Electric dawn rises over a darkened city. Power lines crackle on concrete where they have fallen during the storm, lighting the sky with an unearthly blue glow. The hurricane tore down trees, houses and fences, washing away much of civilization in flash floods.
Anarchy reigns as police, fire and government retreat in the face of the power of nature. Men get rifles from attics and patrol the streets, shooting at looters who drove in from nearby cities. The televisions fall silent in the absence of power, and newspapers cannot be found.
Even in the swelling darkness, people came together not out of fear, but from mutual benefit. They work together to clear debris. The cigarettes they hoarded are now given out like Halloween candy. Humans share what they had in a time of scarcity and doubt.
Civilization had returned, but only through the absence of what we knew as ‘civilization.’
In moments like this storm, or during the Los Angeles riots when a police officer could not be found for miles, humans experience liminality, or the state of vast change being imminent but not yet visible. In this age after the World Wars, we hover on the threshold between what is known and something we have not allowed ourselves to see.
A hidden truth lurks underneath the assumptions that guide our lives. When the current order is gone, people will first experience the anarchic feral atavism of civilization-death that we all fear in potent bourgeois recoil. But then, positive rewards – the efficiency of collaboration – will emerge. We cannot have the latter without the former.
Neoreaction belongs to a series of movements which attempted to re-invent realism for the latter half of the twentieth century and beyond. It inherits its core idea from Libertarianism, which is that free market activity is the actual rule of a society, and turns that lens on government, which only through its presumed democratic legitimacy is granted a monopoly on power.
Humans form a self-organizing system, or one in which like in the free market, individual choices provide better efficiency than centralized systems based on legitimacy, especially the perceived legitimacy of a morality of defense of the less-successful against the rich and powerful. Neoreaction expresses this idea through the notion of “patchwork,” or many small corporations providing government-like services with citizens “subscribing” to the new state as consumers, rather than political or cultural actors.
This notion, designed more as thought-experiment than advocacy, shows both what is wrong with modern society and its own impossibility. It reveals the failure of moral legitimacy as a basis for government, but unfortunately, repeats the same mistake through its reliance on individual choice as its own basis. However, it opens the door to the dark truth we are (still) afraid to see.
Reactionary politics have existed since at least the French Revolution, which divided the West into those who supported the old way and those who wanted the new way to work.
In the 1990s, reaction got a new boost because, as the former hippies ascended to power with the same ideals they championed in 1968 in their minds, Generation X fought back by pointing out how the natural logic of civilization was superior to the politics of moral legitimacy, which had their root in the human ego and not nature, logic or reverence for the sacred.
In the view of these new movements – best seen through the lyrics of black metal bands, writings of Michel Houellebecq and myself – the order of nature was more efficient than the order of human intentions, which formed a type of “control system” as people wanted to enforce on reality and others notions they needed to believe were true for personal emoional reasons. The hippies revealed themselves as being every bit as authoritarian as Hitler, but motivated by moral legitimacy.
As the world passed into the 2000s, a Libertarian wave emerged as people wanted an escape from the use by governments of moral legitimacy as a way to exert endless tributes in the form of taxes from the population. The Libertarian ideal holds that governments be minimal, and that free markets – including the laws of contract and free association – handle all domestic questions, replacing the “civil rights” agenda of governments.
Within that wave came the new reactionaries, including Mencius Moldbug, a writer who advanced a series of thought-arguments to prove the point that moral legitimacy created oppressive and moribund societies, and that only by liberating ourselves from this “liberation” could we again have a base-level of function. After the collape of the twin towers, it had become obvious to many that the existing government was not only bloated but incompetent, and that its policies had led it into paradoxical states from which it could not escape.
Neoreaction formed within a wave of anti-liberal movements in the late 20th and early 21st century. Including the New Right and Alternative Right, these movements focused on an attack against the perceived moral legitimacy of governments based in equality. Almost all of this harkened back to the writings of Fred Nietzsche, who argued that defense of the weak naturally meant penalizing and destroying the strong, resulting in runaway altruism ending in incompetent societies.
The Alternative Right branches off from Neoreaction in that it rejects the Libertarian premis that individual decisions in groups produce efficient results, because it recognizes that people are not equal and therefore quality varies, and that in human groups, insanity or at least degradation-inducing compromise prevails in all decision-making. This rejection of the sacred cornerstones of the post-1945 West, democracy and equality, seems as blasphemous to us today as relativity seemed when first introduced, but like that theory, describes our world more accurately than the notions behind egalitarianism.
The two movements join on the issue of power. Moldbug wrote of formalism, or the idea that humans should accept the fact that governments are self-interested actors in the marketplace, and “formalize” that relationship by allowing governments to be for-profit entities. This returns us to the Nietzschean idea that allowing the strongest to prevail means that the most competent will be in power, which is superior to running in fear from power and as a result creating a constant leadership crisis through democracy.
Where this becomes interesting is the fusion of the Nietzschean with an idea from Antonio Gramsci, an Italian Communist who is credited with being the founder of Cultural Marxism. In his view, the way to change political opinions was to alter cultural views, much as books like Uncle Tom’s Cabin, To Kill A Mockingbird or All Quiet On The Eastern Front adjusted how the public saw certain previously normal activities.
By making people reject certain ideas as declasse, Gramsci reasoned, revolutionaries could create a race to prove oneself to be “virtuous” by accepting the opposite of those ideas, which allowed revolutionary movements to style themselves as the opposite of certain behaviors. At that point, the free market took over: people want others to like them so that they can socialize and engage in commerce together, so they adopt the “good” ideas instead of the bad ones, and race straight into the arms of the Marxists.
The New Right found Gramsci fascinating and conjectured that right wing ideas could become a superior cultural product as Leftist attempts at governance imploded. The more the Left screwed up, the more people would want to signal themselves as virtuous by joining the other side, and the resulting cultural wave would change opinions from the middle of society and not the top or bottom, resulting in a transition to Right-wing politics and eventually, a restoration of the last known method of working civilization, described as the “four pillars”:
I. Aristocracy: instead of finding those with the most votes or most popular product, we find our best people and give to them wealth, land and power for safekeeping. This ends the growth cycle of markets that causes runaway social decline, protects the natural land, and commands leadership to do what is excellent, not merely what is reactive to current social conditions.
II. Positive reward loops: most societies insist on centralization, where a single authority defines goals and roles and commands people to fulfill them or they are punished. Positive reward systems work by establishing principles of what is right, and then rewarding those who act according to those principles and achieve good results.
III. Rule by culture: to keep citizens in line with laws, we need n+1 unimpeachably honest police officers for n population. A better way is to allow citizens to compete for virtuosity by enforcing standards through free association, with those standards being passed down through the years through what we call “culture,” or the shared principles and behavior of a population.
IV. Transcendental goals: instead of looking toward closed-circuit material goals like economic and popularity, we should look toward transcendental questions, like whether we have achieved excellence or “the good, the beautiful and the true,” because people who dwell in beauty have an urge to do right and even more, to improve everything under their care.
These require us to see the difference between qualitative and quantitative views of life: in the quantitative view, people are numbers and we must ensure they are all in the right categories through “new” ideas and moral legitimacy. In the qualitative view, people are different and we must encourage them to rise to the very best possible state, in an analogue for both natural selection and conventional morality in which one strives to be virtuous, or “correct and good” not merely “good” as a social signal.
Qualitative approaches require a hierarchy where each person or thing is ranked according to their degree of quality. The notion of equality was invented to avoid this very process, since it naturally generates winners and losers in the world of social rank, where quantitative systems allow all to be accepted and then some to rise above by demonstrating their commitment to what pleases the most people in the group.
We can see the effect of social conditioning of the qualitative nature through the response to the poisoning of Tylenol capsules back in the 1980s. Before laws were passed, manufacturers and small businesses began sealing all of their medications and food products because they wanted to ensure their clientele that they would be safe. Without central control, necessary improvements happen when cultural shifts occur.
The French Revolution brought us politics, or the rule of nations by the number of votes received, which naturally entails mass manipulation through public relations. The 21st century reactionary surge has brought us a revolution against politics.
Although the primary effect of politics is material, it has a more profoundly damaging effect through its changes on the spirit. Politics encourages peopl to make decisions without having direct personal investment in them, and demands that those decisions be made in the context of universalism, or single rules applied equally to every person. As a result, this “one size fits all” approach introduces waste by being inexact, where more organic methods like freedom of contract and association provide more accurate, specific and localized results.
Politics encourages the growth of individualism, or the idea that a person should choose what benefits themselves in terms of material convenience and ignore all other consideration. Over the long-term, this makes people both selfish and hopeless because they have nothing larger than themselves to reach out to except the social unit, which is based in the human ego and for that reason, always succumbs to petty concerns instead of those which can sustain a personality, spirit or self-esteem.
People need reasons to like themselves. This only comes from having a cultural standard by which good actions can be recognized, and people rewarded for having enforced self-discipline on themselves and through that become able to discern and fulfill the mandates of cultural value systems. Politics deprives them of this by limiting their focus to themselves, in reaction to others, creating false consensual reality that obscures the underlying reality of cause and effect.
Every civilization has a design whether it accepts that fact or not. This design determines the nature of the civilization, in that most designs produce third-world levels of hygiene, corruption, social order and function. Some designs rise above that subsistence standard and from those, great civilizations spring. Most of us think of the glory days of Athens, Sparta and Rome.
The modern West is caught in a death spiral because its values are based on assumptions that are not in reality true. That means that both everything it does fails, and that the only reward to citizens comes from banging the tin drum of “virtue signaling,” or affirming the dominant paradigm of egalitarianism. Thoe who do not repeat the party line find themselves denied promotions, jobs, friends, mates and social status. The society within the West works on the principle of natural selection to remove those who fail to affirm the unrealistic.
In the Nietzschean view, egalitarianism is a “slave morality” in that it resents those who are naturally talented and seeks to supplant them with those who are obedient to the notions that flatter others, which gives those others a sense of being “in control.” This is an innate pitfall in human reasoning, and explains why every society that self-destructs seems to do so at the peak of its power.
Garrett Hardin wrote “The Tragedy of the Commons” in the midst of the hippie revolution. His point was that individuals acting rationally in self-interest could collectively destroy resources by depleting them, since each individual always benefits from using more of the resource before others. In the 21st century, we have seen that his rule applies not to just resources, but civilizations.
Once we had a thriving society in the West. It was probably healthiest in the time of Aristotle or before, but its decay has taken many long years, and now it is at its nadir. Self-interest translated through groups becomes a form of collectivized individualism, by which each person uses society as a means to advance themselve at the expense of others, generally by demanding equality and then cheating around it.
We have seen this disease before. It took Athens, and it took Rome. We must decide whether we follow in their footsteps, acknowledging that most people – on the order of ninety-nine out of one hundred – will choose collectivized individualism through egalitarianism up until the very end. For them, it is too threatening to their egos to do anything but follow the flattering path to doom.
The disease of the West might be described as solipsism, or the surreptitious notion that other people do not exist and therefore, the consequences of individual actions do not matter beyond that individual. Certainly this is how we treat nature and shared social spaces, which are now equally defiled by advertising and graffiti. Most likely we are treating our civilization the same way.
Solipsists do not believe that they need anything more than themselves. And yet, to be human is to need a group, and to rely on specialization of labor, as well as to know that the future of each individual depends on how functional society is. In a dysfunctional society, good acts are not noticed, and good achievements fade away because there is no one else to support them.
Nature has given us a clue to the disease of the West: people are no longer having children at replacement rates. We are slowly dying out because we are existentially miserable. We are existentially miserable because of slave morality, which has all of us working long hours at unnecessary work and ignoring social dysfunction so that the weakest among us feel safe. This is the consequence of moral legitimacy as the basis of government, and more importantly, of our Gramscian cultural intent.
As Plato observed, civilizations have life cycles which manifest in how they choose to rule themselves and, as a result of that, how people behave. Our type of leadership determines our behavior. When slave morality takes over, which is usually the consequence of civilization being successful and therefore allowing those who would normally not thrive to reproduce at faster rates, civilization heads toward democracy and self-destructs.
Spengler re-cast our vision of history by pointing out that the world is littered with the remnants of once-great civilizations that have failed. If we look at this through a clinical eye, we see that civilization has an inbuilt flaw that leads toward suicide, but if we are able to identify that flaw and reverse it, a civilization can live on in health. This flaw is the tendency to succeed, and therefore to indirectly subsidiz those who would not naturally thrive, leading to a slave morality becoming the norm.
We can cast out the flaw by removing the concept of moral legitimacy from our culture and idea of ideal leadership. Without a manic desire to protect the weak, we can focus again on the healthy and normal, and we will get more of those instead of more people who are not thriving without our subsidy. Replacing this could be a pagan morality of “good to the good, and bad to the bad,” as Plato suggested, in which we reward adaptation much as Darwin informed us that nature does. This creates hierarchy, and nurtures strength in our people.
This concept is perennially unpopular among human beings because of low self-esteem, especially at the lower echelons. The four pillars listed above address this by creating a social order that embraces the individual at his level of competence, and gives him a role where he can excel. The unpopularity of this idea could be viewed as a type of evil, which the Greeks described as “hubris” or a desire to rise above a natural place in the hierarchy of gods, nature and man. This hierarchy is determined by ability to make decisions of a realistic nature, and most humans do not have much of that ability.
To reach that state, those among us who are natural leaders – those who can be found “making things work” in every type of role – must engage in Black Pill thinking. Unlike the Red Pill for which it is named, the Black Pill requires recognizing that there is no inherent order to reality for us to follow. We are known by our choices, which reveal the quality of our thinking, and there is no innate right choice, but different choices produce different results. A person of farther foresight will make different choices than one of limited ability and less strenuous moral character.
This terrifies us because we desire some innate rule to which we can be obedient or not, much as we want God to place writing on the wall telling us what to do. And yet, that is a dream. We must choose: rise to the greatness of early Greece and Rome, or join the obedient herd in marching steadily toward a third world society? History will judge us, and in our inmost consciousness, we will judge ourselves, by our decision.