And a generation ago, their counterparts were crypto-Marxists, as the Venona documents, the intercepted and decrypted Soviet messages collected during the Cold War, make undeniably clear
Every supposedly paranoid claim that Joseph McCarthy ever made turned out to be true. Alger Hiss, the Hollywood ten, the Rosenbergs, all of them, all Marxists.
Before that we had the new deal, and before world war 2, the major world powers were socialist if not communist, which is a difference of degree not kind
Maybe there is an old libertarian America somewhere in the 19th century, an old mythical pristine past, and the descent into communism is our fall from grace.
This is a common feature of many ideologies by the way: they depict a utopian past, an original sin that ruins it, and they present their ideology as a solution.
This is part of the gnosis of communism, for example, where many communists believe that before the evil white men came along with their double-entry accounting and their concept of property, everyone lived in a prelapsarian workers’ paradise where it wasn’t even possible to rape anyone
That’s the kind of mythological thinking that we find in the ideology of the classical liberals in America, who think if we can just “return to the constitution” we can somehow get rid of all the commies.
But I reject that mythology, I think if you go back and look at the old America, the Quakers in the 18th century were almost as gay and retarded as any purple-haired roody-poo you could find in antifa today
One of my favorite quotes from Nick Land: There are two possibilities: either the constitution is working as intended, in which case it is monstrous, or it is not, in which case it is worthless
One more thing before we end this segment, I would like to point out how ineffective all this communist infiltration actually was.
Yes, we can recognize every single one of Münzenberg’s bullet points in the discourse of the Burn Loot Murder movement.
But the propaganda did not have the desired effect at all, which was to demoralize us on the world stage against the soviet union. Instead, all the cultural relativism and homosexuality and feminism were synthesized into a new impetus for USA imperialism
We — I mean, the USA writ large — now believe it is our moral duty to conquer every other nation in the name of women’s liberation and anal marriage. How do you know if something is colonialist and imperialist? Simple, if it outlaws sodomy.
But so all these different currents of egalitarianism, emancipationism, feminism, plus these seventy year old suicide memes which were released into western culture by the soviets, all the critical race theory and queer theory bubbling over from college campuses
Think of all them as amino acids, proteins, prebiotic molecules swirling around in a kind of primordial sea, and they all come together around the geothermal vents of Occupy Wall Street, they coalesce into wokeness right around this time. The intersectional stack codifies the oppression hierarchy.
At the time we don’t quite have the term ‘woke’ — that comes later in 2013 when BLM brings a bunch of hoteps to contribute their, ah, unique linguistic talents to the problem
You will hear a lot of old leftist cope about how the intersectional stack was a psyop to confuse the nascent communist revolution that they imagine Occupy to have been, but these people are delusional
There was never anything remotely like a communist uprising, it was just a bunch of smelly wannabe hippies trying to get laid, using the same commodified ersatz countercultural pablum that the left has been buying and selling from itself since the 70s
It’s not a perfect metaphor to compare this inception of wokeness to abiogenesis, obviously, because there were plenty of ideologies around already.
But all these things come together and unite under the rainbow flag, which becomes to the woke American empire what the crucifix was to Saint Constantine. In this sign shall we conquer.
Part 2 - 6-Factor Analysis of American Civic Religion
Wokeness is a new, militant sect of the American Civic Religion, which shares almost all of the same principles,
but which presses on the contradictions between American life and its stated morals. Most practitioners of the American Civic Religion are not woke, but nor can they mount any kind of principled argument against the woke
Basically every sacred belief of the woke is contained in the Civil Rights act of 1964. As long as you think racism and sexism are the two great evils of the human condition, you are woke, maybe unwittingly.
The difference between GOP-voting classical liberals who loudly condemns racism and an aposematic demisexual demanding a land acknowledgement is slight. They both want the same thing.
And as we’ll see toward the end of this segment, the conscientious, compassionate, center-left American is simultaneously the prisoner and the prison warden with respect to woke ideology.
So instead of genealogy, I want to talk about the metaphysical affordances of the American Civic Religion, of which wokeism is only its most recent mutation.
First, what is the gnosis: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”. It’s right in the declaration of independence, right at the beginning. It doesn’t matter what comes next, something about a creator. No one cares about that part.
Someday, when we win, maybe you can get them to care. I’m concerned with what is, not what could be.
“All men are created equal” — that’s the gnosis. That’s the thing that Americans know that no one else does.
The bit about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is subordinate to the bit about equality, that’s why it comes second. That’s what liberty is in the American Civic Religion, it’s when we recognize that everyone is created equal.
Now your more old school, boomer, civic nationalist types will tell you that the bit about liberty is also really important. And you can always tell someone has lost an argument when they start trying to perform hermeneutics on the text.
I’m not saying my reading is objectively correct, or the truest and best reading, I’m saying it’s the reading that sticks in mens’ hearts, it’s the one that insinuates itself into their soul and pulls on their conscience
When you dig down into it, Americans believe their liberty is contingent on equality, that in order to be free, one must be equal, that if people aren’t equal it’s a sign there is no freedom.
This obviously does not make sense, because as we noted earlier, freedom and equality are direct antagonists. Because people aren’t equal in any way, biologically, some are stupid and some are smart, some are strong and some are weak, some are fast and some are slow
So if people have freedom, freedom to act according to their desires, freedom to act according to their nature, they will immediately get to the business of rising or falling to their natural level. So freedom is antithetical to equality.
And the way you resolve this is supposed to be that equality only means equality before the law, equality before God, something like that. But that’s not stable, it doesn’t stick, it makes everyone very cynical about equality.
There is no stable equilibrium between the belief that all men are created equal and the inherent and ineradicable inequality of the real world. Any attempt to institute partial equality is unstable, and wants to collapse into total equality.
The liberty/equality dichotomy is a contradiction in beliefs of the American Civic Religion. But contradictions do not invalidate religious sentiments. On the contrary, they tend to strengthen them.
I think every belief system contains at least one contradiction, probably many, and the especially noticeable ones tend to become sacralized, and reveling in the contradiction becomes a part of the gnosis.
I call these holy contradictions, and I’ll give you a couple of examples, which are certain to piss off everyone.
The first and most famous of all is the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. This teaching is the simple and straight-forward claim that, in a particular circumstance, one is equal to three. You know that famous scene in 1984, where if the party says 2 and 2 make five, you have to believe it?
The Christian trinity operates on this same logic. Now I am not saying this to be disrespectful to Christians, or to try to attack the doctrine of the trinity. It’s a clear contradiction and that is fine.
Yes I have heard all the flatland analogies, I know about high dimensional geometry, I’m not impressed
The God of the Bible is omnipotent, I assume that logic obeys him and not the other way around and we’re too mortal and finite and parochial to ever comprehend this. Take a deep breath.
Anyway what’s interesting about this blatant contradiction isn’t the logical impossibility, it’s the psychological possibility.
Christians have produced libraries of pontification in an attempt to reconcile this paradox, which is what you call a contradiction you are obligated to believe.
I call these types of paradoxes holy contradictions.
Liberty/equality is another one, but the central holy contradiction of the American Civic Religion is one you all know, Karl Popper’s paradox of tolerance .
This is a doctrine of radical intolerance ostensibly for the sake of tolerance, and it exists because tolerance of difference is one of the ACR’s sacred corporate values,
and when this unstoppable force collides with the immovable object of the friend/enemy distinction, you get a paradox, which is again what you call a contradiction you are obligated to believe.
It’s an instantly self-negating moral precept, which liberals hear and go ooooh and ahhhh, how profound, how intricate. If you ever catch yourself thinking that about a moral teaching, it means you have confused yourself on purpose
When an oyster gets an irritant in its gooey bits, it secretes nacre to soothe the pain, when a human gets a contradiction in his sacred beliefs, he does the same
The obligatory contradictory belief becomes a source of fascination to us, that’s what those mysterious feelings of profundity are, they are psychic nacre in the oyster shell of the mind.
Now, if the gnosis of the American Civic Religion is that all men are created equal, then what is the nemesis?
The nemesis is those people who stand in the way of progress, or sometimes it is the attitudes of the people who stand in the way of progress. It is Ignorance, hatred, racism, bigotry. And this is important, that it’s the attitudes, it’s the beliefs, not the people themselves, because it’s seen as a spiritual war.
An interesting consequence of this is that liberals therefore believe that education is the salvific method for all of the illiberal philistines who are still living outside of the grace of Floyd
The American Civic Religion is further obligated to believe in a form of blank-slateism, to believe that everyone is potentially redeemable, potentially educable.
It can weakly acknowledge that political beliefs have a genetic component, but it’s not allowed to make any deductions using that fact
The idea of the blank slate comports perfectly with the gnosis of equality, because it reduces all life outcomes to a mere contingency of accidental circumstance
These two ideas together form an extremely stable ideological core, the gnosis of equality and the nemesis of regressive, anti-egalitarian belief
To the progressive believer, it begins to feel as if anti-egalitarian beliefs themselves exert a magical pressure on others, as if the thing that prevents black women from inventing a new paradigm in theoretical physics is the fact that we don’t believe they can.
In unrelated news, a recent study on Covid vaccine efficiency found that the vaccine was so effective at reducing all-cause mortality that it even prevented traffic accidents.
If egalitarianism ceases to regard its nemesis as an abstraction, but as individual people, it tends to go on a killing spree, and we have seen this in just about every state that ever succumbed to communism
There is, however, an older version of the American Civic Religion which says to live and let live, which says that if someone isn’t on the side of progress then at least they have a right to live off in the woods alone in a cabin. And I think maybe we still carry that belief on some level.
In a way it’s a luxurious thing to believe, something you can only really sustain when your country is half wilderness, half frontier.
But it’s never been all that true, it’s never been true for people who try to engage with civic society. All the way back in 1923, before Soviet subversion of American life had even got its start, DH Lawrence wrote this about Americans and liberty:
“The land of the free, the land of the free! Why, if I say anything that displeases them, the free mob will lynch me! And that’s my freedom. Why, I have never been in any country where the individual has such abject fear of his fellow countrymen. Because, as I say, they are free to lynch the moment he shows he is not one of them.
“Their liberty is a thing of sheer will, sheer tension: a liberty of THOU SHALT NOT. And it has been so from the first. The land of THOU SHALT NOT. Only the first commandment is: THOU SHALT NOT PRESUME TO BE A MASTER. Hence democracy. We are the masterless. That is what the American Eagle shrieks.”
DH Lawrence was an Englishman, but he understood Americans very well, and I think we can learn a lot about ourselves from reading European appraisals of the American character, though we must always take them with a grain of salt.
Always keep in mind that, when a European or any other foreign national writes his great work on America, it’s always colored by his embarrassment.
The European, the Arab, the Oriental, the African — they must each find some way to save face, to recover their pride in the face of our humiliating, earth-shattering prosperity.
That does not mean they are wrong. Only that one must be mindful of their ressentiment — and one must also forgive them, taking heed not to internalize the negativity which protects their pride.
One more note on the nemesis, I would be remiss here if I failed to mention it: when it comes to the portrayal of ignorant, bigoted, racial hatred, the American Civic Religion has a special symbol for it, which is of course Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust.
It is not the case, not exactly, that Adolf Hitler himself is the nemesis, but rather he is the nemesis made flesh, a kind of anti-theophany of evil. The holocaust is the mythical consequence of allowing bigotry to become flesh.
Did the holocaust really happen? Historically and literally yes, but mythologically no. But whatever real events it correlates to, it has also become something wholly mythical which supervenes upon and supersedes the actual historical facts.
In the ACR, What is the ecstasy? Maybe it’s easier to ask, what is the liturgy? Liturgy is one of the pathways to ecstasy. The liturgy is the protest march, the political rally, the parade. Every time you see people marching with signs, whether they are talking about ukraine, BLM, women’s rights, any of it
That’s all a progressive church service, and it gives its participants a high which comes from being part of a crowd.
Another ecstatic rite of the American Civic Religion is smoking marijuana, and this wasn’t always so, and not all weed smoking is in aid of progress, but it has become so.
The American Civic Religion went through a phase shift in the 1960s. As we all know, that’s when various key pieces of legislation were introduced, the civil rights act of 1964, the Hart-Cellar act, in ‘71 there was the Supreme Court case Griggs v Duke Power, which established the idea of disparate impact
and it’s around this time when marijuana smoking becomes popular as a form of rebellion against “the man.”
All political factionalism since the 1960s is only a reenactment of the founding dramas of the 1960s. Prior to that, the American Civic Religion was different, and it had different content, but it always contained the germ of what it is now, it always contained the “all men are created equal” that forms the backbone of where we are today
And there’s a third progressive ecstasy — I mean to call it mystical is slightly a stretch, and we sort of hashed over this in part one, when we spoke of about inversion of taboos
Progressives invert Christian sexuality taboos, but it goes much deeper than that. In Part 1 I mentioned that Christianity is least expressed in its ecstatic pathways, a few heresies aside.
The trinity of progressive ecstasies is sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, the last of which Christianity has sadly tried to appropriate, are the gateways into progressive indoctrination
It’s this specific avenue by which adolescents are inducted into progressivism, a word which is absolutely a misnomer.
Sexual transgression is the gateway to adulthood in American culture. In Christian society, pre-marital sex is a major transgression, and children who grow up Christian are implicitly forced to make a choice between Christian and Progressive society
We no longer live in a Christian society, for the most part, but we retain just enough Christianity that pre-marital sex is presented as transgressive, even though it’s a progressive norm.
The act of transgression allows a young person to self-ID as revolutionary, as both pro- and transgressive, as an oppressed victim of patriarchal norms, or heterosexual norms, and so on and so on.
A young person is invited to imagine him or herself as valiantly standing against stale traditions and repressive culture, as a victim of oppression because having sex is against the rules, even though nothing could be farther from the truth
Now especially for young women, the sex act is transmuted from an intimate act of devotion within marriage, with the purpose of bearing children, to a public act of rebellion against the social order, even though this very transmutation is a pillar of the social order
Often this “revolutionary” sex act may be tinged with an element of racial or homosexual identity politics. The natural ecstasy of sex is captured by the American Civic Religion and bent into the shape of an initiation rite.
America really was a Christian nation in the past, and it was also a progressive nation, and progressivism has been able to erode Christianity
The ACR begins an auxiliary to Christianity, to support it, but over the decades it takes on a life of its own and becomes a rival
We’ll talk more about that in the final episode of this series
But Christianity is relatively static compared to the American Civic Religion, which means the latter can continually morph and find new ways to attack Christianity until it finally finds a way in
And somewhere around the sexual revolution, it finds its wedge, it figures out that when presented with the choice between sexuality “liberated” progressive life and sexually “repressed” Christian life, most young people will choose the former
And the bad consequences of promiscuity only show up much later, once the brain has lost plasticity and ideological changes are unlikely to occur
Most ideologies spread vertically, from parents to children. So you only have to suppress a vertically transmitted ideology for three generations to totally hollow it out
And it might even retain the name, but it becomes something totally functionally different
When you see these homosexual female pastors saying Jesus was trans, I don’t think they see themselves as subverting, I think they are trying to square their sincere understanding of the good with with their sincere understanding of Christianity
That doesn’t make their teachings any less heinous and I believe a truly sincere Christian would… let God sort them out.
Next, what are the taboos? We’ve already talked about this at some length. The linguistic taboos of the American Civic Religion are primarily racial. We discussed this at some length already. The sacred unspeakable words all refer to races or to sexual deviants.
But beyond that, there are certain patterns, there are facts about people of different races that you are not allowed to notice. We all know about this and I will refer you to my podcast episode 3, on race, or the work of Steve Sailer, who is a national treasure.
There are also dietary taboos. Veganism is to the American Civic Religion what Kosher law is to Judaism. Not all progressives are vegan, in fact most aren’t, but all of them are aspirationally vegan. They participate in rituals like “meatless monday”
— they insist that all restaurants have vegan options, and they recognize, most of all, that those who are vegan are more holy, more moral, than those who are not. Look at how rapidly oat milk replaced real milk for so many people, because here was a way to do something vegan, to sin a little less, to be a little more holy, at almost no cost
Vegetarianism is possible in a pre-industrial age, but veganism is not. It is a decadent system of food taboos which can only exist in the world where food production is subordinate to modern chemistry
Not only does a vegan diet contain an endless procession of binding agents, emulsifiers, and genetically modified foods, it also relies upon laboratory techniques to concentrate nutrients which cannot be acquired in sufficient quantities from dietary sources, such as vitamin b12.
Finally and although the racial taboos feel more sacred — because they are more abstract, and because they don’t intrude quite as much on every day life — the most critical, load-bearing taboos in the ACR are sexual.
In particular, the idea of consent is a sexual taboo. Christianity teaches that the proper context for sex is marriage, and that it’s not really possible to rape your own wife. Under any normal or classic understanding of sexual morality, the idea of “marital rape” is non sequitur.
“Marital rape” is a feminist term which attempts to overturn Christian sexual morality by subjugating it to feminist morality. Under the American Civic Religion, which has fully digested and integrated itself with feminism, the only thing that makes sex legitimate is how the woman feels about it at any particular moment.
If she changes her mind later, sex can retroactively become rape. This is a one way street, rape can never become just sex, even if a woman later falls in love with and marries her “rapist” — which is a fairly common occurrence
In the American Civic Religion, if a woman “consents” to sex with a man who is not her husband, that’s totally legitimate, the woman is above criticism, because it is a fickle, immeasurable, ethereal quality from which all sexual morality is derived
Of course it’s very difficult to talk about this topic, it’s much harder to talk about this than race, in fact, because sex and sexual taboo are so essential to our every day lives that everyone becomes instantly too emotional to live if you talk about it in a way that contradicts all their various copes about it
And they will attack you like a legion of rabid dogs. You can’t have a calm, rational conversation about the concept of sexual consent as the grounding of sexual morality because if you say anything that even insinuates that it might like to think about the possibility of maybe asking any questions about the prevailing sexual dogma
You get instantly shouted down by a legion of just the absolute dumbest males in the world calling you a rapist, telling you you have a small penis, implying that you are a virgin, and a host of other things. Yes, you are a rapist who is also a virgin, that is their belief, it is a holy contradiction.
I have no problem disregarding these people but the sheer volume of them is an impediment to thinking and disseminating thought.
In the near future I will do an episode on women, where I will unpack that a bit more, but for now what I want to highlight is this sort of unwitting symmetry between the feminist idea of sexual consent and the american religion’s idea of consent of the governed.
But what I want to highlight to here is a certain “as above, so below” — no doubt you are aware of the occultist origins of this phrase, of the idea that there are correspondences between different planes of existence, that the nature of the higher realms is echoed or reflected in the lower realms —
I do not really believe in any kind of magic or occult power per se, what I believe in is human things, all too human things, but I think that theories of occultism and magic often capture, in a mythological way, real human truths
The leader of the people is the model for the people he leads. As things are done in the kings house, so shall they be done in the kingdom. But America is a place with no king, a place which is governed by a process
Our political formula says that political legitimacy is conferred by the consent of the governed. Presumably, if we are governed without our consent, that would constitute gubernatorial rape.
But there’s a tension in this idea, which is only ever brought up with regard to sex, but never with regard to governance, and that’s this idea that no one can ever meaningfully consent to sex when there is a power imbalance.
That is, feminists believe that consent can be coerced, and that coercion invalidates it. In the upside-down world of feminism, this is an argument either for full communism, or to kill all men,
because as long as anyone is more powerful than anyone else, all sex is rape, and rape is tautologically the worst thing in the world, because it violates a woman’s consent
Now if you are thinking to yourself, zero, that is retarded, you are correct. Feminists and communists are retarded. But if we apply the logic of coercion and consent to “consent of the governed” then America’s political formula deconstructs itself.
But no one is ever going to think this way. Logic is totally irrelevant to belief, to what people believe, to why they believe it.
Now we’ve talked a bit about ACR eschatology already in part one, which has both an apocalyptic and a beatific component.
The apocalyptic component is climate change, this belief in some kind of ecological catastrophe caused by overuse of fossil fuels. It forms a stable bond with the dietary taboo of veganism.
See, beliefs in a belief system form complements across categorical lines. The taboo of veganism attaches to the eschatology of climate change.
The gnosis of equality attaches to the nemesis of ignorance, and both of these ideas have what you might call a secondary bond with the beatific eschatology where everyone progressively wakes up to the evils of racism and homophobia and we all live together in one giant brown muddle.
That is, if the nemesis is ignorance, then that implies a mythological, millenarian possibility of a time when ignorance is vanquished. Millenarian thinking is usually twinned with prelapsarian thinking. The beatific end of days is seen as a return to a pristine state that obtained prior to a fall.
Progressives rarely articulate their vision quite so clearly as I have here, but it’s there, it’s just below the surface, and sometimes it’s even explicit if you look.
It’s worth noting too that the beatific eschatology of the American Civic Religion is explicitly taken from communism, and that when America got started, there was no such thing.
America was the eschatological country of the future where everyone had already woken up to the equality of mankind, right? That’s the whole idea, the more perfect union, the inalienable rights and so on. America is the promised land where moral progress has already triumphed.
The problem is, as every fiction writer knows, post-millenarianism is unsustainable, because life continues. As long as we are alive, there will be problems, and as long as there are problems, we will construct fantasies about future times when there are no problems.
These tendencies can never be eradicated. So pretty quick, the Americans realize there is more work to be done, and America becomes instead a place where moral progress occurs in Sisyphean perpetuity .
Part 3 — Telos, Ordeals of Civility, Arguments Against Cynicism
In the American Civic Religion, what is the telos? This is where we find a paradox, because we simultaneously feel that our enemies are very stupid, I mean we see their pictures online all the time, they appear to be a collection of deformed mutants and sexual deviants, and it’s hard to understand how they manage to hold and exercise power
Some people see this and they conclude that there are secret shadowy hidden masterminds planning everything, that there always have been, that every event on the global stage is orchestrated by a secret cabal. All of these types of beliefs are facile
They are fantasy sci-fi narratives which give a sense of order to a chaotic world. It’s somehow more psychologically comfortable to believe that all the bad things in the world are part of a controlled plan than to believe in chaos.
This is not to downplay the fact that there are in fact many conspiracies in this world, that people, elites, wealthy people often do collude secretly in order to advance their own interests. But there’s no grand conspiracy, and all the little conspiracies are just as short-sighted and petty and small as every other human endeavor.
But the way progressive telos works is, the thing progressives do when they have excesses of resources and leisure time, they perform ordeals of civility, and this explains in large part why we see so many deformed mutants in prominent places on the left.
Ordeal of Civility
OK this is a little going to require a bit of a digression. This is my claim, that what baptizing new christians is to Christianity, what reaching enlightenment is to Buddhism, Ordeals of Civility are to progressives.
So I am going to have to explain what an ordeal of Civility is. I’m going to draw from the work of John Murray Cuddihy for this, and from the 2nd City Bureaucrat, who has done yeoman’s work explaining and popularizing this concept.
An ordeal of civility is the process by which an outsider group is assimilated into civil society. I’m going to quote from Kenneth Boulding now: “the word civility and the word civil derive from the same root as the word civilization… Civilization is characterized not only by conquest, military ruthlessness, and the predominance of the threat as organizer. It is also characterized by the elaborate integrative systems of religion, politeness, morals, and manners”
Civil society is the part of public life which is distinct from government and from business, and in the west means you conform to a particular set of social norms, it means there are certain things one can and cannot say, and so on.
Civil society demands a bifurcation of public and private affect. The civic religion gatekeeps the norms of civil society.
An outside group undergoes an ordeal of civility when they are assimilated into the civic religion, when they brought into the politeness, morals, and manners of the civic society. Cuddihy’s masterpiece of sociology examines the ways this process played out for the Jews in the 19th century as they assimilated into gentile society in Europe.
A joke which Freud was fond of perfectly captures the essence of the conflict:
A Galician Jew was traveling in a train. He had made himself comfortable, had unbuttoned his coat and put his feet up on the seat. Just then a gentleman in modern dress entered the compartment.
The Jew pulled himself together and took up a proper pose. The stranger fingered through the pages of a notebook, made some calculations, reflected for a moment and then suddenly asked the Jew: "Excuse me, when is Yom Kippur?'
'Oho!' said the Jew, and put his feet up on the seat again before answering."
All the elements are here: the public, social place (a train); the identification of the Jew as an Ostjude (Galician); the relaxed, "regressive" behavior (misbehavior) in a public place; the advent of the "gentleman" stranger as the modernizing West ("in modern dress"); the "pose of good manners struck, and, finally, the polite intrusion: "Excuse me."
The sudden disclosure of a shared ethnicity reconstitutes the premodern social situation which knew no "public places" with their “situational proprieties,” which encountered no strangers, which made no private-public cleavage.
Cuddihy’s claim is that Marx, Freud, and Levi-Strauss are all engaged in apologetics on behalf of the uncivil nature of the 19th c. Jew, that their writing careers and their philosophies are ultimately rooted in a need to redress the wound that European civic society has dealt to them in the ordeal of civility
An ordeal of civility is not a one-way process. The assimilated culture must pay a high price to enter civic society, but it also extracts a cost from civic society; civic society must also make concessions to the assimilated, concessions which Freud and Marx extract by means of their philosophy.
I recommend the book by Cuddihy and also the substack of 2nd City Bureaucrat if you want a deeper understanding of this topic.
For our purposes, the thing you need to understand is that the Ordeal of Civility is not unique to the Jew. The ordeal of civility is something that progressive society performs over and over, it’s the same model that is used for feminism, for civic rights for blacks, Italians, Irish, for homosexuals, for “immigrants”, for transexuals, for the “differently abled” to use the DEI term.
Every single one of these identity groups has been the object of an ordeal of civility. The American Civic Religion enacts its narrative of moral progress through ordeals of civility. They live out these little revolutions over and over, that’s how they keep score. That’s their ultimate metaphysical goal, their telos
This also explains why they think that the culture and heritage of a people can be boiled down to their food, their language, their music, and their funny costumes: because all of those things are more or less fungible, superficial, and changeable. That’s culture to them, because none of those things interfere with ordeals of civility
It’s been a long time since Jews were considered uncouth, and nowadays most gentiles couldn’t even pick a jew out of a police lineup of whites, though I know you my friends on the far right have re-learned this ancient power
The Jewish ordeal of civility is essentially complete, modulo a few failed attempts by deranged outsiders like Kanye West, whose greatest accomplishment as an antisemite is to raise funding for the ADL.
Nevertheless, secular jews today may carry a kind of grudge or a fear of not fitting in which more properly belongs to the 19th century. There is a certain kind of neurotic jew who even today is anxious about passing as a gentile, and this same paranoia of being found out has been applied in subsequent ordeals of civility
You hear talk of “white passing” minorities or “passing” transexuals, no such thing of course, this is something that weighs heavily on the Jewish psyche even after effectively conquering the West using America as a proxy.
To give make this clearer, I’ll give you a second example, which is the ordeal of civility as it pertains to homosexuals.
That ordeal more or less began with the Stonewall Riots in 1969, languished for a couple of decades, and picked up again in the 90s, and was totally concluded in 2015 with the ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges.
Whereas Jews were considered uncouth, homosexuals were considered to be kinky, loathsome sex addicts. And male homosexuals are precisely that, as we all know. Female homosexuals have a different pathology, and the fact that homosexuality covers a range of distinct phenomena has been an asset in the mainstreaming of gay acceptance
It is worth skimming through a book called After the Ball, published in 1990 by Marshall Kirk, which is full of a lot of rosy lies about gay people, but which also lays out a sophisticated psychological strategy and a propaganda agenda for winning the gay ordeal of civility.
The book lays out a plan for desensitizing ambivalent straights to homosexuality by, and this is a quote: talking about gayness until the issue becomes tiresome
It calls for images of “homohaters” to be disseminated in media depicting them as nazis, klansmen, as “menacing punks and thugs” and lays out principles for image management of gays in media, and describes strategies for occupying space on television, radio, magazines, and newspapers
The goal was to familiarize Americans with gays in a neutral to positive way, and to single-mindedly drive through talking points about the civic rights of gays.
Right-wing dissidents could learn a lot from this book about how to manipulate media, but that is a topic for another time.
In our media-driven world, television is reality for most people, especially for Americans, and back when President Brandon still occupied his own skull, he remarked famously that Will and Grace did more to “educate” Americans on the topic of gays than “anything anybody else has done so far.”
On this topic, Brandon is correct.
You know an ordeal of civility is concluded when the Republican party starts crying about how what makes us great as Americans is our respect and love for whatever the newly civilly integrated group is.
When the ACR succeeds at bringing someone into civic society, they have to invent a new marginalized identity so they can start over again.
The problem with an ordeal of civility is that it’s finite, it has a fixed end. And once the ordeal is concluded, we are left with a sense of “what now?” Baudrillard describes this sensation in his famous essay “After the Orgy.”
“Now all we can do is simulate the orgy, simulate liberation. We may pretend to carry on in the same direction, accelerating, but in reality we are accelerating in a void, because all the goals of liberation are already behind us
The state of utopia realized, of all utopias realized, wherein paradoxically we must continue to live as though they had not been. But since they have, and since we can no longer, therefore, nourish the hope of realizing them, we can only 'hyper-realize' them through interminable simulation
Nothing (not even God) now disappears by coming to an end, by dying. Instead, things disappear through proliferation or contamination, by becoming saturated or transparent.”
That was from Baudrillard. Finally, please notice that the telos of civil ordeals forms a stable bond with the beatific eschatology where everyone wakes up from ignorance. Each flows perfectly from the other.
OK, let’s summarize. The American Civic Religion, the religion of social progress, presents functionally along the following axes:
Gnosis: All people are created equal, they have certain inalienable rights etc
Nemesis: Bigotry, ignorance, and hatred, which exist abstractly and which are manifested in the enemies of progress
Ecstasy: protests and civic marches, smoking marijuana, and sexual liberation
Taboo: Veganism, racial slurs, and the consent model of rape
Eschatology: Climate Change (apocalyptically) and Universal emancipation (beatifically)
Telos: Ordeals of civility for an endless procession of manufactured identities
Five Arguments Against Cynicism as Causative
Before we wrap up, as an addendum to all of the above, I’d like to talk about the common confusion that we see among many leftists and left-leaning normies regarding the motivations of the elite.
An important observation we can make here is that in the functionalist model, there is barely any room for cynicism. Basically no one is cynical about their own ideology, though people may exaggerate their own fervency
There are few assertions that make me sperg out more than this persistent claim that our elites — the people in charge — are cynical when they espouse certain values. Most of the people who believe this, I think it’s a hangover from latent marxism in the cultural water supply
A lot of people who are drawn to us are afflicted with a chronic disposition towards contrarianism and counterculturalism. And until very recently — until probably 2013 at the earliest, the left had a monopoly on counterculture.
Or to be more correct, there was no counterculture, and what appeared to be counterculture was a wholly owned subsidiary of the left.
In the 1950s and 60s there was counterculture, and it was exclusively left-wing counterculture, and after the left won its total cultural victories in the sixties, the remnant of its counterculture persisted
Counterculture was reduced to marketing, because it was rebelling against a culture that had been completely defeated. Most of the rebels never figured this out, and continued to see themselves as rebelling against the man long after they had become the man
This is the basic sales pitch of all leftists now, from the far left antifa types, to the dirtbag left or chapo types, all the way to the respectable left center like Hilary Clinton or Barack Obama. They all present themselves as a form of rebellion
Imagine if David slew Goliath and then, 10 years into his kingship, continued to market his monarchy as a way to really stick it to the philistines. It would be non-sequitur. But this is precisely what has occurred on the left in America in the past 60 years.
This is one of the contradictions at the heart of the American Civic Religion today, that it continually sees itself as the underdog, but it’s fighting against the corpse of the monster it already killed
But the upshot of that is that all these zombie memes are still swirling around among people who have a countercultural disposition, ideas that are dead but walking
And one of those ideas, which is a mistaken idea, because it’s an egalitarian idea — it’s rooted in progressive, egalitarian morality — is that all authority is bad, that rebellion against authority is good for its own sake
And this combines with the communist belief that “capitalism” is the source of social problems, and what comes out is this idea that corporations have to be bad, necessarily, as an essential condition of their being
So when we see corporations and rich people pushing emancipatory causes — what I mean is, when we see them promoting ordeals of civility, the only thing the progressive countercultural mind can do with that is to leap to this conclusion: It’s insincere!
But this is a retarded thing to think. And I guess it’s just my own neurosis that this tweaks me so much, that I take this particular stupid idea so personally, but I do, so I am going to give you five arguments now for why the woke are sincere and the elites are true believers
The people in charge are not pretending to be woke. The woke people are the ones in charge.
Argument one: actions speak louder than words
or if you prefer a more pedantic way of saying this, revealed preference is a bitch. It doesn’t matter what people privately believe, it only matters what they do. For example, you cannot be cynically homosexual. If you have gay sex, but you believe you’re secretly straight, you’re still just gay.
By the same token, if you give money to woke causes like BLM or planned parenthood, if you do anything to advance so-called trans rights at all, then it doesn’t matter if you believe in your heart that you’re doing it selfishly, or for personal advantage.
What you do is a better reflection of your character than what you believe about why you are doing it.
Big companies like Goldman Sachs or Amazon sponsor pride parades, they pay for transexual surgeries for their employees, they make propaganda where they affirm the moral good of homosexuality. When a man says one thing and does another, we judge his character by his action, not by the ways he rationalizes his action
But in the case of these big companies and their leaders, their words and their actions are totally aligned. They aren’t even hypocritical, they are totally consistent, and their actions reflect the moral values of the American Civic Religion.
Argument 2: The second generation isn’t in on the joke.
This is more of an argument against grand conspiracies than cynical elites, but it ends up being the same problem. Imagine the world is controlled by master manipulators who develop propaganda to control the masses
Those people are necessarily very small in number, because if there are a lot of them, then that’s just a bureaucracy, not a conspiracy. This small number of people rely on subordinates who are deceived by the propaganda in order to accomplish their goals
This means that the number of true believers will always outnumber the manipulators by a tremendous degree, and most of the actions of any organization will be conceived and enacted by true believers. Eventually, the original cynical propaganda makers will be replaced as they die out or turn over
After a couple of iterations of this, there are no manipulators left, and what started as a deception is now fully sincere.
Argument 3: Hypocrisy is not the same as cynicism.
No one in the world entirely lives up to their beliefs. Everyone is hypocritical, but hypocrisy does not negate or undermine sincerity. For example, Tim Wise is a well-known antiracist activist who has made his living jetting around the country telling college students that white people oppress blacks financially.
Tim Wise lives in an expensive, 97% White, 0% black neighborhood in Nashville, on a Golf Course. This is public information, census tract 134 west of Nashville, But to listen to him speak or read his articles, none could doubt his sincerity. He clearly believes in his stated morals. He’s not cynical, he’s a hypocrite.
A hypocrite is someone who sincerely believes in his own bullshit. His stated beliefs are his true beliefs, but he fails to live up to his own ideals.
This sort of dovetails into argument one. If you think Tim Wise is an evil white racist, cynically profiting off of antiracism because of the way he lives his life, then you are judging him by his actions and you are forced to conclude that corporations and their executives that take action to support woke causes are really, sincerely woke.
But it’s not as if anyone, anywhere, is logically consistent in their beliefs.
Argument 4: Belief in Elite cynicism is low class.
It appeals to people who lack material wealth, because money is always on their mind, and they can only imagine that their social betters are similarly fixated
In other words, people who believe the elites are cynically woke think that the real reason corporations are woke is out of greed. Poor people think everything is about money, just like perverts think everything is about sex and wiggers think everything is about jews
It’s this moral poverty, this poverty of imagination — spiritual poverty is the CAUSE of material poverty, and not the other way around
And you can dismantle this line of thinking pretty quickly, too, by asking the person who espouses it a simple question: Are you saying you don’t have any convictions you’d fight for?
Because that is the root of the claim that ideology is really about greed. It’s a claim that no one has any moral convictions at all. In other words, it’s an admission of guilt by the person who makes it.
Argument 5: The elites and the masses hold each other hostage.
This is going to be a brief reformulation of an argument from Vaclav Havel.
In the post-totalitarian world, the center of power becomes identical with the center of truth. That is to say, those people who are in power determine what is true, regardless of reality, and to be subject to power is to live within its understanding of truth.
Ideology becomes an increasingly core component of power, which provides it with both legitimacy and coherence. The significance of phenomena no longer derived from the phenomena themselves, but from their locus within the ideological context.
Power and ideology begin to serve each other in an increasingly vicious feedback loop, whereupon ritual itself, the ritualistic obedience to ideology, becomes the dictator, rather than any individual. Power becomes anonymous and leaders become interchangeable.
Any person who fails to perform the rituals of ideological power is immediately ousted from the system. By performing these rituals, each person in the grip of the ideology compels others to accept the rules of the game and confirm the power which requires the rituals in the first place.
Each person helps the other to be obedient, becoming both victims and instruments of the ideology. Everyone, at every level, from the shop-keepers to the prime minister, is involved and enslaved. By pulling everyone into its power structure, the post-totalitarian system makes everyone an instrument of the auto-totality of society.
This is Havel’s argument. And Havel notes that there may be a degree of reluctance or even unwillingness in the complicity of the people with the post-totalitarian system of the ideology that grips them. Indeed, they may inwardly resist on some level. But in the post-totalitarian society, the higher your place in the hierarchy, the greater price of obedience and loyalty the ideology demands.
The people with the most power in the progressive system have the least freedom. They only have the power to do what the progressive ideology demands of them, and the moment they are insufficiently compliant, everyone else around them rushes in to fill the void.
It might be fair to say that, at the highest echelons of ideological power, the people there have moved beyond sincerity and cynicism, and having transcended this dichotomy, their only principle is to be fully instrumentalized by the ideology.
In other words, if the ideology demands pride parades, then they will believe that instituting pride parades is the moral thing to do, because there is no daylight between the demands of power and the progressive moral understanding.
When the hoi polloi accuse progressive leaders of cynicism, what they are really saying, and it’s a very shallow, contemptible utterance, honestly, is that they believe themselves to be even more moral than their leaders, even more dedicated to the moral understanding of power than the powerful.
Scott Alexander is a mincing leftist coward who will survey a thousand points of data that clearly indicate a heretical conclusion, and then shrug his shoulders and announce that no one can ever know what the data means, but he still has a way with words, and he called this the fifty Stalins argument,
One wishes to criticize Stalin, but the penalty for doing so is life imprisonment in a camp. The only allowable way then to express dissent is to say:
“Stalin, he is good, but he is not enough. What we need is fifty stalins!” This is what the progressive does when she accuses woke corporate leaders of being cynical.
She doesn’t realize she is doing this. It’s all perfectly instinctive, to complain in a way that is safe and meaningless, in a way that, if it were taken seriously, would empower the powerful even more.
And the act of saying it causes her to believe what she is saying. This is how public declarations work, psychologically. When you make a statement publicly, it causes you to adjust your own belief of yourself, to think that the thing you have said is your real belief.
No one is immune to this kind of social pressure from within.
Alright, we have reached the end of part two. I know this has been a long journey and I want to thank you for sticking with me. I also want these ideas to be valuable to you. What does it all mean, Münzenberg, the Frankfurt School, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, American Malvern, John Murray Cuddihy, Vaclav Havel?
The Gnosis of Equality, the Nemesis of Ignorance, the Ecological Eschatology, the endless Ordeals of Civility?
Why? Why should we know all this?
The first reason is to have a clear understanding of what we are fighting, of what must be destroyed. Many people — even most people — who have a dissident bent do not understand what they are dissenting from.
That is, people who have a contrarian tendency, a will to say “no” — they will say no to anything and everything, they barely care what they are saying no to, they learn a name like globalists or technocracy or professional managerial class and they say no to that
They project all their fears and frustrations upon a phantom.
They imagine some all powerful demiurge composed of jews and or illuminati or secret nazis who somehow simultaneously control the whole world, control every faction on the world stage, manufacture the news, wield impossible occult power, and yet, somehow, are also plotting and scheming to take over the world that they already control
And enact some kind of sinister new plan where we are even more enslaved, even more controlled, et cetera.
Well, I prefer to approach dissidence in a structured way. I know what I’m for and I know what I’m against. I’m not against authority. I’m not against technology. I’m not against capital or capitalism or wealth or power.
I’m against equality. I’m against the ideology I have spent the last ninety minutes describing to you. I like it when society gets bigger, more complex, more developed, I like it when we increase future optionality, and I like it when strength and excellence and beauty are exalted.
That’s why I am against equality, against the leveling impulse, against some tortured womanly definition of fairness. I want hierarchy, I want grandeur, I want greatness for the few against the many.
The American Civic Religion is the religion of weakness, of mediocrity, of ugliness, and its military and economic power are holdovers from an earlier time, when it was still capable of beauty and strength. It now squanders its inheritance in the service of increasing ugliness and exalting weakness.
And that disgusts me.
To triumph over the American Civic Religion, we must invent a new ideology which we SHALL synthesize from Christianity and from Nietzche, a religion which inverts every value of American Civility, which replaces equality with hierarchy, which recognizes its nemesis as EQUALITY ITSELF.
This will be our topic in part three, the final part of this series.