Thermidor Repoast: Dead Letters of a Contrarian: On the Career of Christopher Hitchens

The cultus behind the life and work of Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) can only be understood in the context of our fame-obsessed and fundamentally illiterate age. His invocation this past week, in the context of whether Hitch would still be considered hirable by his former employer, the Atlantic Monthly, is a testament to the man’s hold on the intellectual class, even if his work fails to sustain its hold on the intellect.

I used to be one of Hitch’s biggest fans. I remember when his last complete original work, Hitch 22, came out, the excitement and thrill that anticipated it. Hitch had not yet been diagnosed with the cancer that would kill him in under 18 months’ time, and practically every day leading up to and following the memoir’s release we Hitch faithful were treated to a new YouTube video, a new interview, a new review of the hero’s next work. Hitch was, of course, the man who could be openly intellectual on CNN, openly snobbish on Fox News, compelling on C-Span—not an easy feat! To admire Hitch was to take him as your leader, standing like a colossus in a sea of ignorance and pusillanimity which is our vapid culture itself.

It’s easy to forget now that the feelings aroused in us Hitch fans were very similar to those once felt for the Obama Administration. The first two years of Obama’s rule had a real euphoria to them. Like Hitch, here was a man who would use ration, reason, and his own natural (let’s not say God-given) speaking talents to enlighten our backward republic and complete Jefferson’s revolution. And for a wannabe intellectual, there was much reason to hope—even if in my infinite wisdom I was above the platitudes of Hope and Change. And in 2010, Barackus Aurelius had not yet been sullied by the boondoggle of the Affordable Care Act, had not exposed himself in the Trayvon Martin affair to be an inane race hustler no better than Al Sharpton, had not yet murdered Colonel Gaddafi and let loose an invasion which may yet destroy Europe. Hitch the skeptic, Hitch the idealist, Hitch the snob and iconoclast seemed a good representative for the hope in Barack and his times.

Then in July 2010 was Hitchens’s cancer diagnosis; in November Obama became a lame duck. By late 2011 Hitch was dead, and Jefferson’s heir was looking for ways to usurp power to the Executive.

For all Hitch’s bluster, the urbane leftism in which Obama trafficked was always second nature to Hitch. Yes, Hitch had the mantras of the Marxists and had better appreciation for Marx’s rigorous thought and personality than most, but Hitch was never a religious leftist the way leftism proscribes and in fact requires. Even as far back as the Thatcher government, he could condemn the evil actions of the British military, but not condemn the bourgeois military as a whole; he could decry the perfidy of the United States, but not proscribe capital punishment for it. The fire and brimstone which to true believers is more natural than breathing was foreign to Hitch and his outlook was one of discrimination. His leftist cohorts appreciated this—someone had to keep commonsense amongst the ranks. And Hitchens’s even-headedness gave the impression that the Left was winning arguments, not just squashing its opposition via blacklist and gulag.

But an impulse for discrimination can only go so far in a True Believer, and if over-indulged, lead one to conservatism. Marxists believe that a poisonous economic system has spread its tentacles across the globe, infecting every element of the culture, i.e. the superstructure. One cannot really believe this and spend time parsing details: All corruption is inevitable to a true Marxist because the system requires it; the individual forms of the corruption are immaterial compared to the larger taint of Capital. Hitch’s leftism was compromised at least as far back as 1982, with his defense of the British government in the Falklands war; to give Thatcher even a moment’s consideration was to make suspect your leftist credibility. Hence when Hitch defected and endorsed a fellow hard-drinking liberal, George W. Bush, True Believers like Noam Chomsky, Katha Pollitt, and Alexander Cockburn were not surprised. Ye cannot worship both Marx and bourgeois fame. Insofar that Hitch could spout the leftist viewpoint, he did so like a religion professor describing the True Presence in the Eucharist, able and willing to share the facts, but without the faith which might gain redemption from them.

Hitch was always a liberal—he was always a free artist of himself. A lover of Anglo-Saxon freedom and American hedonism, he was a man who believed only in negative freedom, and therefore never needed an idea inside himself bigger than the idea of Christopher Hitchens. A great intellectual, consumed with great ideas, can be the most boring man and still write wonderfully; if Hitchens was not writing about himself, he was writing about nothing at all. Thus, in a sense, Hitch 22 was superfluous—all his writing was a memoir. Lacking any Big Idea behind his work, his journalism was often little more than his journals. Much of Hitch 22 comes off like the mere repetition of stronger, more immediate work. Hitch’s defense of Cyprus, for example, is best made in his original book on Cyprus from the 70s (one of the few of Hitch’s books written with true Marxist polemical furor); his criticisms of Bill Clinton are best made in No One Left to Lie To; his debates with Chomsky were best in the pages of The Nation.

Hitch 22 at times feels like an index of Hitchens’s work more than a unique work in itself. Though he touches on personal relationships with Martin Amis and James Fenton, the friendships are not really so special as to warrant the attention; only a true fan (or sycophant) could find them interesting. Hitch’s grief over the suicide of his mother is touching, but the recollection of any mother’s suicide must be touching. Including the story of Yvonne Hitchens’s death is almost a little too easy, as far as filling pages go. It would be much more interesting to read of Hitch’s male relations—how did his relationship with his belittled father, a retired Navy hero whom Hitch calls the Commander, affect his opinions, if not his psyche? And Hitch’s maligned but equal brother, Peter Hitchens, is almost absent from the pages. An entire memoir describing how both Hitchenses became who they are—and how they managed to survive childhood—would be far more interesting than stories about going to a brothel with Martin Amis. Genuine pathos and real insight could be had in a story of the Brothers Hitchens, a truly original tale of lifelong affection and heated battle. But a trip to a brothel really only has one or two possible endings. Hitch is as banal here as a Disney fable, though the “happy ending” in his memoir is admittedly much more banal—the most banal thing in the world, in fact.

One of the great disheartenments in life is to find out what your hero thinks about himself. However brave he was in the face of violence and ridicule, however many books he read or great men he rubbed shoulders with, the soul that Hitchens desired for himself was fundamentally no different from that of any Baby Boomer. He abided by Gore Vidal’s (or was it Aldous Huxley’s?) dictum, “I’ve never passed up the opportunity to have sex or to appear on television.” He lived out the life of a 68’er maybe as fully as possible: As a young man, marching the streets of Berkeley and the sugar fields of Cuba, then marinating in a couple decades of lazy decadence and the pursuit of Mammon and fame, all culminating in the full-throated defense of a Republican hack and American empire, the rejection of God, obesity, and the belief on his deathbed that he had succeeded in doing things his “own way.” As a life-force, Hitchens was seemingly indomitable, his hedonism, self-regard, and pride never meeting a fall until Death, which of course must come to us all.

And yet separated from that life, from that Promethean spark that impelled him, there is not much to appreciate in Hitchens-the-corpse. The soul that animated him, for the most part, died with the body. He is more of a folk hero than a hero. Young men turning to his work for solace, as I once did, will be disappointed at how little they will find.

Hitch was a not primarily a man of ideas. This is fine for a journalist, but it places a high burden on the journalist to keep his life interesting; for when his life becomes boring, so does his writing. Hitchens was adept at keeping his life interesting. But he did this by imitation, not because he was a true original. His primary influence was a far greater writer, and a far greater man, George Orwell.

Anyone with even a passing interest in the men can see the effect of Orwell on Hitchens. Hitchens did his mentor the disservice of repeating Lionel Trilling’s foolish belief that Orwell, for all his talents, was not a genius. This is garbage, grown out of the idea that greatness is unrecognizable outside the halls of academe. “Politics and the English Language” will be read a century hence (if anyone is reading at all), and 1984 is the novel of the 20th Century—about the only book which can acknowledge the inhumanity of our current age and still be sold in Walmart. Orwell’s personal musings show a complex, subtle soul, his intellectual courage prevented him from attaining the popularity he deserved in his lifetime, and his best insights were terrifying in their simplicity and poetic breadth in a way such that no modern writer can compare.

In a sense, we are all living in Orwell’s shadow, but this was especially true of Hitchens, who was always able to delude himself that he was living in Orwell’s 1930s and forever negotiating between the ideological Scylla and Charybdis of Hitler and Stalin. Given his own context, Orwell’s quest against totalitarianism made sense; Hitch had to travel to the Third World to find dictators to inveigh against. Orwell was shot in the neck in Spain; Hitch had to settle for being beaten up in Beirut after drawing graffiti. And beyond personal imitation, it often seems that Hitchens made a point to borrow directly from Orwell’s bibliography. Both men published criticisms of liberal nuisances Kipling, Dickens, and Gandhi. Perhaps Hitch’s prose was better polished. Yet Orwell had the insight to know in the 1946 that the word “fascism” meant scarcely more than “something not desirable,” whereas Hitch helped coin “Islamo-fascism.” Orwell fought a crusade against the Bloomsbury group’s equivalence between the Tory government and the Nazis; Hitch fought a crusade to convince the chattering classes that Saddam Hussein was Hitler. These comparisons have something like tragedy and farce to them. The one realm where Hitch seemed to depart from and surpass his role model was in his atheism—but more on that later.

In retrospect, it’s almost embarrassing how closely Hitchens tried to live in Orwell’s skin. Hitchens could not do the same with the elephantine G.K. Chesterton, yet we find a similar, stranger patrimony, between Fleet Streeters here as well. Hitchens’s last review in The Atlantic was of Chesterton’s collected works, and culminated in a scathing, aphorism: Chesterton was frivolous about the serious and serious about the frivolous. In this rebuke is hidden more than Hitchens would have liked to acknowledge: For all of Hitchens’s so-called contrarianism, his materialism never let him depart too far from egoism and the self-seriousness self-worship demands. Both Hitchens and Chesterton were witty men of letters from middle-class backgrounds. Both defended now-unpopular wars for the sake of anti-imperialism and begrudged patriotism. The last works of both men were memoirs that contain the same line about how they would never pass up the opportunity to talk religion and politics in polite company (though Hitch, eternal Boomer, adds sex to this list). Hitchens was also fond of borrowing Orwell’s notion borrowed from Chesterton of “good bad books.”

Perhaps this genealogy is too speculative. But direct comparison is insightful even without my pet theory. Chesterton and Hitch both trafficked in aphorisms. Yet the difference is this: Chesterton’s aphorisms were sharp, and his thrusts were backed by the mettle of sound philosophy; GKC can do real damage to Shaw, Wells, and Nietzsche in the span of a couple paragraphs. Hitch’s aphorisms are bon mots, the kind that elicit laughs over cocktails but draw no blood. Could anyone imagine Hitch writing a book like Chesterton’s Aquinas biography—grappling with nominalism and scholasticism in a way that sets seasoned Thomists at awe? Chesterton’s beliefs may have been wrong, but those beliefs were deep. Hitchens did not have a philosophy beyond puerile beliefs in negative liberty—forever unaware that the sole merit of liberalism’s negative liberty is in protecting positive beliefs. A man of Chesterton’s genius could never have written a book as philosophically vacuous as god is not Great [sic].

And we finally arrive at the atheism. It was with atheism that Hitch could finally distinguish himself from Orwell. Hitch 22 reeks of the undeserved success Hitch experienced with god [sic], and serves as an attempt to backward engineer all his previous work under the heading of “anti-theism.” By 2010, the anti-totalitarian bent he lifted from Orwell has shifted towards that “dictator in the sky,” and suddenly his work is not loose plagiarism, but on the forefront of the newest freedom—the liberation of man from God. Finally, he has an ethos with which he could adapt the work of his acknowledged hero, Satan. (This is not Christian pettiness on my part—in his Proust exam he cites Milton’s Satan as a hero!)

The correct response to this is scoffs. It all reeks of moral cowardice and intellectual laziness, both of which characterized Hitch’s thought, writing, and actions through the peak years of his popularity. His insisted-upon socialism is a case in point: Does state control of the means of production lead to tyranny or not? The answer to this question is important not only in reflecting on Castro or Hugo Chavez but on the NHS and Obamacare. Or another: Hitch, commendably, and in one of his few acts of true “contrarianism,” recognized that a fetus is, in fact, a human being, and therefore has some claim to life. Nonetheless, he arrogantly mocked Mother Teresa for calling abortion the “greatest threat to world peace” in her Nobel Prize speech. Well, if a fetus is a human, then every year more humans are killed by abortion than in the Shoah. An intellectually honest man would have to concede that the “Albanian dwarf” had somewhat of a point. But the vapid, gratuitous insult is more important to Hitch than honesty, and that’s what the reader is left with.

At the end of his life, Hitch never realized that other leftists were laughing at him. Writers like Gore Vidal, Cockburn, and the rest were all just as contemptuous of God, all just as atheistic. The difference is that committed leftists learned from Voltaire and Gibbon that God is to be mocked or shoved aside in a pithy line like Marx’s “opiate of the masses,” not addressed seriously. My own Catholicism is, in part, a side effect of Hitchens’s quixotic war: If not for someone like Hitchens even raising my awareness of theism, I may well have continued down the left’s “arc of history,” ineluctably aimed towards Stalin and Sodom as it is. The anti-Christ (or more precisely, anti-Church) is the leitmotif running through all left-wing movements. The resurrected Robespierre, Marx, Rousseau, might be disgusted with the modern left’s transsexuals, ethnic pandering, and general incoherence, but they would be thrilled with the progress of atheism. The hatred of immutable morality and hierarchy has always been the central core of the left. Hitch insisted on exposing this fact, all for the sake of shallow boasting and self-aggrandizement—remember that Orwell had only warred with Stalin and Hitler, while Christopher Eric Hitchens was combating the Great Dictator Himself! But what’s the point? The pill won more souls to Satan than any argument. This, more than his Bush-supporting, was his true act of betrayal.

Hitchens’s adherence to classical liberalism has won him a following among the chattering conservatives, and it is really only these centrists who still view Hitch fondly. The journalist himself is classical liberalism incarnate—the man untethered to anything but logic, winning over his audience with the force of words and reason alone. And the temptation to liberalism is strong among journalists; it hearkens back to the days when it was pamphleteers who stoked on the liberal revolutions in American and France. If at first, it seems strange that so many milquetoast conservative journalists would fall into formation behind the cosmopolitan, lovable sot, we have to remember that journalists see themselves as journalists before anything else.And Hitchens was the freest of all journalists, unfettered by dull beats, idiotic copy editors, or the most blatantly propagandistic aspects of the trade. Christopher Hitchens was the journalist’s conception of what a journalist should be.

Yet for all of this, his work does not hold up. Hitch pumped out great amounts of material on a vast array of subjects but very rarely provided enough unique insight to give his pieces lasting power beyond the topics at hand. His contrarianism never formed a distinct political or philosophical perspective. His jeremiads against Kissinger and the Clintons are well-aimed but are really nothing special. His biography of Jefferson is lackluster, his atheist work embarrassing. The one time Hitch charted his own intellectual path was in defending the “liberation” of a sovereign nation by the most oppressive imperial power the world has ever known; no one but a fool would want to follow those footsteps. What kind of school could form in the wake of such a man? What would a “Hitchens-esque” work even look like, besides being snide and verbose?

Hitch had many noble qualities, but no great ones. He has many fine works, but no exceptional ones. His best self-was found in the short, punchy pieces he wrote for The Nation and Slate, where his love of wordplay, aphorism, and insult did not have to be diluted with his weak philosophies; Hitch’s best book was The Long Short War for this reason. Classical liberalism is an overrated and unserious philosophy, but Hitch was committed to it—witness his insistence on treating Mos Def like an equal on Bill Maher; he seemed unaware that treating blacks as moral equals is the modern definition of racism. Hitch likes to quote Chomsky’s quote of Marx: That he could not support a revolution that destroyed the British Museum, where so many great radicals educated themselves. If the Congressional Black Caucus has its way, all three men will be nothing but a skin color.

In the six years since his death, it’s astounding to think Hitch gave even tacit support to the causes he once did. Mr. Jefferson’s Party is now insistent upon demographic replacement which will make Anglo-Saxon values irrelevant, and Mr. Madison’s Constitution, written to crush Mr. Shays, is now employed to preach state-supported anarchy in the streets. Hitchens liked to believe his was living perpetually in 1968 or 1938, or 1776 and, Boomer that he was, he let pride and corpulence blind his vision and sense to what was actually going on. The socialism, anti-racism, and anti-theism he promoted in the most florid terms are now used as cudgels by vulgarians who want to eradicate men like Christopher Hitchens. The hallowed pages of Hitchens’s Atlantic are now represented by Ta-Nehisi Coates, a man whose soul is nothing but his skin pigment, his brain a cheap thesaurus. And that’s not even mentioning the rise of Donald Trump.

What would Hitch have to say about these developments? The answer: Who cares? Hitch’s writing, like the historical liberty he loved, is now irrelevant for anything but weak consolation.His fans should acknowledge this, and understand that while he was battling the “totalitarian in the sky,” the true totalitarians were seizing power before their eyes. Upon his cancer-bed, Hitch held fast to his belief that upon death his soul would be annihilated while his work might yet endure. Still, pride must have its fall. Hitch’s immortal soul still exists somewhere, yet his corpus has scarcely outlasted his corpse.

Hitch-22?

Thermidor Repoast: Spirit of a Spiritless Situation: On the Right’s Failure to Organize

If you’re going to surround yourself by Marxists, I recommend doing so around the time of an economic collapse. I happened to be in such a situation during the financial crisis of 2008, and the experience was about as exhilarating as an experience can be, when you’re hanging around people who read the Grundrisse for fun. Indeed, there was a brief period of time when it looked like Congress would allow the entire financial system of the United States to collapse because individual Congressmen were not getting the pork they wanted from the bailout bill. What a way for the evil empire to collapse!—an economy based on sucking the last value out of every person and thing would perish because its managers longing for that one last dime! Of course, the pork was eventually delivered, the bailouts eventually went through, and the nation was kept afloat—our system is yet too plastic to splinter and fail. But there was a wonderful span of about four days when it looked like all the contradictions on which our system was based were going to come to a head.

This was also the time of the McCain/Obama election—a wholly bourgeois contest, yes, but one which we saw as a battle between our old ally Keynes and our enemy Milton Friedman, whose school of thought was looking worse and worse with each passing week and each new Paul Krugman editorial. Still, I joked with my friends that real Marxists surely must have been rooting for McCain and the Chicago School. Let the market correct itself, comrades! Make the system brittle, make the national income plummet to greater depths, let labor and capital fight like beetles in a jar! Of course, my proposal was met with scoffs. And I myself would’ve never seriously thought of voting against the Obama ticket. Sure, McCain-Palin would have more quickly ushered in the contradiction which finally allowed for a dictatorship of the working class. But Sarah Palin? Even a Marxist can learn prudence in those instances.

Still, I couldn’t help note the inconsistency of my Marxist friends. Were we serious about the collapse of capitalism or not? Did we actually believe in historical materialism, in the degeneracy of the capitalist system, in the inevitable rise of its contradictions which would lead to its doom? Or were we more interested in electing the brown, anti-American little effete who was sure to usher in sodomite marriage and government-by-Ted-Talk? Of course, the Old Master didn’t stand a chance.

I wouldn’t have been able to enunciate it then, but there’s something quaint, old-fashioned—dare I say, conservative about Marxism in its purest form. Marx was a brilliant man, but also very much a man of his time: Fundamentally bourgeois in his mindset, Eurocentric to a tee, racist and sexist, and, most crucially, consumed with a notion of class that now seems positively Jurassic in the age of “intellectual capital” and the “ownership economy.” We have become so used to referring to vague, arbitrary terms like “middle class” that we forget Marx’s definitions of classes possessed stark clarity—the proletarian worked in the capitalist’s factories, and the capitalist exploited his labor. Where are these factories today? Where are the workers? Who can take the labor theory of value seriously in a service economy driven by financial opacity and arbitrage?

Few modern Marxists are able to see Marx and his teachings as they were, but Marx would be appalled to see the state of modern Marxists. The great accomplishments of the “cultural Marxists” would undoubtedly horrify the man who thought society had reached its “acme of inhumanity” in 1845 with the widespread use of child labor. Now, he would look upon a world of workers so alienated from their true station in life that most of them think themselves nothing but consumers; not only consumers but consumers who let marketing execs determine their cultural lives and moral systems, consumers who dope and castrate their children to better conform them to the regnant superstructure. The Old Master would see, just as the modern reactionary does, that all these so-called accomplishments of the left are excrescences of the capitalist economy, attempts to homogenize the underclasses into a vast reserve of exploitable subjects. And accordingly, at any modern protest, Karl Marx would be spat-upon by mulatto lesbians, beaten up by pre-op trannies, summarily shouted down as a fascist.

“Marxism” is still used by the right as a bogeyman. But liberalism is far more radical than Marxism. Marxism made definite claims. But “liberalism” itself is an almost meaningless term; to one generation it means free markets, to another statism; the scourge of corporations in one generation, their greatest proponent to the next; just this past week we saw Democrats dust off the Tenth Amendment, after over one hundred years of obsolescence, in order to defend California’s right to keep their ethnic enclaves wholly lawless. For liberalism is not fundamentally a political project or an ideology, it is simply change oriented around the intransigent, incoherent claim that man can rule himself by his own standards. There is no shaming a liberal with hypocrisy because he has no set objective ends, only a means of attainment. The liberal state and the capitalist economy are, in tandem, the perfect Darwinian replicator: Together they have destroyed all traditional social forms, and what the state cannot crush, the market will. Liberalism is not a belief so much as a virus, holding within it the DNA of all the past “liberalisms” that have ever existed. There is no prior form of leftism which modern liberalism has not outpaced. Even poor Marx is left in the dustbin of history.


This is all in the way of throat-clearing, to say that the problem with the modern right is that we are always duped by this enemy. We think we are attacking something solid, but this is always a form of shadow-boxing, and we make no progress. Liberalism is such a steam-rolling force that many on the right think it has something to teach us, even when it doesn’t.

It is of this offense that David Hines is guilty, most recently in his essays in the Federalist. There are few conservative writers so attuned to the facts on the ground as Hines, who first became well-known to the dissident right for his tweetstorm last year on the “cold civil war” and leftist organizing. That civil war language is bold, but Hines is fundamentally a pretty standard conservative. Reactions to his latest piece have some saying that Hines could easily throw his hat in the professional pundit ring with some success. But thank Goodness he doesn’t. The oleaginous slime adhering to the professional scribbler class has not been slathered over Hines.

Organizing is a big theme for Hines, and almost all of Hines’s punditry centers around the right’s failure to organize in any effective manner. This is certainly the theme of his first article, which centers on the demon-infested little maggots exploiting the Parkland shooting. To no one’s surprise, these high schoolers are not merely assaulting the Second Amendment from their parents’ living rooms, but have at their backs seemingly the entire machine of progressive politics, from Debbie Wassermann Schultz, a major teacher’s union, Michael Bloomberg’s groups, the Women’s March working on the upcoming March For Our Lives, MoveOn.org, and Planned Parenthood (why not?).Hines wonders how it took two weeks for the media to pick up on the fact that the Parkland drama club is merely the public face of so many liberal institutions.

The answer is pretty simple: The media were lying. But I imagine the question was rhetorical, and Hines’s exasperation is feigned, given the rest of the article is an excuse to fall back to his regular hobbyhorse of organization tactics. Specifically, he calls out the modern right, who in their hubris and foolishness think that their internet followings have the capability of turning into a real-world political force without developing a real-world infrastructure beforehand. He holds out as an example Baked Alaska, who for all his thousands of followers online, couldn’t get together a handful of Trump supporters to have a flash mob in LA. According to Hines, no matter how many podcasts they produce, comment sections they commandeer, and moral victories they gain, as long as the right can’t organize in real life, the movement is doomed.

The right has incompetent institutions: This much is so true that it can’t be reproached. But in focusing on this fact, Hines’s critique threatens to mislead his readers into thinking the problem is far more soluble than it is. Especially in his most recent article, where he proposes some steps conservatives could take to equal lefties in their organizing, he threatens to give the right the false comfort that their problems are merely logistical. But this is far from the truth.

For one, there is an inherent contradiction in the right’s goals and the process of organizing. A friend of mine ran with some honest-to-goodness white nationalists in high school. Where are they now? Doing what they want. Any real white nationalist worth his salt knows that he has no hope of commandeering the state. He just wants to be left alone. So he buys some land, gets some guns, learns a trade, and he’s set. Imagine a protest at the Capitol: “We Just Want Our Privacy!” Most white nationalists have guns and have no desire to run afoul of anyone, let alone our police state. They’re happy right where they are. Ironically, the most extreme rightists are better acclimated to the world than those of us prattling on about the movement; the true extremists know their place.

But the more serious reason that the right can’t organize is that even when a will exists, there is simply no logical nexus which might hold the right together. The center cannot hold because there is no center. It isn’t about lack of gumption or motivation on the part of the right; it goes much deeper than that. The more important reason that explains the inability of the Right to organize is that, in all honesty, they can’t. To unify around a belief requires, first and foremost, a unifying belief. Something the right is remarkably bereft of.

This fact was pretty clear in Charlottesville. Those marching to defend the historic American nation really have not much to do with the Nazi larping on the AltRight. Even less can the Christian, who sees his freedom in imitating the meekness and temperance of his Creator, find common ground with the burlesque paganism operating as a motive force for so many on the Alt-Right. If you got all those Charlottesville protesters together and asked them to write even one paragraph of what their common substantive beliefs were, I doubt you would succeed. For these people simply do not hold compatible positions.

No doubt, it’s possible for political coalitions to form around differently-minded groups in the name of expediency, even when those differences serve to invalidate the very premises of another group. But to be an active force, to get people moving, to get shoe leather in the streets, you must provide your adherents with some compelling force to get them there. Men are not motivated by proposals or policies, they are motivated by creeds. And the right lacks any unifying idea but for the belief that the left is, in various ways, shapes, and forms, bad. Anti-leftism is a principle for twitter rants and other online bloviating, but it is not a principle for action. Why does the right tend to attract so many madmen? Because madmen attach meaning to things that have none. To organize requires a sense of purpose. The collective right could have a million people on call, dedicated leaders, overflowing coffers, and yet they would still fail because they lack a purpose.It isn’t that the right is bad at organizing per se; they simply have no logical position to organize around. Hence arises the ceaseless debate over “optics” on the right; they cannot decide on their underlying motivations or goals, and so they focus on their trouser colors.

And the right’s failure cannot be limited to the contradictions between different factions. Even within particular groups, the liberal virus has so withered the logical foundations of traditional thought that even the most dedicated and morally valiant eventually break down under their own contradictions. Let me give an example of this: The anti-abortion movement during the Reagan/Bush years.

It’s hard to conceive of now, but in the years before the Casey betrayal, there were many good reasons to be optimistic about the prospect of overthrowing the abortion regime in the United States. Maybe the greatest of these was the number of zealots who were fighting abortion in the streets. The zeal was most notoriously seen in the violent attacks on abortion clinics and abortionists themselves—of course, these attacks were limited to a small group of people. Less notorious was the tactic of lying down in front of abortion clinic entrances, blocking the access of anyone who wanted to enter the facilities. For obvious reasons, this was an effective means of disrupting the operations of the clinics and deterring women from slaughtering their children, and as a credit to the abortion movement before God and man, the practice was widespread. Before his ordination, the current auxiliary bishop of St. Paul spent a number of weeks in jail for just this reason.

This all changed with the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act in 1994. The supposed impetus of the Act was the highly-publicized violence threatened and actually committed against abortionists. This was specious, of course. State law was sufficient to punish terroristic threats, property destruction, and homicide, and did not really need the weight of federal government behind it. The real reason for the FACE Act was to quash those protesters who were blocking traffic to the clinics. As they had already shown, anti-abortion activists were not scared of going to the state pen. But one year in a federal penitentiary is a much different matter.

To this day, there is no serious opposition to Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, not on federalism grounds, not on the grounds that it is redundant and overly punitive, not on the grounds that thousands of babies would have been saved over the past 24 years were it not in effect. Yet there are plenty of pro-lifers in Congress, plenty of pro-lifers in the parishes, plenty in the streets who were well-organized and capable of leading an opposition to the Act. Yet they did not.

Failure to attack the FACE Act was not owing to any lack of organization or leadership on the part of the Pro-Life movement, but because the Pro-Life movement would not commit to its logical premises which the Act brought out in the open. Not every anti-abortion protester has to believe that violence against abortionists’ people and property is morally justified—he may think the exact opposite. But he at least has to recognize that, given the severity of the crime meant to be deterred, the violent protester has somewhat of a point. If abortion is the murder of an innocent—as its opponents claim—then using violence to prevent this murder is justified in the eyes of man and God. But the movement was not willing to face this consequence, and thereby it emasculated itself. Because if abortion was not a crime worthy of prevention by commensurate force, then it was not really the crime they claimed it was. And if the crime was not murder, was it really one worth going to the Federal pen for?

And so a child’s right to life was made to heel before a driver’s right-of-way. A movement that had zeal, had organization, had political support that was both widespread and high-reaching, which on its face, should have been successful, could not survive without confronting the logical necessities arising out of its basic beliefs, or overcome the contradictions in the position it eventually adopted—that the prevention of the murder of innocents could coexist with respect for those murderers’ property rights. The movement could not overcome its own logical contradictions, and thus it was doomed.

Hines recites a quote from Jonathan Smucker which he deploys in deprecation of impotent righties: “Power tends to appear magical to those who have less of it, and mechanical to those who are accustomed to wielding it instrumentally.” But power does not come from organization; organizations arise because of power. And that power is, in a sense, magical when compared with the material world and the tedium of logistics, because true power is based on ideas. And for the right, there are very few ideas which have not been so tainted by some liberal solecism as to be useless as a motivating principle for reactionary movement. To play the game of politics against this—or at least to think politics is sufficient in this battle—is to lose, because the logic of the world is against the reactionary.

The zeitgeist is more efficacious than a thousand meetings. Liberals argue about tactics because they don’t have to worry about definitions—those can always change, and with liberals, they always do. And the demands of liberalism control every institution, have infected every social circle, every religion. Liberalism’s apostles don’t even know they are so; they don’t even know they would die for the cause until they’re already gone.

Again: the modern right requires ideas because it requires faith in something unseen. Liberals don’t have to argue about ideas; the claims they make don’t require faith because to be alive in the modern world is to be immersed in an organic system from which any kind of alternative is invisible, any kind of escape inconceivable. The wounds of their god are tangible before them. Let’s turn back to Charlottesville and consider one of its martyrs, Heather Heyer. Who knows if she expected to die that day? She was an obese woman, nourished by crap corporate cuisine, sedated by junk corporate entertainment; she had offered her intellect to meaningless paralegal work, her womb to Netflix and Three-buck Chuck. If she was depressed, the market provided her with pills that could tranquilize her, which the state might have subsidized; if she wanted a quick endorphin-rush she could go on tindr and find some slummer to shake her haunches; if by some chance her subsidized contraception failed, she could kill her child at the local state-funded abortionist. Dressed in sweatpants, her parents eulogized her at the place of her death with words that would be trite in a three-minute pop song. Heather Heyer was a martyr for the left even before she died, she just didn’t know it yet.


Given the ubiquity of liberal thought, turning to mush all that is solid in the soul of every institution and man, the NRA stands like an obelisk. The NRA is the only effective right-wing organization in America, maybe the only organization that has ever actually protected the historic rights of Americans. This unique success has not been owing to its organization per se, though its organization is excellent. It isn’t about leadership or funding per se. It survives and thrives because the NRA has a definite logical position which it inculcates in every one of its members.At the heart of every claim made by the NRA is the moral claim that men have a right to self-defense. The immutable law of self-defense is the most basic of all natural rights, the one which must exist if any natural rights are to exist at all. And the very act of being in the NRA necessitates one adopt this fundamental belief. To partake in the organization is to be made a believer. The modern Catholic Church cannot even make this claim.

The total effect of this is remarkably small as far as raising a right-wing “consciousness,” to use a Marxist term. Gun ownership does not seem to be much of a gateway to any form of rightism outside Conservative Inc. By and large, gun owners are not greatly critical of democracy, not particularly good Christians, are deeply unskeptical of our Jacobin military and police, and don’t want to contemplate that Africans might have a different set of skills and capabilities as whites—though the gun-toters will happily blow their brains out if one of them tries to steal his flatscreen. In truth, the only rights Second Amendment nuts have protected are the rights enumerated in the Second Amendment. Gun owners will not defend their families, their neighborhoods, their women, their religion. Just guns and their flatscreens.

But we have to start somewhere. The logic of the modern state is skeptical of the right of self-defense because it threatens the state’s monopoly on violence. The technocratic state does not want to protect general rights, or even acknowledge their existence; it wants instrumental rights wholly dependent on the whims of the ruling class. Whether they understand these terms or not, the NRA opposes this.

When the NRA “organizes,” it does so not to promote its existence to the public or make some show of force, but to teach people how to use firearms. They don’t waste time, resources, or legitimacy to stage meaningless protests which are going to convince no one. NRA events are designed to make their cause stronger among their own members, not futilely trying to sway those who hate them. Most importantly, their members believe in their cause because the cause is something that can be believed in, and everything the NRA does serves to strengthen their commitment to their creed. Surely, the NRA could throw around its authority much more than it does. But why would it? There’s a story of a mobster testifying before Congress who was asked by one of the Congressman what it meant to be powerful. The response of the mobster, leaning back in his chair: “Power is like being ladylike. If you have to say you got it, you don’t.”

Liberal causes are always diffuse, always based on either breaking down existing forms, established by tradition or by nature, or protecting the destruction they have already wrought. But a truth once asserted, can simply be and lose strength only when it is forgotten. The liberal must always be in the process of persuading; the reactionary is always in the process of forcing people to remember what they already knowProtesting itself is an act of weakness, a sign that the implicit violence of public approval is necessary for your cause’s legitimacy.

For the NRA to continue to prevail, they merely have to stay true to themselves. The left has to worry about tactics, gun owners have to worry about courage. And as long as gun owners stay strong, they control the terms of the battle. Every new attack from the left sees increased NRA membership and a glut in gun sales. The worst thing that could happen would be for liberal agitation to stop; for the mighty Roman NRA to be without its Carthage. Remember, liberalism cannot survive real conflicts, it cannot allow for contradictions; the parasite it is, it cannot thrive without first poisoning its host. Liberalism conquers by dissolving the virtue of its enemies, not by the virtue of its own strength. But how will they do this with the NRA, when the central impetus behind the organization is so simple, so unassailable? Like a butternut too hard to crack, it can only be destroyed by interior rot.

Again, liberals don’t win victories by convincing anyone of their arguments, but by wearing away the values of regnant beliefs and institutions until the average man’s choice is between one of many liberalisms. The one way the NRA will fail is if it begins doubting its own strength—and yes, wasting money on things like organizing events which depart from their one true purpose. The media don’t matter, opinion polls don’t matter, votes don’t matter.To depart from the creed, or to believe that creed is dependent on liberal politics, is to give away the game; to accept the left’s terms is to reject solidity, and in so doing, to lose everything.


Not even my Marxist friends could handle the full meaning of the dialectic of history. But then again, very few can. Every sane man is a conservative in the sense that every man needs time to acclimate to great changes—even anarchists prefer to know what they’re going to eat for breakfast next morning. Human nature, in its animal sense, is moderate, conservative; our thoughts are radical because truth is radical.

In the short run, the conservative is the primary enemy of the reactionary. The liberal is like a disease injected into the social body, the conservative is the tranquilizer allowing it to more painlessly spread. It is the conservative who lets the dialectic continue without contradiction; who allows definitions to be softened, rights to be blurred, constitutional powers to wax and wane. The conservative is a coward—too frightened to give into that world where (to return to the Old Master), “all that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses, his real conditions of life, and his relations with his kind.” Yet the conservative blanches when confronted with the necessary opposition to this, which is to unite to the Eternal. The conservative simply wants peace of mind and what material comforts he can have. And to allow for this, he lets his reality be a kind of Bayesian analysis, requiring the hedging of bets, the weighing of alternatives. And thus, the purpose of the conservative is to not allow definitions to change too quickly but to still let them change. Such a stance can be defended on no intellectually honest terms outside the realm of liberal fallacy, but cowardice makes liberal consciences in them all.

It’s tempting, along with Moldbug, to call the United States a communist country. But communism is something solid, tangible, definable. Marx’s materialism makes sense only in a system where contradictions can form. And yet contradictions cannot form without something concrete first being said. The contradictions which Marx expected to see in liberal capitalism are actually played out in communist societies, because communist societies take a position on class structure, on law, on government, on which the passage of time can have an effect. Liberals face none of these constraints. Liberalism doesn’t have to suffer from contradictions because it never has to stick to a definition. And yet the chaos by which it destroys and conquers would be unendurable if it came on too fast. The poison of liberalism, without conservatism as a palliative, would soon wear out the body politic, would ossify into something that might be attacked. The liberal yearns for the fleshly desire of concupiscence, the conservative the fleshly desire for rest. Both are looking at the world the same way.

But our politics requires radicalism because our intellectual lives require radicalism because beingitself requires radicalism. Either Being exists, or it doesn’t; either Truth exists, or it doesn’t. It is not only cowardly to stake a halfway point but incoherent. The goal of the modern right is to discover what is True, what is definite, even if it is painful—especially if it is painful—and to live according to the Truth as best as we are able. Absent this, all right-wing organizations will stand like Potemkin villages, ready to be toppled with one push. And all else must melt into air.

Thermidor Repoast: Devil’s Bargain: The March for Life and the Novus Ordo Church

It’s funny, to someone who knows the history, how close the Minnesota state capitol sits to the cathedral of Saint Paul. Our first archbishop, John Ireland, was one of the great proponents of the Americanist heresy, that belief that our nation’s Catholics must adjust their creeds to the way of democratic government, so perhaps it’s fitting that Minnesota’s great temple to Christ stands so near our temple to Demos—they seem almost to share space, separated as they are by a lot of scraggly grass called our mall, the Minnesota History Museum, and an ugly thoroughfare from downtown to the interstate. Though, as a credit to the Catholic men who built that cathedral, Christ’s dome still stands higher, and looms greater, from the distance. The cathedral was built on a hill.

About that hill: A mid-January custom has arisen at the cathedral called the “Crashed Ice” festival, a poor man’s X-Games sponsored by Red Bull energy drinks. I was in town for another mid-January event, the March for Life at the capitol, coming in from an outstate diocese with a busload of fellow Catholics. Our bus drove right beneath the ramp on which dozens of skaters would soon race, accompanied by the sounds of cheering crowds and thumping pop music, resounding through the empty temple, through tabernacle and the body of Christ. On this warm, iceless day, it stuck out from the face of the cathedral-like a long nose. There was part of me that hoped that our busload of Catholics—including some priests and the bishop—would rush out and tear down the scaffolding, though I learned later the cathedral young adults group actually sends volunteers to the event. Part of the new evangelization, I guess.

This is what goes for positive publicity amongst Minnesotan Catholics nowadays. The archdiocese not long ago declared bankruptcy after sex abuse lawsuits and some frivolous criminal charges brought by the Ramsey County Attorney. At the height of this controversy Archbishop Nienstedt, who three years before valiantly supported a constitutional referendum to define marriage as between one man and one woman, was accused of being a homosexual and forced to resign. These allegations were probably false, but in a country were two-thirds of American Catholics support gay marriage, what are you going to do?

And truthfully, getting hung up about the desecration of a cathedral is one thing, but being surprised about it is another. Most Catholic public events are only nominally so—they display not only indifference to the faith, but a certain level of embarrassment by it. Your average modern parish will host quite a few bake sales, charity auctions, AA meetings through the year; very few will broach upon a direct mention of God. One gets the feeling, attending modern church events, that they are attempts to prove to the government the social benefit of tax-exemptions, not any attempt to convert the heathen within their walls. Such is the state of the modern Church.


Against the backdrop of the craven and weak modern Church, the March for Life is exceptional. Otherwise moribund parishes actively engage in pro-life causes. Priests and bishops who blanch away from condemning contemporary evils gain the courage to call out the mass carnage wrought by the American abortion regime. Even Fr. James Martin, who otherwise might serve as the incarnated culmination of all heresies, recognizes the right to life of the unborn. It’s one of the few realms where churchmen and the laity are in relative accord. In a modern world seemingly free from any kind of zealots, the pro-life movement appears almost Pentecostal.

A dead baby, after all, is a dead baby. And this, in fact, explains why the pro-life cause is so popular in the modern Church. Events like the March for Life show that the laity still has a desire to believe in something greater than themselves, and churchmen still have a desire to lead their flocks in the way of virtue. But it’s relatively easy to convince people sitting in the pews that the murder of babies is a bad thing—much easier than talking about the blood of Christ, the perpetual virginity of the Blessed Mother, the fires of Hell, surely. In a sense, the very outsized part the pro-life movement plays in the modern Church shows her weakness in a country drunk on materialism and of lukewarm faith.

In practice, the Catholic commitment to oppose abortion is incredibly weak; Catholics generally look like hypocrites and liars. Let’s look past the non-enforcement of Canon Law which allows rabid abortion-lovers like Tim Kaine and Nancy Pelosi to remain in good standing in the Church. We might chalk this up to the weakness of the institutional Church in the United States, an acknowledgment of the inarguable powerless of their position more than a betrayal of principle. Denying Democrats the Eucharist will do nothing but bring on the persecution at a faster clip. Why risk the damnation of all for the sake of those who are already beyond hope?

It’s more instructive to look at the Church in realms over which it has complete authority more autonomy of Third World immigrants, who vote overwhelmingly for candidates who support abortion. Anyone even moderately acquainted with the statistics who can argue that immigration is not intimately connecting with the pro-life cause is a dirty liar; as long as American demographic trends continue, the pro-life cause is dead in the water.

Yet the Catholic Church in the United States is one of the greatest proponents of immigration. The vague moral precept in the Catechism that rich nations should take in the poor has been transformed into a mandate, with the necessary effect that Americans will never be able to make laws according to Christian morality at all! More fascinating than this is the Church’s late succor to illegals, for this is not just wretched policy, but it is a sin. All Catholics are obligated to follow just, generally applicable laws. Nor is flouting a mere regulation; illegal immigration requires constant lies, theft, and fraud on the part of the immigrant.

How can churchmen justify this? There is no coherent Christian argument that US immigration laws, in general, or in particular, are unjust. Illegal immigration is not only evil in its effect, but evil in its very practice. The institutional Church’s policy on immigration is not merely stupid; it is not merely hypocritical; it is actively and perniciously evil. The institutional Church will violate one of its basic principles and ignore two others, all to support—what?


In all revolutions, there arises some point of inflection where the same nominal ideals which presaged the revolution remain, yet which have been thrown off-kilter so as to create a new morality starkly different from the morality of the old regime. Most transformations of this sort are, of course, accompanied by changes in outward form, making the transformation abundantly clear.

Pharisees and aesthetes complain about the physical transformation that took place following the Second Vatican Council, and these complaints are shot down by conservative Catholics, who tell us the ideals and principles of the Church remain the same—they must remain the same—it is only outward appearances which have changed, not the Church herself. But anyone who seriously considers the individual principles espoused by the Novus Ordo Church soon realizes that, while they are nominally the same as they have ever been, they have become so grossly distorted and rearranged as to form an ethos incomprehensible to the historic Church. And so it’s not enough to blame the failures of the modern Church on impotence or greed; it’s not enough to blame it on shortsightedness. In econ-speak, the Church is revealing its preference for ideals higher than protecting the lives of innocents.

Let’s put ourselves in the place of the churchmen at the time of the close of the Second Vatican Council. This was 1965, also the year of Griswold v. Connecticut, the Supreme Court decision which created a right to contraception within marriage and, accordingly, outlawed all attempts to regulate the use of birth control for married couples (single people would have to wait another seven years before receiving this privilege). Any debate about “Americanism” was settled here; the holding absolutely confirmed that the U.S. Constitution was an enemy of Catholic moral teaching. Americans had an affirmative right to commit mortal sin and, more importantly, now had no political means to prevent this evil.

The Church in America did nothing important against this declaration of war. In other times there would have been soldiers to engage in this battle. But a papal commission investigating the Church’s constant teaching on birth control left those Catholics who might have opposed the holding on shaky ground. Even when Pope Paul VI bravely confirmed the Church’s constant teaching in Humanae Vitae, enough North American bishops had signed onto the treasonous Winnipeg Statement, which blatantly opposed Paul, to make the issue a non-starter. The Church Militant were weakened in innumerable other ways: By the smashing of statues and communion rails, by the wholesale acceptance of ethnic cleansing in the form of integration, and, most importantly, the defilement of the greatest accomplishment of Western civilization: The Latin Mass.

There’s an alternate reality held by conservative Catholics where the reforms of Vatican II are properly implemented, and the reforms actually lead to a recrudescence of the faith in the Western world. This is a pipe dream. Whatever the good intentions and orthodoxy of the council fathers, Vatican II was always, in practice, a weapon to be used against the orthodox. No one could doubt this fact by the time of Roe v. Wade. To actually oppose abortion in 1973—to even have had a chance of this—would have required engaging with orthodox Catholics, both by keeping them in the pews and luring back the millions who drifted away. These were the people who had grown up under the tutelage of orthodox nuns and listening to Fulton J. Sheen and Father Coughlin. These were ethnics with proud histories, with identities apart from football teams.These were people whose neighborhoods were quickly being destroyed by civil rights law and the non-enforcement of the laws that were on the books. If ever a potential for counterrevolution existed in America, it was then.

Was this counterrevolution realistic? God knows. What is clear is that the institutional Church in the West couldn’t have allowed such a counterrevolution to occur. To succor a counterrevolution would have meant strengthening the orthodox and conservative within the Church. To oppose Roewould mean to give up the reform; to give the reins back to the rosary-fondling bigoted dark masses. This was impossible.

The Church’s opposition to abortion has never been sincere since that time. It could not be. The Novus Ordo Church was erected in part on this Faustian bargain. Of all the “smoke of Satan” that entered the Church in that period, the blot of abortion, and the Church’s almost complete failure to fight it was the darkest. This was the bargain of the Second Vatican Council. What the Vendee and the Terror were to the French, the abortion holocaust is to the revolution of Vatican Two.

Even this very year, the Church could end abortion if it so desired. In Minnesota, for example, my taxes directly help pay for abortions, per the illegal dictate of our supreme court. Every taxpayer in the state has blood on his hands, is thoroughly indicted by this great holocaust. Why not propose that Catholics abstain from these taxes? Can one propose a more moderate and efficacious program? We’re not talking about harassing or injuring abortionists. We’re not talking about property damages, even. We’re talking civil disobedience based on clear Catholic teaching, a statement of non possumus with regards to our own money being used to continue this machinery of death.

Where is the call for this? Where is discussion? Is it feasible? If it isn’t feasible, why not? What can we do to make it feasible? We’re dealing with murder, with the slaughter of innocents. Sixty million dead children—we have to think of something. Don’t we?


The best abortion counselors I’ve met—the people who actually stand outside abortion clinics, intercepting women before they can enter and murder their child. Abortion counselors are usually older women, usually hard-headed and tough, used to standing long hours in the cold and the heat, used to being spat upon by scumbags and hurried along by the cops. Truly dedicated abortion counselors take no mind of ego and optics and are aware they are operating outside the bounds of respectability. The best counselor I’ve met was barred from parking at the church closest to the abortion clinic, and the nearest coffee shop wouldn’t even serve her. Yet in her zeal and single-mindedness, she was like an assassin, though of course her “body count” was the measure of lives she had saved.

People at the March for Life are almost universally quite bubbly; friendly, gregarious, straight-laced, well-groomed. Like me, they often come from out of town, and they use the opportunity to see the sights when they can. In modern America, even a march acknowledging the holocaust of infants must be a cheery affair. The signs they hold are colorful, the messages they contain are always positive and sometimes even hilarious. One has to be optimistic because, of course, we have God on our side, and God will always prevail in the end. (Keynesian joke: In the long run, 60 million babies are dead.) The requiem mass was done away with after the Second Vatican Council, so maybe the people there just don’t know how to mourn the dead. Imagine a man in sackcloth and ashes, scourging himself with whips in the middle of the crowd of moms and dads, of cute college girls, of state legislators. That would be a little weird, eh?

What exactly are we trying to convey? We’re talking about mass murder here; not only mass murder, but mass murder of infants; not only murder of infants, but one achieved by the openly criminal usurpation of the Supreme Court. Protests are generally a means to show signs of support for policy or policymakers. But the very reason the March for Life exists is that policymaking plays no role in the abortion regime. Our free speech rights are constrained outside of abortion clinics; the “undue burden” test of Casey which was supposed to lend some leniency to the regime will not allow states to regulate abortionists as they would a regular medical provider. The Court not only spits on the law as it stands but in asserting every man’s right to define when the “mystery of human life” begins, assaults the very idea of objective law itself. Remember, the Court is a branch of government with the least inherent power. Unlike the executive, it has no police or military. Unlike the legislature, it does not control ways and means. It employs almost no one compared to the behemoths of the modern bureaucratic state. And yet the Court is allowed its stolen power with nary a fight. The ruling class will not assert the claims they can—and actually must—assert in the constitutional system.

But all for naught. Go to a march. Senators, Representatives—the President himself!—inveigh against a holding so absurd, so clearly illegal, that the Court could not adhere to its own fraud in the years between Roe and Casey (the three Republican appointees who wrote the opinion claimed precedent was the reason for keeping the test they created in Roe—then they changed the test!). It is all fraud, all theater, acted out by the most powerful people in the world, signifying nothing.

When you realize this fact, the spectacle becomes quite pathetic—embarrassing even. Yet the event is popular. There is a great deal of magnanimity at these events, but not a great deal of sincerity.When in history has a group ever made such a heavy claim—the genocide of tens of millions!—and behaved so demurely?Here we understand the humble laity are little better than their superiors. What oppressed people does not aim at the heart and root of its woes?

Remember the hubbub of Candidate Trump suggesting women who murder their children should be criminally prosecuted? Poor Candidate Trump was only saying what he thought was logically necessary. But pro-lifers said this was off limits. Perhaps some of this was realpolitik—there’s no reason to ask for blood when you have no power, after all. But you got the impression that wasn’t the case. It’s like pro-lifers wouldn’t know what to do with power even if they got it.


Still, a dead baby is a dead baby. This much can be proved by sight, sound, by touch. It stands fairly strong as a tenet of faith precisely because it requires so little faith. This fact alone explains the pro-life movement’s great significance to the Novus Ordo Church; one gets the feeling that abortion opposition is the only thing keeping the Novus Ordo Church from flying into a thousand different sects. Recognition of the numinous is now almost completely absent from the Novus Ordo mass. The central claim of the mass, that Our Lord is present in the form of bread and wine at the Eucharist, is contradicted in the very mass itself: In the fat ladies chosen as “extraordinary” Eucharistic ministers, in the boomers taking Our Lord in their hands, in the particles of Our Lord scattered over the floor, stepped upon by sandals and crocs. The New Mass, in practice, is an exercise in hypocrisy. The Church’s central ritual now tempts men not to believe in it. And, by and large, they don’t.

Still, a dead baby’s a dead baby. Let’s weigh principles again. How many young women at the March would give up, say, their vote in order to wound the regime? The ludicrous experiment of female suffrage has been an incredible failure. Why not roll it back? Remove women to the stage of their proper government, which is over the home. Would women compromise on the principle of suffrage in order to defend the principle that babies have a right to life?

But perhaps the vote is taboo. How many Marchers would give up their contraceptives? How many women would relinquish the sexual power the past half-century has given them? Outdoor protests in January are not propitious to short-shorts and tees, but you’ll still find plenty women Marchers wearing contour-fitting jeans and tights behind the “Pro-Family, Pro Women, Pro-Life” signs. For a large part of the Marchers—probably a majority—the issue of sexual morality is tenuously connected or even distinct from that of abortion. The average Marcher, just like the average American, has thoroughly embraced the contraceptive mindset. She has divorced sex from childbearing. Just stop killing your babies—then everything will be alright.

A dead baby is a dead baby. But without the underlying Christian faith, the practice of abortion is difficult to condemn morally, impossible to condemn in practice. Abortion is a second tier issue. It is the natural result of the liberation of women; the natural result of contraception, of our contemporary lack of chastity. A culture of casual sex by intellectual and spiritual fools requires some kind of suffering to maintain. Yet for almost all abortion opponents, abortion is an issue completely divorced from sex. They operate on the delusion, built by centuries of Christian sexual morality, that chastity, in the form of lifelong monogamy, is natural. But the exact opposite is true. Chastity is unnatural, unfeasible, and, as Fr. John Hardon put it, humanly impossible without divine aid in the form of the Eucharist. Chastity is unnatural. Deference to the weak is unnatural. But abortion is completely natural. Roman midwives kept a jar of water beside the bed to drown those babes they had not already snuffed out. Why should it be any different? Abortion frees up the resources of the state, liberates the passions, eliminates the defectives—the retarded, the feeble, the crippled. Why oppose this? Why give the weak such power over the strong? The helpless over the able?

To say the same thing in a different way: The modern liberal state would be unsustainable without the safety valve of abortion. Women could not be trusted as students or workers if children were an unregulated enticement away from wage-slavery. Young men might focus more on saving than the empty consumption of goods and services which keep our unproductive economy afloat. And racial grievances would finally be unsustainable; put bluntly, the system which fosters 70% illegitimacy rates among blacks, and later consigns them to stupidity and squalor through the administrative state, could not endure if so many black mothers did not slaughter their young. If blacks in New York did not snuff out half their progeny, the city would have collapsed long ago. The pro-lifer’s position is based on a moral claim; the pro-abortionist’s position is based on practical necessity.

Thus, the enemy is much more serious about abortion than we are. Modern Christians and the modern Church are simply not prepared to meet this task. When I was at the March, it was fairly large—I’m bad at estimating numbers, but probably a couple thousand. The Women’s March the day before, which supported all the things Pro-lifers must oppose (whether they know it or not) brought in 100,000. Numbers-wise, they cleaned our clocks. It’s too simple to say merely that they cared more. Their argument was stronger. The logic of hedonism is consistent. The logic of Christianity is incoherent without divine sacrifice, without suffering. And this is something few Christians, and even few pro-lifers, are willing to offer.

The problem with the modern Church is not that its churchmen are hypocrites. The problem is that they have acted too fully on what they believe, and what they believe is not in accord with Christ’s Church. And for this reason, any serious attempt to grapple with the abortion regime requires not primarily a political solution, but conversion. It must begin by the recognition that what pro-lifers strive for is not humanly possible, and the reclamation of the one institution founded by the man through whom all things were. It must begin with an attempt to reclaim the intellectual basis of the old faith before the Second Vatican Council turned it into a mere offshoot of liberalism. It must begin and end with submission to the Eucharist. Only then will we see anything close to the zeal necessary to actually strike at the heart of the abortion regime. The anger one feels in seeing his cathedral turned into an amusement park, in seeing the open traducing of the Body of Christ within, soon turns to fear when one realizes God is not mocked, and His vengeance is daily repaid.

Thermidor Repost: Day of the Lonelyhearts: A Defense of the Incels

The greatest novel ever written about Hollywood is also the greatest novel ever written about incels: Nathanael West’s *Day of the Locust.* Published in 1937, it is a brilliant portrayal of a land that has forever been a refuge of perverts and pedophiles, of starlets and their pathetic hangers-on. The plot largely concerns the attempts of two men to engage with a wannabe starlet named Faye. In one of the book’s most pungent moments, Tod, a low-level hack who is madly in love with Faye, looks upon her with admiration and contemplates her destruction:

 

“As he watched her, he felt sure that her lips must taste of blood and salt and that there must be a delicious weakness in her legs. His impulse wasn’t to aid her to get free, but to throw her down in a soft, warm mud and to keep her there. He expressed some of his desire in a grunt….Nothing less violent than rape would do. The sensation he felt was like that he got when holding an egg in his hand. Not that she was fragile or even seemed fragile. It wasn’t that. It was her completeness, her egglike self-sufficiency, that made him want to crush her.”

 

The rancid mixture of male inadequacy, female exploitation, and celluloid trash are perfectly displayed throughout the novel. At first it might seem odd to craft a tale of such hopeless losers against the backdrop of old Hollywood. But West understood that the motion picture industry exists in large part to inflame male desires, and to exploit poor losers like Tod and his buddy Homer. Hollywood has always been a magnet for perverts because it has always exploited men’s desire, a desire which, because of the mismatch of animal lust and celluloid fantasy, must always remain unrequited. Mass media makes cuckolds of us all.

 

Of course, the divide between what is pleasing to the eye and true sensuality has grown through the decades. Not only are we barraged by a thousand different forms of visual media, but every woman, through her Instagram account, has the potential to be a starlet, and through her Patreon, the power to be her own brothel. Our modern obsession with sodomy arises from this divide. Man’s lusts are now mediated through visual media, and his conceptions of sex have been so distorted, that the average man cannot conceive of sexual pleasure without recourse to the most brazen, disgusting, and often physically impossible acts. Taken individually, the average man is more sexually deviant than all but the worst of the Roman emperors, yet because of his cruel dependence on images, he is largely alienated from his own carnal nature, a slave to his own rapacious eyes. Our rulers have exploited this subservience, and turned manipulation of the libido into a science; were it not for our obsession with silicone/human hybrids, our consumer economy would be significantly weakened. It’s not just that Western men are now little more than a brood of masturbating perverts; to the extent that perversion has been written into the social fabric, we are dependent on this state.

 

It is against this background we that must analyze the incel—the involuntary celibate. It behooves us to stay in Southern California, for it was here that Elliot Rodger, the Incel of Incels, killed six before killing himself. Rodger, the son of a Hollywood hack, has become the face of incels. The term, once limited in use to weird corners of the internet, began to appear in mainstream media outlets as they latched onto the (alleged) comment found on Alek Minassian’s Facebook page before he plowed a van through a crowded Toronto walk: “All Hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!”

 

Mass murder in America only has meaning when it can be found to serve some political purpose. Given the high rate of our mass shootings, one might think the Incel Question is bound to vanish soon. But I highly doubt this is the case. The Incel Question deals with problems which our modern regime has claimed to have solved. Yes, the regime exploits our sex drives for shallow commerce, but in return it gives us a vast array of consumer goods, plentiful fodder for onanism, and the eternal hope of a long bedpost full of notches. And yet here are the incels, a sizeable class of people who have no success with women, who are not content with onanism and cheap goods to satisfy them, whose needs are most manifestly not being met, and whose complaints about this failure are met with little but scorn.

 

It is crucial to recognize the incel is himself a product of the neoliberal order. His chosen designation of “involuntary” highlights that at the very center of his self-conception is a lack of free will—one cannot be an involuntary celibate by his own choice.  The incel is generally irreligious, largely amoral, and materially shallow. In this way he differs little in philosophy or action from the average young man in our atheistic empire. The difference is that he is not content with the pittance given to him. And it is for this reason that the incel is a threat to the system itself, not primarily from the possible violence he might commit, but because he shows the neoliberal regime cannot exist without a sizeable population of men which the regime cannot satisfy. Many groups exist which oppose the neoliberal order—white nationalists, socialists, etc.—yet they generally operate on philosophies apart from the liberal persuasion. The incel is bred and conceives himself within the terms of the system, and yet the system vomits him out. The incel is the scum on the top of our over-sexed yet sexless brew of nobodies against which the regime can do nothing but skim it off the top. It is for this reason the incel cannot but remain in its sights, to be derided, ostracized, castigated, destroyed.

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In discussing incels, it is convenient to refer back to Elliot Rodger, the young murderer whose videos and manifesto, *My Twisted World,* helped articulate the mindset of the incel like no other. His hatred for women arose out of no particularly strange obsession, but out of a kind of anger and resentment every man has felt, though his to a much greater degree. There was an almost childlike purity to Eliot Rodger’s obsessions. His opinions on women and humanity were vile, but they were honest, vulnerable, and pathetic. One wishes, in reading his manifesto, that a bright, loving young man was hidden somewhere beneath the shallow, hateful egoist driven to murder. But there is none. His manifesto is banal. There are no really great insights into relations between men and women, there are no redeeming features to Elliot himself, no epiphany where he resolves to cast away his own shallowness, or unites himself to higher values or a better version of himself. He is never more than a clear-eyed adolescent.

 

We learn Elliot’s very existence on earth was “an accident.” His mother “had been taking pills to prevent pregnancy, but when she visited my father on one of his film sets, she fell ill and the medication she took for that illness thwarted the effect of the anti-pregnancy pills, and so their lovemaking during this period resulted in my life.” After the birth of a daughter, his parents divorced. Elliot always resented that his mother would not remarry, not because he wanted a father figure, but because it limited the availability of easy money, which Elliot, rightly or wrongly, saw as essential to attracting a woman: “If only my damnable mother had married into wealth instead of being selfish. If only my failure of a father had made better decisions with his directing career instead wasting his money on that stupid documentary.”

 

There is no psychic break in Elliot’s thinking; we see through the manifesto only the progress of his rapacious desires and an inability to fulfil them. He knows all too well what he wants and what he hates, and given these facts, there was no reason for him not to commit his atrocity. If insanity means acquiescence to the social system, then Elliot was insane. But if sanity means irrationality, or delusionality, or the loss of reality, we have to concede that Elliot was incredibly sane, and saw the world in stark clarity. He problem is that he saw nothing beyond it.

 

Physically, it is important to note Elliot’s Asiatic features. As much as critics might like to make incels out as white supremacists, the problem disproportionately affects men of Asian descent. Those controlling immigration policy are greedy for the labor of Indians and Orientals, and in return, they have become two of the wealthiest groups ever to have trod the North American continent. But economic success has in no way translated into the romantic realm. Asians have been welcomed into the white man’s halls of power, but white women have not let them in their beds.

 

It’s also impossible to ignore Elliot’s near-divinization of sex. It would be unfair to say that the incel is concerned only with sex. Anyone who spends time on incel boards will run across men sweet and sincere in their desire for love, for children, for recognition from the world. But it is appropriate to focus on the incel’s relation to sex, not because the incel is shallow, but because the incel has not wholly departed from the true nature of sex, and rejects the merely commercialized version of it meant to control our tastes and desires. Though the incel is a materialist, he hasn’t forgotten that sex is about more than pleasure, but has a psychic importance that nothing else in our insipid society can replicate.

 

And it is important to remember that for Elliot, romantic conquest was never purely about sex. “The Day of Retribution is mainly my war against women for rejecting me and depriving me of sex and love.” Sex and love are intrinsically united in Elliot’s desires. Presumably Elliot could have had a prostitute, yet he derided the idea of prostitution: “It temporarily feels good for the moment, but afterward it makes one feel like a pathetic loser for having to hire a girl when other men could get the experience for free.” Anyone can attend a prostitute. But the common prescription to incels—that they just need to “get laid”—is fatuous. It comes from people who have already found sexual satisfaction. Almost no man could be happy knowing that the only intercourse he has is with a woman for hire. A whore may be adequate for a fling, for a quick betrayal of the wife, but a man’s sexuality is united with his power as a man. To be forced to acknowledge that women have no use for it outside remunerative transactions is a huge blow against one’s manhood, and one’s place in the order of nature. Elliot shared a sentiment with Othello: “I would rather be a toad, and live upon the vapour of a dungeon, than keep a corner in the thing I love for others’ use.”

 

Ross Douthat, in one of the few sensible pieces on incels in the mainstream media, refers to the coming genesis of realistic sex robots as a possible remedy to the incel crisis. Yet I can’t help thinking this would not greatly change the dynamic. The incel has already expressed his dissatisfaction with pornography, with whores, with rudimentary sex dolls. Perhaps artificial intelligence will change this, and provide the incel with something previous balms have been lacking. But even this, I think, will fall short in actually replacing the psychic and social significance of sexual relations. There is a reason there is no “casual sex” amongst healthy people; it can become a form of exploitation or a true unity, but not as some lukewarm middle state. *Le petit mort* is one of the few heroic, ruinous experiences a modern man is still afforded, and I doubt the incel will be happy with the Potemkin version of it.

 

Our modern contraceptive mindset has worked to destroy the danger and significance of sex. To look at our modern commercial society, breasts and buttocks everywhere displayed, an alien race would think we engaged in sex as if it were a handshake. It is not the force that drove Othello to murder, that drove Dido to self-immolation. The Incel realizes that sex is something more than a pleasurable nicety. It grounds his person in a different mode of reality, one completely divorced from the meaningless titillation that provides a motor to modern commercial life. Again, incels are not necessarily entirely devoid of romance. But the desire for sex is the desire for a taste of power and immortality, against which all other material endeavors pale.

 

But the regime cannot allow man to separate himself from sexual fatuousness. A man who understands sex’s role in family formation might be more avid in discovering why wages have not risen since the 1970s; he might question our current path of industrialization, which threatens to make a majority of laborers obsolete; he might question the decay of his neighborhoods and schools. Such facts would cloud his desire to consume, or at least to make his consumption independent on the vile corporate forces which control most everything which enters his gut and brain.

 

The incel is not some purveyor of traditional sex roles or bastion of sexual morality. But his dissatisfaction shows the failure of the regime to align material success to our innermost desires. In this way, the incel finds himself, inadvertently, standing at a position all but ceded by the Church and society at large, which have embraced the sterile, contraceptive version of sex and thereby the subjugation that must necessarily follow.

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But no matter how much one may try to apologize for the incel, one must confront his misogyny. Sir Elliot wanted women put in camps and killed. There’s no reasonable defense for this type of opinion, but then again, the incel is not claiming to be reasonable, he is striking out like a mad animal. Harold Bloom posits that Othello and Desdemona have never consummated their relations, and such an interpretation—Othello as incel—could very well frame the problem: A man of innate significance spurned in romance, and taunted by its sickening and overwhelming power. The moor’s resulting pride, rage, and violence, cannot be justified, but they also cannot be understood independently of the meddling Iago at the eaves.

 

To put it another way: In 2020 there will be 30 million more men than women of marriageable age. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1265068/China-The-worlds-new-superpower-beginning-century-supremacy-alarming-surplus-males.html This has and will lead to great social strife—madness and rage amongst a large group of men. It is very clear why and how that sex disparity arose—a concerted attempt by the government to regulate the population. In the West, we are ruled more subtly—we have murdered our babies and distorted our sex relations, but by means of carrots, not of sticks. But through the Western method, the culprits are always offstage, and the players in the tragedy think they are moving themselves.

 

It is far easier to begin by blaming women for our misery because, as Camille Paglia reminds us, but as everyone already knows, young women have more sexual power than men. This is the reason they raise the ire of incels, who see themselves as the victim of this power used wantonly. “Cruel treatment from women is ten times worse than from men,” as Sir Elliot said. But complaints about female duplicity and misuse of their power over men are as old as the human race. The incel’s rage must first be laughed at before it can be substantively addressed; it comes from naivety about women and a psychic weakness that, while understandable, is something must just learn to live with. We are a fallen race, and we fell because of a woman’s treachery. At some point you just have to be a man about it.

 

Ours is certainly not the first age when social productivity and virtue have not been aligned with romantic success. And yet in some polygamous Eastern tyranny, the incel would at least have had the benefit of knowing his place, and been able to acclimate himself accordingly into a priesthood or eunuchdom. Our sexual regime does not allow the incel to acclimate because our regime is never at rest. Nothing can be allowed in our regime but sustained chaos, one which consistently keeps the relationship between the sexes in flux, which can always seek new forms of subordination and degradation. This sustained chaos is called feminism.

 

The modern woman is in a state roughly as pathetic as the incel. Her power is greater, but this means only that her sacrifice to the regime is larger when she is treated like scum. If anyone took feminism seriously, one might ask why an ideology which asks women to spend the sexual and personal power of their first youth on useless education and commerce, and cedes all her fruits to the welfare state that raises her children and the pharmaceutical companies that keeps her from suicide, can seriously be said to advance the interests of women. Like the modern man, the modern woman has no idea of her native powers outside the celluloid and silicone conception of them; just as few know what power they have tossed away.

 

To treat feminists seriously is to do them a great disservice, for like all liberal ideologies, feminism exists to do the exact opposite of what it claims to want to accomplish. I had heard a recent *New Yorker* piece by Jia Tolentino was more sympathetic to incels than most, and the beginning of the piece does reach out to them, though not without a regular helping of historically illiterate feminism. (e.g. “Most American women now grow up understanding that they can and should choose who they want to have sex with.”) And yet the twenty-nine-year-old, and self-identified “roastie” can’t resist the need to put on a crop-top and short-shorts and go walking the streets in attempt to figure out what her “life would look like through incel eyes.” These attempts at high-mindedness are embarrassing and hilarious—they reminded me of Lindsay Bluth cage-dancing in opposition to the war. She relays some of the deprecation she could expect to receive from the incel, but she has no ability to judge it against any objective state of reality from which the insults might have arisen; the attempt to make her feel bad is enough of a condemnation. She sees no contradiction in trying to be taken serious as a write, yet making oblique references to her genitals. Not to be too hard on Miss Tolentino. But such idiocy is recognizable in almost all professional women who do not take a moral effort to suppress it. Intellectual mediocrity and moral depravity, obfuscated by egotism—this is really all there is to feminist exegesis, and is posited as the highest point to which the female intellect might rise. Incels’ hatred of women arises partly out of resentment of their innate power, but even more out of their gross sexual habits, intellectual obtuseness, and their ultimate contentment, to be casting away of pearls richer than the tribe.

 

The final irony about incels is that they have a fundamentally higher view of women than modern women have about themselves. For all his hatred, the incel is at least aware that modern women are throwing away something precious in their behavior (https://ifstudies.org/blog/counterintuitive-trends-in-the-link-between-premarital-sex-and-marital-stability

), and emasculating themselves in intellect and heart, encouraged to have no awareness of their objective state in life, or that any such state exists at all. Meanwhile, they despise the elements of their womanhood not conducive to men’s pornographic pleasure. They shave their pubic hair, mutilate their pudenda, despise the effects of childbirth, and contort their maternal impulses towards serving the state—witness the army of elementary teachers, social workers, youth ministers, medical caretakers: motherhood grafted onto the technostate. If women were to reassert the rights they have had since Eve, our regime would break down. But they don’t. Why not?

 

The incel is full of hate, but he is responding to a system that runs on irrationality and hatred. The hatred felt by incels is towards something that is itself hateful. We criticize the incel for his resentment, what the incel wants through violence the cad seeks through his wiles and the young woman through her body; yet all have the same goal of exploiting one another. Everything the incel sees is hatred. Where would the incel turn to find otherwise? What major element of American society is not motivated by unbridled greed and the desire for exploitation? The amazing thing is that murder is not more rampant in a society fueled by utility and kept afloat by a steady intake of antidepressants. We defile others and we are defiled. We are spiritual corpses, enlivened only by our delusions.

 

But it is still the incel who is alone with himself in the end. He is full of hatred, but so is the rest of the population. He is only more honest and brave than his fellow proles, enslaved and turned into liars by pills and pornography as they are. The least we can do is show compassion. But the only people who can feel empathy for the surplus population, these people so blinded by materialism, are those who realize the worth in every soul, and their cosmic importance independent of material or romantic success. But incel’s predicament on earth is intolerable. And so the incels are lodged in a place of impossible despair and sadness. They share a predicament with Homer, the other incel in *Day of the Locust*

 

“Only those who still have hope can benefit from tears. When they finish, they feel better. But to those without hope, like Homer, whose anguish is basic and permanent, no good comes from crying. Nothing changes for them. They usually know this, but still can’t help crying.”

 

There is little hope out of a regime that has so completely convinced men and women into accepting their sterile servitude. The incel is a native element the regime has not been able to stifle or satisfy, and is therefore its greatest threat. But this doesn’t change their position, languishing in our empire of hatred.

 

 

From Thermidor: Empire of Hatred

The first step towards solving any problem is in defining our terms. Oftentimes this first step is also the last, for once we have defined a problem, its solution follows by logical necessity. And accordingly, many of our most contentious disputes arise when we have not been discussing the same thing at all. The task of defining terms is especially important on the political right. For the forces of conservatism and reaction to be effective, they must not only resurrect arguments thought lost long ago, but recapture the very terms of dispute, the loss of which so often does away with the very notion that there was a controversy in the first place.

 

Such is the case with the term liberalism. There is a growing trend towards criticizing liberalism, not only as representatives of conservative bugbears of the welfare state and the sexual revolution or socialist griping about free markets, but aiming at the very heart of liberal thought and government itself. And yet when we go searching for this means, what liberalism really is, it is incredibly easy to get lost along the way. What is the heart of liberalism? Does it even have a heart?

 

An example of this difficulty: Any definition of liberal which cannot hold within it Jefferson, Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and Barack Obama is not an adequate definition, for all these men represented in their day the kind of spirit we now associate with liberalism, even if they were not known as such at the time. And yet even within the lifespans of these individual men, we see a remarkable amount of transformation. The Jefferson of 1798 was a radical proponent of self-rule, but by 1803 had subjected a huge population to foreign government and grossly deformed the rights of the original republic. The legalistic attorney of 1860 committed only to saving the union was far different from the Great Emancipator revered by Karl Marx. Roosevelt began as a pragmatic reformer and transformed into the conquering exemplar of international governance and human rights. And the technocratic conciliator of 2008 would be inveighed against in 2016 as a homophobe by Trayvon’s adopted father. How do we find a principle which can endure the trial of ages when we can scarcely find the principle played out the lifespan of individual men?

 

It is tempting to say that liberalism has no underlying principle, no coherent motivation girding one era’s liberalism with the next: That it is simply change for change’s sake, in which case we must concede that liberalism is but another name for chaos, or the desire for chaos. But in this holds, then liberalism is mere anarchy, and no ruling ethos could have arisen from it. We may also be tempted to say liberalism is about democracy, yet many of its cornerstone reforms are manifestly against democratic forces and individual autonomy. The liberal can spew about “local democracy” when there is some particular perversion he needs to condone, and claim the need for international forum when the rights of sovereign states need to be quashed. It is also tempting to say that liberalism is about freedom. But with every liberal change comes some new oppression, and every new right liberalism creates must be offered on the altar of a previous right’s immolation, through a process of creative destruction. Liberalism cannot create anything unless it arises from the ashes of an ancient freedom.

 

As David Corey noted in his review of Patrick Deneen’s recent book on the topic, liberalism cannot be guilty of self-contradictions because it lacks a coherent body of ideas. And so the ideology (if it is one ideology) which operates as a wrecking ball to every impediment it meets cannot be defined ahistorically. We cannot know what era’s liberalism we are encountering without knowing what era’s walls it is trying to smash. For this reason, it seems liberalism is always a reaction to something else. But again, this raises the question whether liberalism has a motive force. We cannot expect to attack liberalism, and certainly not to erect something in its place, with only a fleeting half-knowledge of what it *is,* and thus it seems vain to try to assign a precise definition, and our attacks must be waged against a vaguely defined concept, or worse yet, a feeling. And we are left with the above-stated problem: Whether we can define the monster at all.

 

Defining Liberalism

 

Liberalism is the process of enshrining what is unnatural in the body politic and ultimately the minds and souls of men. Liberalism is not about freedom, it is about license. For liberalism is never concerned with the liberty to do something we ought to do, but to gain the ability to do something we know we should not do, and as an ideology, it ultimately exists only as a justification for vice. It is, in fact, vice turned into a science; it is applied injustice gussied up as justice; it is what is inherently irrational contorted into the boundaries of social rationality, and from there, incoherently posited as a universal principle. That which is not irrational can be adapted without the methods of liberal suasion, but liberalism demands coercion to establish itself. The liberal rights which men come to enjoy, and which may at times lead them to prosperity or indirectly to virtue, nonetheless arise out of the motive of squalor and vice.

 

I think it is easiest to understand liberalism by charting the progression by which liberal change is made:

 

First, there is a vice or usurpation that need justification. This may take many forms: the desire to exploit others, the desire to let loose one’s libido, the desire to usurp power. The actual course of this usurpation depends on the technical means available to make some threshold level adopt the reforms and necessary to achieve the usurpation. Sometimes the social means necessary for its adoption are not present, and the initial attempts to make the change die on the vine, for a liberal cause always requires a special social circumstance to justify itself, because it is a departure from reason, history, and law. Liberals must always place great reliance on technology and the state to adopt and maintain the social forces necessary to keep the change in place at that threshold level. But bare social coercion is not enough to truly effect permanent change, and a theory must be provided to support the vice in terms of logic and law, and the discovery of a new, universal logic justifying the social change. A liberal change is not merely political, but one which envisions redefining the rules of nature. Thus, the newfound principle is used to remake the social body, not merely by material coercion but under the claim that the social body is uniting itself to a higher law. The final stage is the remaking of man himself within the bounds of the new liberal principle, culminating in what Burke called the “complete revolution,” that revolution which extends to “the constitution of the mind of man.” It is these last stages which complete a liberal revolution, and which make the liberal revolution more pernicious and dangerous than any other. For persistent vice—and again, this is the basis of liberal movements—cannot be justified at the individual level. It can only be justified in the context of license on a society-wide scale, the claim that such a vice is in accord with the law of nature, and then the reformation of man.

 

By way of contrast: The freedoms won in Magna Charta are not liberal freedoms, no matter how often liberals may strive to adopt them under their mantle. Property rights are in no way liberal. Limited government is in no way inherently liberal. But attempting to form a coherent system of justice out of property rights alone, as Jeremy Bentham proposed, is a liberal assertion. Claiming that men have an inherent right to rule themselves, as Jefferson posited, is a liberal claim. Magna Charta was an attempt to solidify well-accepted political rights in the context of a country besought by foreign invasions and made up of diverse peoples. But a liberal claim always makes an assertion for itself that transcends its immediate realm of concern. It takes up the banner of absolute truth while at the same time reserving the right to change that absolute truth when it sees fit. Without taking up this mantel of absolute truth, the usurpation would eventually be found out to be just that, usurpation; without possession of the technological means to initially force the usurpation on the social body, it would not otherwise be accepted.

 

Liberalism cannot be held synonymous with the tactics so often used to coerce liberal change. There is nothing inherently liberal about democracy. Democracy has many defects, but at heart it is merely a political form; liberalism is a means of spiritual transformation. The Puritans of New England maintained their probity through generations of fiercely democratic government. Again, this is not to say democracy does not have its problems. But the purpose of New England democracy was united to the Puritans’ concept of the good citizen and the good state; it was not used as a weapon to coerce change. Nor should the notion of socialist practices and property redistribution be considered inherently liberal. Property redistribution has long been a tool of the liberal to foster chaos, yet redistribution may prove just or unjust depending on the context, and whether it adheres to existing notions of right and law.

 

Additionally, as I noted above, the technical means are not always available for effecting a liberal transformation. Take, for example, the liberal assault on monogamy, which was only finally successful in the middle of the 20th Century. This was not due to lack of trying. During the French Revolution, marriage laws broke down, and in the chaos many attempts to establish sexual immorality were made. De Sade’s strange ruminations are but the most despicable of these. The same happened during the Russian Revolution, a process described by Pitrim Sorokin. Yet neither of these attempts was successful, and both the French and Russian radicals who took over the government walked back movements towards sexual anarchy. The proponents of this sexual anarchy did not have the technical means to effect the change, that is, to instill the vice as a public force, and thence to change the hearts of men. It was not until the 20th Century that monogamy could finally be destroyed by means of the birth control pill. There was no argument won in this process, no real moral development or new insights. Simply, the technical means the reformers lacked in 1789 and 1917 were available to the reformers in 1965.

 

But the effect of using technical means to force liberal changes is most prominent following the French Revolution, and especially in our modern age. I do not want to address these technical and democratic factors so much here. Rather, I want to focus on England in the period before the usurpation of William and Mary in 1688. All the primary characteristics of liberal revolution were apparent by that time, yet the chaos of the mob and modern technology was generally absent, making analysis easier.

 

 

Socialized Morality

 

To repeat: A liberal reform is one which cannot be promoted within the bounds of reason or morality or law. Liberalism is wholly dependent on the adoption of a new socialized morality in order to justify the vice that has been let loose in the body social. It is this characteristic which makes liberalism ultimately inimical to virtue and true morality. For liberalism does not merely corrupt the morals of one state, of one age; liberalism requires the reformation of the “law of nature” in order to justify its changes. Importantly, liberalism still adheres to the operating motive of the Christian state, that is, on the moral and material improvement of its people; the liberal state still sees its *raison d’etre* as benefiting the people by putting them in accord with a higher ethos.

 

It is worthwhile to draw a distinction between concepts of “natural law,” since both Christian and liberal states use it to justify their respective programs. Natural law’s fundamental claim is that we must know man and know his position in the cosmos before we can treat him justly, and this includes the sphere of legislation. But in the Thomistic sense, this understanding was a kind of direct relation between the state and man. Man had to first know nature in order to develop a material social order that facilitated individual’s personal moral development, from which a good society might spring. This system was respectful of the moral autonomy of man, for if held that society was to function, it depended on man’s own charity and personal probity. To know natural law was to know the way man should be guided towards a good society, but without the conscious act of Christian will, no such society could arise.

 

The natural law of Enlightenment thinkers was much different. To Rousseau, Hobbes, and Locke, the natural law was necessary and also sufficient for the ordering of a good society. Natural law was not only a rule of how an individual man was to act, but as to how all men were to be ordered in society as a whole. Whereas man in medieval society could be thought to ensoul the body social, because the goodness of that body could only be as good as its constituent men, the Enlightenment’s law of nature diminished man’s role in the social body to the equivalent of a cell in an otherwise self-sufficient organism; it viewed society as a vast ticking watch to which man ultimately could contribute nothing but to know his place as a cog in the mechanism. This transformation in man’s conception of himself within the social body lies at the heart of liberalism.

 

This change arose most clearly in the economic sphere. To get an idea of this progression, I want to look specifically at the practice of usury. The acceptance of usury is one of the foundations of modern economics, and had the English not justified the practice, it is difficult to believe the capitalist engine could have ever been revved.

 

There is no justification for usury, that is, the taking of a profit on unproductive loans. It gives unaccountable power to a class of people who provide no productive labor, subjugates those taking out usurious loans to the prospect of lifelong indemnity, and transforms the character of economic activity from one of industry to that of a roulette wheel. As such, usury was condemned in a single voice by the philosopher as ruinous to the state, and the priest as ultimately destructive of a man’s immortal soul. The practice was universally condemned in the medieval world; it was tolerated only amongst wretches, in Cobbett’s memorable words, “for the same cause incest is tolerated amongst dogs.”

 

Yet usury found a defender in a former Defender of the Faith, and in the years after Henry VIII’s usurpation of spiritual matters in England, usury more and more found acceptance, an outcome that would have been impossible were it not for the very particular social circumstances of that time, that is, the existence of a large proto-bourgeoisie grown rich from Henry’s looting of Church lands, and a large vulnerable underclass created out of the same theft. The continued economic turmoil wrought from the theft of Church lands, the decline in industry and resulting necessity for state welfare, and the Tudors’ financial wantonness created the need for funds, and of course usury was an easy means of acquiring them. Without these particular circumstances, it is difficult to believe the mass of people in England would have allowed such a crime to continue.

 

And yet none of the bare facts about usury had changed. Surely its growing use was a sign of tyranny. There have been many tyrants in history, yet we know just as well that such tyrants eventually have their fall. But the vices and oppressions of the 16th Century had the benefit of coming about when the English people were in the process of radically redefining themselves as a people. A new philosophy was arising that required men take up the tyrant’s yoke and consider it sweet. How could this be justified on the grand scale? Here are the words of Sir Francis Bacon, which are incredibly telling given Bacon’s preeminent place in the Age of Reason. Instead of condemning usury, the state should license certain lenders to commit the crime. He continues:

 

“Let these licensed lenders be in number indefinite, but restrained to certain principal cities and towns of merchandizing; for then they will be hardly able to colour other men’s moneys in the country: so as the licence of nine will not suck away the current rate of five; for no man will lend his moneys far off, nor put them into unknown hands. If it be objected that this doth, in a sort, authorize usury, which before was in some places but permissive; the answer is, it is better to mitigate usury by declaration, that to suffer it to rage by connivance.”

 

All states allow certain vices so as to possibly prevent worse behavior to the overall detriment of the social good. Yet in just states, these permissive measures are allowed with the understanding that man’s personal faults can never be wholly eradicated, and the harm done in trying would not be worth the meager benefits. But these allowances are in regard to personal vices inherent to man’s individual nature, not those vices created or enabled by the social environment itself.

 

Usury is not a personal vice, but a public one. It has no existence outside social transactions, and cannot but harm other men by its practice. At the same time, no one is so naïve as to claim that medieval loansharks were ever completely without a clientele. Yet there is a great difference between a crime conducted out in the open versus the shadows of Skid Road, a crime which is regulated versus a crime which is allowed, but always with the proviso that its practice could be throttled at any time at the discretion of the state. In adopting the tactic of regulation, the state acquires financial benefits for allowing such vice. The state becomes a necessary partner in the criminal enterprise, and any prior questions about the morality of the practice falls away and is replaced by an alternate analysis, one in which the total society-wide effect is assessed, not its effect on the individual.

 

Given our fallen nature, we well know that man is prone to crimes like usury. But to accept this fact, and even to tolerate some evils in practice, knowing that it is in vain to try to squelch all of them, is far different from providing sustenance to those crimes, which all forms of regulation materially are. And as incentives shift for the state to allow more and more of a vice, it will find that the social body can bear a larger and larger area of that gangrenous growth. Thus, in the case of usury, one can completely admit that much evil will come from it, but preventing such evil is costly, and such costs might be spent on other social endeavors. Tolerating the existence of vice in our intellects has transformed into manifestly aiding them.

 

In a system which regulates rather than condemns crimes, man’s relation to right and wrong—that fulcrum from which our relationship to God and our fellow man depends—is now mediated by our relation to the entire population. And this is the characteristic of liberal morality as compared to independent assessments of bad and good. Liberal morality is created not by man’s rational determination of his situation in the universe, his relation to Nature and the social world, but as a dependent variable in the sea of other dependent variables—something like the way prices are determined in neoclassical economics. Man’s moral nature is at the mercy of society at large; it is socialized.

 

Note that through all this, the idea of usury is still squalid and immoral; but this has been drowned out by the function of the market, the thousand other vices of avarice now regulated by the ballooning state, the specious reasoning of the economists, and the ultimate transformation of man himself into *homo economicus,* who sees the world in eat-or-be-eaten terms, and owes his fellow man no more than the what the Golden Rule demands: That if he is able to commit usury on his neighbor, his neighbor is just as “free” to seek usury from him. This reciprocity in exploitation is called “justice”—and it is steadfastly maintained as a form of justice, for to say that such actions are simply might equaling right would be to give away the lie. Though liberal changes always separate us from reason and morality, our most human attributes, they nonetheless will not allow man to be cognizant of that he has descended to the level of animal exploitation.  Man must still be assured that he is operating on some the basis of some higher ethos, an expanded godhead which miraculously allows for vice.

 

From this dynamic arose Hobbes’s mighty Leviathan, the very notion of which shows the corruption wrought by adoption of liberal mores. Man, the political animal, does not need a great impetus to form tribes, cities, nations. Man is a social being, and is more himself in society than he is apart, and even more himself in a just society than an unjust one. Yet man needs some special impetus to join a covenant of injustice, some mutual assurance that his skirting of moral law will not be punished; that, like criminals in a gang, all have the same motive not to defect lest the crime be exposed. This is what Hobbes envisioned the state to be—and given the state of 17th Century England, he was correct in his assessment. The social contract of the Hobbesian Englishman was that he would enter into such a unjust pact; in return would arise the Leviathan—that beast which God holds out to Job as the summit of his awful power.

 

The Protestant Reformation as the First Liberal Revolution

 

I have made the claim that liberal causes are never won through argumentation; rather, they are won through transformation of the population as a whole. When these transformations are completed, the question is not whether these changes have been good or bad, but whether or not their reversal is materially feasible. This is the case with the modern welfare state, which is clearly unsustainable, but is also so well entrenched, that the badness or goodness is simply irrelevant. The average man rarely bothers to assess the goodness of the welfare state or its creators; its material intractability transforms the intellect into believing in its inevitability, and this in turn dulls any moral or intellectual impulse to judge its existence in the present and future, or its creation in days past. The same process is effected through technological dependence; once man becomes dependent on technology, its morality becomes basically moot. In other cases the liberal will simply skirt the need for specious argument by transforming the population itself, most notably through immigration and expansion of the suffrage. In the regular course of things, an argument is won on its merits, but under a liberal regime, an argument is forgotten after social coercion removes all stakes from the debate. The intellectual justifications which follow are always slipshod, because it was never the logic of an argument which impelled the change, but rather brute force.

 

But as I have said, the most pungent feature of liberal revolution is the change made in man himself. Because man is not convinced of a liberal change by reason, the acceptance of a liberal change, which holds itself out as a new facet to the law of nature, transforms man’s relation to the world as a whole. The man who acquiesces to a change based on logic retains his relational position to society and the world, but a man is not allowed such autonomy in a world where all material and moral existence is in flux. His liberty and reason are entirely dependent on the new means of arriving at the new socialized rule. And man has become more and more degraded through the centuries as the changes have come with greater rapidity, as he has found himself more and more subservient to technology and completely divorced from the means of materially sustaining himself.

 

The question arises when this process first began. Because vice is omnipresent, because tyranny is omnipresent, the operative question is when man was made into a creature amenable to the kind of social subjugation I have described. Clearly this was the Protestant revolt. Because in response to various frauds and usurpations, both ecclesial and political, a new man had to be created, the Protestant Man, who would in the passing centuries become the modern liberal. Man had to be transformed not, by and large, through propaganda or population replacement (though both played a role), but through the mediating institution of the Protestant sect. This was the great initial unmooring of man which permitted all later horrors.

 

From a historical perspective, we find the proximate cause of so many of the hallmarks of liberalism in the Reformation that we must begin there. But we must simultaneously understand that Protestantism, as practiced, has no independent intellectual existence. It is, rather, a scrapped together ideology meant to justify usurpation; it not only created the proto-liberal, but was the proto-liberal revolution and a blueprint for all successful liberal revolutions to come.

 

The Prussian, created out of Luther’s original revolt, has done as much damage as the Englishman in perverting the course of history—but let us stay focused on England. Henry, of course, was ostensibly driven by his desire for a male heir, which his Catholic queen could not apparently supply him. In order to escape his marriage, he devised a theological argument that because Catherine had entered into vows with his brother before his death, Henry was now engaged in a relationship with a woman who was actually his sister. This was a dishonest argument; Catherine and Henry’s 16-year-old brother’s marriage was *ratum* but not *consummatum*, and the controversy about whether the marriage could be voided was always in the province of ecclesiology such that even the hardest cynic had to admit the Bishop of Rome was the fittest arbitrator. Unhappy when Pope Clement declined to release him from his bonds to Catherine—a power possessed by no man on earth—Henry declared himself head of the Church in England.

 

This was a self-serving means of aggrandizement, and was notorious for its severity. But great disputes between crown and miter were constant through the Middle Ages. Henry’s usurpation was not necessarily, by itself, the portent of a permanent break between the Chair of St. Peter and the English crown. Henry’s defenses of Church dogma, including that of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, were severe. After Catherine’s death, the issue of his adultery was largely moot. The rupture between Henry and the Holy See likely would have found emendation at a later date; Henry still considered himself Catholic on his deathbed, as did the great majority of Englishmen, and the king’s usurpation of ecclesial power could have found resolution like so many other conflicts through the Middle Ages, ideally with the resulting benefit of clearer doctrine and ultimately a stronger bond.

 

The impassible frontier was not Henry’s usurped authority, but his theft of Church property, the closing of the monasteries, and the resulting impoverishment of the English working class. All later attacks on the clergy, on the hierarchy, and the reforms of the Council of Trent, were specious and dishonest ways to shift focus off the fact that the English Reformation was an ex post facto attempt to legitimize the revolution in property and the resulting enrichment of a parasite class who quickly commandeered the crown and court.

 

The theft was a disaster for England in material terms, just as it was a disaster in political and spiritual terms. Medieval England had been full of monasteries and they were an integral part in forming a just and wealthy Christian society, the likes of which have never come close to being replicated in the Anglosphere. Aside from the shelter, food, and services provided by the Church, priests and monks constituted a large percentage of landlords on the island, and served, in Cobbett’s words, as “an example the others were in a great degree compelled to follow.” It was said that a wandering man could not go six miles without finding a place to lay his head. But after the confiscations, first of the small then the large monasteries, this structure collapsed. The aid provided by religious now had to be replaced by poor laws, and those poor laws had to be continually expanded to cover a new class of misers who could no longer graze their beasts on Church lands or the quickly shrinking commons. The state of the English poor went from the best to the worst in Western Europe.

 

This was the material condition of England, allowing for so many subsequent transformations. This was tyranny such that would not have been acceptable, even after the passage of decades, without changing the expectations of the population they had recently defrauded. The parasite class of England could not maintain its perversion of English society without the destruction of the Englishman. To be lasting, to once again attain social peace, a new man had to be leavened from the old, for the social relationship that had formed could not endure among Catholic men. It was necessary to find some justification for their oppression and subjugation for the moral existence of the state to continue, and this is the role that Protestantism filled as a theology.

 

 

Liberalism as an Attack on the Real Presence

 

I earlier asked if there was any if any motive force could be assigned to liberal change, a question I then skirted by describing the process of liberal change. But in analyzing the mechanism of change and looking at its history, we come across the answer to our question. For all its changes, all its inconsistencies and incoherence, liberalism as an ideology must always be opposed to the Catholic notion of the Incarnation of Christ and the continued assertion of the Incarnation in the Eucharist and the mass.  The Protestant revolt succeeded as the first liberal revolution precisely because it succeeded remaking the mind and soul of Christian man into one that accepted a new nature of God, and his new position in the world, classed either amongst the elect worthy to see God, or the non-elect and inevitable Gehenna. Liberalism has long since relinquished explicitly Protestant theology as a means for promoting itself (though Protestant religion itself has long since abandoned Protestant theology), but the Protestant attack on the Eucharist has always been part and parcel with liberal revolution, and is intrinsic to it. In its place is erected a new theology yet adhering to claims about the immortality of the natural order and nominal apotheosis of the human soul, while allowing the etiolation of those claims which might inhibit the material goals of liberal reformers.

 

This may strike the reader as too convenient. In the Western world, there is no institution like the Catholic Church which, aside from the truthfulness of the claims it makes, has maintained Her values throughout the centuries like no other institution. If liberalism is inherently a tendency to change, then its antipode must be that institution which is changeless, and the Church becomes its opposite by default. But the Catholic Church makes claims about God and man which are more fundamentally opposed to liberal change than any blind adherence to tradition. These claims are embodied in the Incarnation of Christ, and the central practice of this truth is the continued reenactment of this in the mass.

 

I don’t mean to loom on the religious claims made by the Church about the Incarnation and the Eucharist, though of course they are true; I mean to state the logical consequences that must result from a belief in the Incarnation, whether we take the event as historical fact or not. The Incarnation of Christ grounds, firstly, the notion of an immutable, omnipotent, single God. By asserting that the Word was made flesh, we are no longer allowed the creation of new gods. God is not localized, and one town’s god cannot be said to have superiority over another’s. There is no development of God as we see in Hegel’s notion of the zeitgeist, and there can be in concept no great divisions about His nature or the nature of His works, as we see in the embarrassment of Protestant sects. God is the Word, but in being made flesh, He is not merely an idea capable of being expanded and contorted to meet the desires of the age, but a single essence, *et nunc, et in saecula saeculorum.*

 

Secondly, the Incarnation grounded the nature of man. It both raised the possibility of the divinization of the flesh and stated that an individual man was valuable without relation to any exterior circumstance. Both these huge claims required the betterment of man not only out of human kindness but of divine necessity. In twenty centuries of Christian practice, we have become acclimated to treating benevolence as somehow natural to man, but in unloosing our notion of manhood from the divine, we find there is no inherent reason to treat other men well. The only reason for man to do anything is for the service of his own interest; charity arises when we adjust our understanding of what those interests are. If other men are nothing but flesh, there is no reason for us not to use them self-servingly; in fact, it is the height of foolishness to do otherwise, and while there can be a temporary détente from time to time, arisen out of reciprocity, there can never be any lasting charity when our neighbor is but a means to a material end. The Incarnation posits that man’s soul is unique, like Christ’s was, and our flesh is not an indistinct part of a mass or some limb which can be amputated for the good of the whole but rather, in a lesser form, holds the same importance as Christ’s flesh: the carrier of a thing great and immortal.

 

It is incredibly easy to see why these facts should be not only distasteful but despicable to those with worldly power. And accordingly, heresies generally rise out of a powerful class attempting to weaken the doctrines of the Incarnation. The Arian heresy, which proposed Christ was a creature of God rather than the Divinity itself, understandably dominated in the ranks of the Roman army. The army had controlled the empire for centuries on no basis of legitimacy but brute force. If Christ was merely a great man, raised through his acts to divinity by some higher godhead, he was no different from Julius or Augustus—or Tiberius and Claudius, for that matter. But if the claims of the orthodox were true, and Christ was divine apart from His great actions and words, and men had the power to be sons of God solely by receiving Him, the entire basis of the legions’ legitimacy was threatened. The bare exercise of authority could no longer suffice as reason to rule—and in the Christian era, it never has. The Arian heresy is derided by sophists as an abstruse theological debate arising out of one Greek syllable, but its ultimate implications went to man’s concept of himself and on what basis he would allow himself to be ruled.

 

For all intents and purposes, the conception of God and man as required by the Incarnation is humanly impossible: Man will always be anxious to change the nature of truth to conform to his selfish desires, and he will always be anxious to use his fellow men as wantonly as his desires dictate. The Church’s greatest weapon in fighting this tendency has been and always will be the Eucharist. In practice, reception of the Eucharist requires constant assent to the dogmas and moral code of the Church, which is in itself a great protector of orthodoxy. Yet the very existence of the Eucharist is as critical as the obligations it imposes. It stands against the Protestant notion that the completeness of Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary rendered the rest of time essentially superfluous, and man’s striving in that period equally vain. It is an affront to the Calvinist notion of foreknown election, for if not all men have the capability to receive the Eucharist, then Christ was a liar in claiming to have come to save the entire human race. And it is a guard against the tendency to turn Christianity into nothing but a philosophy, for having the presence of God in religious service is the greatest guard against thinking God is a mere idea. The unity of Christian will and action is found in the Eucharist, just as is found the unity of Christ’s divinity and manhood. This is why Christ left us the Eucharist; this is why it cannot be attacked without eventually destroying Christianity as a whole.

 

The Protestant revolt was primarily anti-clerical, but even this cannot be understood without relation to the Incarnation and, most importantly, the reenactment of the Incarnation in the mass. And this again seems all too pat, because it is almost tautological. Being deeply anti-clerical means being anti-Eucharist, because the primary reason the Church hierarchy and the priesthood exists is to carry on the ability to transform bread into the body of Christ, thus reaffirming the Incarnation. In truth, there is very little reason for the Church to exist outside the Eucharist. The Eucharist is everything.

 

As we saw above, the efforts of the parasite class in England, who almost universally supported the Protestant revolters and in large part were one in the same, could not operate truthfully under the Catholic view of man: It could not strip him of his property and his livelihood without changing his position in relation to God; it could not damn so many of them to destitution without also damning that same class to Hell. Again, it is crucial to recognize the Protestant theology as what it is: An ex post facto justification for crime, a necessary sophistry arising out of pillage. At its summit in Calvin’s *Institutes,* it is barely recognizable as Christian; in practice it was spread like tattered rags over the shame and wounds inflicted by a hateful ruling class, used in much the same way *Das Kapital* would be used by later governments claiming to be communist: One could adopt as much as necessary of Protestantism as to effect the desired change.

 

The blatant self-servingness of this transformation is best seen in the Anglican sect, an institution which exists, and always has existed, as a mediator between a debased populous and a debauched state. The greatness of Anglicanism is in its cowardice and incoherence: Its articles could confirm the Real Presence of Christ in their communion, all while its divines, martyrs, and pastors almost univocally attested that the Real Presence was a papist ruse. It could claim to be Catholic and apostolic all while fostering the rise of wild Judaizers promoting the most brutal Calvinism. What the needs of the time demanded was all Anglicanism had to give. Its one redeeming feature was that it could be used as a tool for civil peace, except when it was supporting the toppling of Catholic kings. The only unifying threads of the Anglican sect have been its hypocrisy, its anti-Catholicism, its Mammonism, and its subservience to the ruling class. The reason for this was simple. Toleration could ever after prevail for Jew and Unitarian, but not the Catholic. There was always a political dimension to this contest, but the more substantive threat was, and always has been, from the Church’s theological claims and the Eucharist itself. The Jew, the Methodist, the Unitarian, did not pose a risk to the political state; they did not pose a threat to the wicked distinction between elect and non-elect, or a counterpoint to the ultimately nihilistic notion of toleration, or the Anglican’s divinization of Mammon so often miscalled the “Protestant work ethic.” The Catholic still claimed possession of that ever-present miracle which threatened to singe a hole in the otherwise seamless garment of the superstructure, to expose as illegitimate what was so clearly illegitimate.

 

By the time of the 1688 usurpation, the Englishman had become so debauched that he was no longer aware of his degradation. The Englishman was now happy to be ruled by Dutchmen and Hessians. His government was now openly and notoriously illegitimate, though polished under the guise of Lockean liberty, and that same liberty, based as it was on a property the average man no longer had access to, guaranteed that man’s continued impoverishment. The greatest men England would produce afterwards were essentially pagans. The wisdom of Dr. Johnson, Edmund Burke, Lord Chesterfield was akin to that of Cicero or Marcus Aurelius, lacking that transformative inspiration of the saints. The worst men England produced were essentially trash, a huge mass allegedly forgotten by God as it had been betrayed by man. They were the ones who could be shoved into sweltering factories, and the surplus population which needed periodic reduction for the health of the state. And between these two was an acquisitive middle class, who judged themselves elect if they were wealthy, if they could be bothered to think of their future state at all.

 

This was the liberal revolution effected in England. It was successful because of the theological changes it imposed. Protestantism unmoored the Christian basis of society in the Church and the Eucharist. Not all incarnations of liberalism are Protestant, but Protestant is a liberal theology for the reasons I above described: It fundamentally ascribes to fact that the nature of man and God are malleable. It is not enough to ascribe to the current horror of the modern age to a departure from the Church’s political authority; the wound in Western society arises from what Protestantism did to Her theological authority, and to the aspersions thrown at Christ Himself in the Incarnation and His adopted form in the Eucharist.

 

From the Protestant Revolution onwards, man has suffered beneath this storm of ideological chaos. Since the French and industrial revolutions especially, the number of new ideologies often seems commensurate with the number of new technologies available in a given era. Vice, technology, and ideology are so closely related that it is difficult to separate them, because technology is nothing but the manifestation of an idea, and always hold within them the ability to illicitly control the rest of the population. But given the size of this subject, I think it is better left to another time.

 

Conclusion

 

I hope this initial survey has been helpful in differentiating liberalism from other movements on the left and bringing to light its most critical and insidious features. St. Pius X called modernism (i.e. liberalism) the culmination of all heresies. The great man was focus primarily on liberal theological doctrine, but as a process liberalism works the same wretched transformation in every field, and is always an anti-Christ, no matter where it injects it poison. This is because it is ever-malleable, always based on some vice or usurpation, offering visions of God and man which are fundamentally incompatible with the Catholic vision of God and man. Liberalism binds man to its dictates through the same suasion Christian law once bound man to it, yet serving ends based in vice and sin and which could not be adopted on a wide scale without social transformation.

 

The description I have provided of liberalism, based as it is on vice, offers some reason to hope. In Christian terms, vice is nonexistent; it is merely the absence of the good. Thus, the weapon against liberalism is to attach our minds to those notions that are solid, which are sound: whatsoever things are good, whatsoever things are true… Liberal man has been programed to believe his existence is completely dependent on the demands of socializing pressure, and that the nature of God above him is dependent on that derived opinion. The remedy must be to focus on the real God, and real virtue.

 

There can never be anything more than a temporary truce between Catholicism and liberalism. Those arguments that posit liberalism is a kind of conversation are correct in a sense, but they ignore the fact that such conversation is meant to drive out true knowledge; it is conversation as an alternative to objective truth, not as a means of finding it. The liberal regime’s goal is always to keep this “conversation” going, for it bolsters that illusion that mass suggestion can help us arrive at real virtue. But this ultimately divorces man from all idea of objectivity in the world; it causes him to be a schizophrenic, whose only balm is acquiescence. Liberalism has never been about autonomy or personal freedom; the exact opposite is true. Liberalism is a form of slowly gestating slavery, with each step depriving man more and more of his material and moral autonomy.

 

True virtues yet allowed by the liberal regime remain only at the regime’s pleasure, and ultimately must be crushed. Christians who believe their ideals and beliefs can long coexist with liberalism are deluding themselves. Liberalism has already ground to dust almost every Protestant sect because liberalism has ground to dust every liberalism before it. The goal of liberalism is malleability for its own sake, for the more malleable a population, the easier it is to oppress. Liberalism has absolutely devastated the Catholic Church, which at the Second Vatican Council attempted to make Her social and theological teachings acceptable through the lens of liberalism. This was like throwing them in a vat of lye. Christ declared that He was *via, veritas, et vita,* and if Christ Himself was solid flesh and blood, the Truth must be solid as well, not something created or developed through man’s intercession but an object above him to which he must aspire. But the very cornerstones of liberal thought are made of vice, and the process of liberal truth-finding is inimical to not only the discovery of objective truth but its very existence.

 

In this sense, there is reason for hope, because either liberalism goes, or the Church does. And so liberalism will one day be defeated after 500 years of almost unanswered victories. But its ability to muster forces of people in defense of vice means modern man has now become so degraded, his means of sustenance have become so divorced from his personal capabilities, his morality so united to sociality, and his divorce from the one institution which might save him so complete, that there seems little hope for man’s rehabilitation without mass violence and societal collapse. But that can better be addressed at a later time, since this initial survey is long enough already.

Old Thermidor Poast: The Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report, or the Catholics of Electric Orgyland Reaping What They’ve Sown

The worst effect of Tuesday’s Pennsylvania grand jury report is that it will allow Americans to delude themselves into thinking they care about child abuse.

Any attempt to understand the current crisis in the American Church has to begin with this fact in mind: The West is rapidly heading towards the normalization of all sexual perversions, including pedophilia, and has already committed itself to a status quo that fosters the widespread physical and sexual abuse of children. Take, for example our, our acceptance of no-fault divorce, the harmful effect of which is one of the most undeniable facts in social science; take our acceptance of unmarried cohabitation, which greatly increases the incidence of abuse; take the entire public school system, which exists to destroy the moral bonds between parent and child.

Go so far to ask yourself this question: In the public school system, how do you know where “education” ends and sexual abuse begins? Perhaps your daughter’s teacher has not made a pass at her, but he has taught her how to masturbate in a room full of teenagers, and that her “gender” is fluid, and that premarital sex is not intrinsically harmful so long as her boyfriend wears a condom. In any time past, this teacher would be recognized for the pervert he is. In our own time, the teacher is nearly universally lauded for his “hard work for little pay” and given a public pension. A nation that was serious about combating child abuse would nuke our public schools from orbit. Why don’t we?

None of this can excuse the sorry state of the American Church. There are many priests and prelates who deserve to be hanged, if not gruesomely tortured beforehand. But the grand jury report is full of old news, and generally deals with events long past. There are likely still pedophile priests hidden among the ranks, but by and large the measures meant to prevent such abuse have been implemented at the threat of continued litigation and threatened criminal prosecution. The peak of the sexual abuse crisis in the Church occurred decades ago, and anyone who complains of being surprised has apparently not paid any attention for the past 16 years. The most striking aspect of the recent complaints is that they arise out of homosexual predation of adults in seminaries, not children.

How did the priesthood come to this state? Certainly it may be the effect of the American Church becoming too worldly, but there have always been venal priests, and the Church has always been involved in worldly matters. And there have always been perverts in the priesthood because there have always been perverts. The desert fathers acknowledged their existence within their clergy; the Vatican, in better days, did as well—by slicing their hands with glass and sticking their heads on the block.

The paramount question is why the Church, as an institution, failed to act on these ever-present problems, especially when the crisis was at its peak. To blame it all on the Second Vatican Council is too easy. But it’s true. This does not require resorting to obscure theological or sociological claims, but is apparent in phenomena any objective observer must acknowledge.

The first is the vocations collapse, presaged by the changes instituted by the Second Vatican Council. Most bishops are not Iago-like wicked men. They are bureaucrats, in charge of getting priests to serve an ornery laity. Now imagine you’re one of these bureaucrats, an allegation comes to you that one of your priests has acted inappropriately with a teenage boy. The priest in question has a flock of parishioners demanding the sacraments, and the allegations are vague enough to raise some doubt in your mind. If the possibility exists of replacing the priest and conducting an investigation, this is obviously the best solution. But if you can’t find a replacement…the doubt in your mind, supported by your instincts as a hack administrator, becomes more convincing. This is the position bishops were placed in after the Second Vatican Council. It doesn’t justify their craven behavior, but one must recognize their ability to act was constrained by the fact that they were overseeing a decaying institution. The lack of action, the looking the other way, and the descent into worse and worse behavior were largely the acts of weak men overseeing an ailing organization.

More than this, the peak of the crisis came at the time of revolution in the Church. The last thing you want to do when you’re smashing communion rails, removing statues of the saints, replacing the atmosphere of sanctity in churches with the aesthetics of a mini-mall, and turning the mass itself into a hug-fest more like an AA meeting than a replication of the sacrifice on Calvary, is to change personnel. Part of the cost of the Second Vatican Council was the acceptance of abortion; add to this the thousands of molested boys whose abuse could be overlooked so the larger project of the dismantling of the historic Church could be pursued.

If the US bishops were true leaders of their flocks rather than a bunch of emasculated cowards, they would admit the situation at hand: They are guiding a tiny, marginalized Church that can’t meet the needs of its flock. They would stop pretending they’re leading the vibrant Church they like to convince us exists, admit their defeat, and pray that something can arise from the Church whose ruin they have helped bring about. Even those defending the bastardized theology of Vatican II must now admit that it is has been a disaster in practice. It limited any ability to handle the crisis in the Church, and made the transforming Novus Ordo Church dependent on the perverts like Cardinals McCarrick and Wuerl who should’ve, and in better times would have, been crushed.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro (pictured below, teaching Josh Jr. the merits of sodomy) played up his feelings of shock at his presser on Tuesday, blaming the bishops for the horrors detailed over the past century. The bishops are certainly culpable, but for those of us not running for office on the pro-sodomy ticket, or seeking to expand the statute of limitations to ludicrous dimensions, we cannot be so incredulous.
Because for all the cowardice, for all the denials, for all the obfuscation, and for all the pro-abort politicians they crawl into bed with, the successors to the apostles are still less disgusting than the American laity—that huge mass of heretical, masturbating, contracepting, selfish morons who don’t think (or care) about the logical results of their actions. The vast majority of US Catholics want lax sexual morality—contraception and premarital sex. Women want to be able to hand off their kids to unknowns so they could work in a cubicle. Catholic men let their parishes be turned into a woman’s clubs, opting to give their Sundays to the NFL rather than God.

Listen to the stories of older Catholic men. Learn what the faith meant to him, what Sundays meant to him, what the mass meant to him. Then take a look at modern man’s role in the Church. The parish is no longer a focal point of community—those communities were destroyed by “civil rights” laws and suburbanization—and rare is the man who doesn’t think hockey practice is a better tool for the formation of his son than anything offered in the Church. What surprise is it that perverts have moved in to occupy a realm fathers have abandoned?

The dominant impulse in a modern man’s life is towards mindless, stupid pleasure: In front of the TV, the movie screen, behind the wheel of his boat or car. He has little feeling of obligation to his neighborhood, his country, or his family, and he has delegated the task of minding these to the bureaucratic state. Even when problems arise, he has no social circle to bring together to confront them; his “friends” are connected to him by affinity for the same sports team or beer brand. Modern man has tossed aside all the duties of manhood; the weak, piddling creature that remains has no choice but to reap the whirlwind.

Yet it is these pathetic, wicked, lazy, and blind laymen who have most strongly attacked the clergy following the Pennsylvania report. This comes out of righteous and honest anger. But that righteous anger doesn’t change the fact that the attack is one of a faceless, emasculated mass against one of the few heroic institutions remaining in Western society.

The notion of ending clerical celibacy is at the head of these proposals, and has even been floated by some traditionalists. The proposal is akin to what Christopher Hitchens used to say about those who wanted to impose term limits on Congressmen: It’s the “smart” solution for stupid people.

There is nothing inherently bad about a married priesthood. But the existence of married priests is not a guard against sexual perversion—perhaps these married priests can scandalize their flocks by sodomizing their wives out in the open rather than young men in private. Beyond that, there is also good reason to believe that lowering the standards of the priesthood will not actually attract a larger number of men. Turn the priest into a cassocked social worker, and who but the bugman will heed the call? Worst of all, though celibacy has always been lauded as a higher state than married life, a new class of married priests will cast suspicion on every unmarried priest who has made the superior choice.

The priesthood exists, first and foremost, to serve God. The priest is a higher type of man. This makes his corruption all the worse; it also means a layman’s attempts to solve the priest’s problems, as if the layman were an equal to him, have to be taken with a grain of salt. One priest, offering just one mass a day and never interacting with another soul, is superior to a battalion of lawyers, doctors, and other hacks once called professionals, but who have been chewed up by the state apparatus and are now nothing but faceless bureaucrats. The priesthood is one of the few heroic callings left to modern men, and it is heroic in large part because of celibacy.

Many of those calling for reform of the clergy now want laymen to start administering the sacraments. This would be the absolute pinnacle of the Church’s liberalization—the complete scrambling of the hierarchy, and the absolute adoption of anthrocentrism. These laymen for some reason have adopted the modernist delusion that the Church exists to serve them, when in fact those laymen exist to serve the Church.

The laity seem as deluded as to the state of the Church as the bishops. The trads in the laity want gays out of the priesthood? OK. But they better be willing to put up with less access to the sacraments. Unlike their persecuted coreligionists in olden days England or Japan, most Americans will still have a priest within a driveable radius. But this is more than they deserve. American laity don’t deserve the priests they have, and they don’t deserve the sacraments. Americans have aborted or contracepted away their children—and they ask why there is a shortage of men in the priesthood. They have become a nation of senseless masturbators—and they wonder why young men struggle with chastity. They have given up everything good and true in order to partake in the American electric orgy, and yet they act surprised when their children end up debauched in a Sodom of their own making.

Americans are evil fools. They destroyed all bonds they had with their past, they relinquished their temples, they sold their neighborhoods for the sake of houses in the suburbs, they gave their children up for the state and Hollywood to raise, and they hoped it would all turn out well for them because they were “decent folk” who rarely turned away from their screens. But God is not mocked, and they needed no prophet to see what the effect of this abrogation would be. Americans deserve all fire and bloodshed; what they got is the molestation and rape of children. Their sons and daughters have been given to another people, with their eyes looking on, languishing at the sight of the sight of them all the day, with no strength in their hand.

The superstructure is attacking the Church not because it is particularly perverse. Recall, we don’t live in a society interested in actually protecting children, and as an effect we don’t know the rates of such abuse in other institutions. The superstructure attacks the Church because, for all malfeasances, She at least theoretically offers some moral opposition to the big gay orgy that is the United States of America.

It is no credit to Catholics to say that Protestant denominations may suffer from the same problems. All that matters is that the state will very soon go after those denominations after it is done scouring the corpse of the American Church. This will continue until the attacked sect is destroyed, or it accepts sodomy in principle. At that point child abuse will no longer be an issue; the egregious examples of molestation and rape can be elided when young boys are taught they can hack off their genitals at puberty, when young girls are prescribed abortions, and celibacy is taught to be a sign of illness rather than a virtue.

Make no doubt about it: There will come a day when the modern sodomite Kulturkampf is over, and the state will stand over the ruins of every Christian institution and declare that they had actually been too hard on the churches. Those sodomite priests, those handsy ministers, those cardinals masturbating boys in their cars—they were actually the victims of living in an age which did not properly appreciate or understand pedophiliac desire. If only they had lived in our enlightened age-to-come, which has done away with the evil notion of “sexual morality.” Imagine a day when children, as they were in pre-Christian Rome, are bred from birth to be prostitutes. Imagine the what can be done to those slave children—their faces, their appendages, their genitals—in the age of genetic engineering.

The dogma, extra Ecclesiam nulla salus at the present date, seems like Humbert’s declaration to his captive Lolita. But the fact remains that outside the Church there is no salvation. Outside the Church, there is not even a basis for fighting the evil within Her or without. The only option is to fight a battle of reclamation. You see, you have nowhere else to go.

Jason’s Woods

This is the epilogue to the A Few Things Broken at the Seams. 

 

Nearby Cedar Creek, sitting at the border where the high trees obscuring the bike jumps met the cattails and tall grass running off to Cedar Avenue, was a fortress Jason and I used to go to after school and on summer days. As I reflect on it now, there was nothing all that special about this place: It was nothing but a couple dirt mounds, guarded by elms and oaks, and an old smelly couch sitting close to what we called the fortress gate. There were places like this all over the south suburbs, wooded areas spared the touch of bulldozers and housing developers but not by us kids, who used them for escape.

The bike jumps were a terrific place to go, because they were far enough away from Valley Park to make us feel intrepid, yet close enough to go to whenever we wanted. When Jason and I first found the place, we felt like conquistadores stumbling upon a great abandoned civilization. Like Valley Park, the housing establishments nearby were all from the Seventies, and kids had been riding their bikes there long enough so that no trees or bushes or grass grew alongside the creek. Two streams running into Cedar Creek bordered the area to the east and west, and kids from a generation before us had made bridges over them with planks from old seesaws and picnic tables, creating something like gates over these moats which protected the kingdom. Jason and I were the only kids who came from the east, from Valley Park, and sometimes we would arrive at the eastern gate and some kids from Lebanon would already be inside. Jason had gotten into a fight with one of them months prior, and whenever we found other kids there I tried to get Jason to walk away with me, because the kids would always smoke and curse, and Jason and I always hated that and Jason would want to fight them. Once we found the couch, obscured by weeds alongside the eastern gate, Jason and I would go there and wait and joke around with each other until the sounds of the other kids disappeared, and we knew we had the little kingdom to ourselves. When we were at the bike jumps we would try to amp up our speeds on our bikes, or play catch, or take the warm beers the other kids had left and throw them in the woods or the creek, pretending to be the consciences they had ignored in our absence. I never felt more like a child than when I was there.

It’s been almost ten years since Jason died. He and I rarely went to the woods once we were upperclassmen, though I only know that he and I stopped going together; I think he used to take Ami there when they were dating. I returned once or twice after Jason died, but I only ever went there to feel alone. I’d always thought of those woods as his. The other kids who used the bike jumps, and hid their smoking and kissing and drinking behind the trees, never did anything to prove that they used it for anything but cover and convenience. Jason loved the place; he brought a shovel there to improve the jumps and a hatchet to remove the dead boughs near the trail, and he had come up with names for the individual jumps and crags, and had spoken of the whole place in such regal tones that I always imagined walls and minarets when we approached it, so great was the edifice he had helped build in my mind.

Those heights are gone now. I went back recently, when I was visiting my father’s house in Valley Park. I’d recently been victim of a terrible loss, the story of which I won’t bore you with but to say that it was the kind of loss which made me despair for what the future held, and whether I would be able to handle what it was going to show to me. And so I went back to Jason’s woods, looking for the past.

But Jason’s woods are gone. The western and eastern gates have both been washed away. The dirt ramps have all melted into shallow mounds, and the pits have all filled with leaves and garbage. Weeds grow everywhere, and small trees are taking sprout, portending, I suppose, the day when the open kingdom is devoured again by trees and the tall grass and is buried like the bones of the Sioux resting under so many of the fields where we used to play. I see no signs of childish fun or debauchery, no bike parts or cigarette butts or empty beer cans. The couch has been gone for many years. The danger and debauchery and freedom which once lured us kids to this place can be equaled, I suppose, by a Google search and a quick trip into one’s phone, so what importance could Jason’s woods have anymore? Only ten years, and yet things are completely different. That what was such a formative experience for me and for generations before could be eradicated in just one still humbles me—but we live beyond the ages, and our totems are destroyed just as quickly as our bodies.

I did not regret losing the past—that was inevitable. What I couldn’t bear was the loss of the future. When I was young, I sometimes imagined bringing my wife to those woods, or bringing my children there in an attempt to share with them some of the most meaningful parts of my own formative years. But this is not to be. And in this way, Jason’s woods now resemble the rest of suburbia. There’s nothing in my hometown I would want my children to see. There’s no kind of beauty or history there which might help them understand their place in this world; I can’t even give them the poverty of dirt roads and a family farm to teach them a sense of humility. Everything there was so perfectly calibrated to serve a use that when that use was gone, there was not even ornamentation to keep things upright. The suburbs are useless to me in that way.

I hate the suburbs, and I hate my hometown, and yet strangely they are still the only place I’ve ever had any desire to write about. It took me years to understand why. The way Penn must have felt looking over the Alleghenies, or Roger Williams in New England, is the way I like to imagine my hometown: Barren of history and culture, but blessed, also, to be free of those snares, and offering us the opportunity to be self-made men, to attempt again a re-staging of human history. It surprises me not at all that a long-faithful husband from Boston is cheating on his wife, or that a father and daughter have committed incest in Mississippi—or Manhattan. To be evil or perverse in those places means nothing to me, but to do the same in Valley Park or Rosemount or Lebanon hints at something worse. I suppose because the suburbs are new, all our sins there are original, and they speak not to the rancid actions of men, but to their natures.

I realize now how lucky Jason and Ami and I were to be alive back then. Sometimes I think that we were almost like pioneers, because our part of the suburbs was still being settled, and the churches and the businesses and the schools which make up our society were only half-built. We saw what the world was when it was new. And there was prosperity, and safety, and material comforts greater than anyone in history had ever known.

At the same time I hate my home, for giving me wealth but no guidance, for giving me opportunity but nothing to aspire to. The disappearance of the woods only makes it clearer to me. It was our fortress, but no one cared enough to defend it. There was a meager culture that developed there, but no one appreciated it. No one but me probably understands what has been lost. Jason’s tombstone is now the only monument left to his memory, though I’m sure he deserves that little kingdom.

But all that is gone. There isn’t any point talking about it. Jason’s woods are overgrown, and I don’t doubt that I’m the only one who remembers them. They’re lost to a past which no one cares about but for me. I remember so much of what Jason and I did there, his telling me about Charlie Cunningham and his father, and how he was in love with Ami. There was great nobility in everything we said and did then, because we knew we were pioneers to the world still, even if it was a world already found. And I miss almost all of it. Even the pain from that time of my life has a sweetness to me now, because in those days pain was something I did battle against, with a vague sense that I would someday prevail over it. Most of all, those were the days when adults still ruled the world, and I wasn’t so confused about what to do with such a terrible inheritance.

Western Empire

 

A link to my novel, Western Empire.

I started this back in 2010, finished it around 2013, with sporadic edits made here and there for years afterwards.

Western Empire charts the decay of the small town and the American family through the eyes of two cousins. Peter Barnstock has just returned home from the east coast to tend for his ailing mother, while Dwayne Barnstock must deal with collapsing drug business and nasty rumors circulating about him throughout his decaying prairie hometown. The cousins’ meeting forces both men to confront the ghosts of their past and the barrenness of their futures.