This post may be mostly of interest to young American right-wingers who frequent Twitter spaces and are lured into the orbit of Bronze Age Mindset and other very interesting, yet derivative, musings in the spirit of Friedrich Nietzsche. But why not stick around anyway?
Americans, English-speakers, sons of the Anglosphere, don’t let the nymphs of the Continent draw you like Hylas, never to come back, into their dark and lethal waters.
Yes, the West is in crisis, the Continent is in crisis, America is in crisis, and thus it is very tempting to assume this is all the same crisis. “There is nothing left to conserve! Nothing left to restore! Let it all be purged by a thousand flames!”
But it’s not really the same crisis.
The Crackpot Continent
To an extent, I buy the “purge everything and start over” line of argument for Europe. Very broadly, Europe is still reeling from the attack of the Enlightenment. The philosophes of the 18th century, described by Burke as a “literary cabal” had launched a highly successful assault against the traditional continental mind: “Reason” should replace superstition, ancient modes of government and association should be replaced, societies should be re-engineered, religion and prejudice should be relinquished forever.
The assault had been successful not only on account of its vicious political manifestation – the French Revolution – but also because its spirit, its ideas, had indeed rapidly spread across Europe in a never-ending series of “-isms,” rapid secularization, and bloated big ideas gesticulated by haughty politicians, tyrants, and academics.
You know the rest – two world wars, frenzied ideologies, political impotence, and what is Europe now? A bureaucratic blob, a gynocracy of harpies holding onto task lists and trite speeches as their emblematic symbols.
Indeed, nothing to conserve, nothing to restore. Read Nietzsche and dream of the hazes of the deep Hyperborean past.
The Sceptered Anglosphere
None of the above, however, is relevant to the Anglosphere. The notions of secularization, of “big ideas,” of hysterical philosophes spouting with much gesticulation a theory of everything, are alien to us.
Let’s begin with religion. Until very (very!) recently, the Anglosphere had been a deeply religious place. There was no sophomoric “science vs. religion” conflict. The 19th century was experienced very differently in the Anglosphere than it was in the Continent – the great explosion of technological might, of imperial expansion, of the American frontier, was accompanied not by secularization but by religious revivals!
The Victorian Empire had an overzealous evangelical lobby, sending missionaries, deans, curates, and bishops into all corners of the empire. You can thank them, not “human rights activists” for the abolition of slavery across the empire and the persecution of slave traders in every new territory acquired, from Burma to Zanzibar.
The story of the American frontier is also a religious one, of young pioneers settling in the wilderness with their devout families, building their simple yet elegant churches as the first public building in any town.
Were they not taught that God was a flying spaghetti monster and that “ha, ha, science contradicts God?” I’m sure they were, but they didn’t really care and dismissed it as strange foreign talk. Again, this was a civilization pioneering the latest technological and scientific discoveries, but for them, there was no contradiction. How come?
This leads me to a point regarding “big ideas.” The reason why the Anglos had no issue with seeming contradictions – tradition and modernity, religion and science – is that thinking in big ideas is completely alien to us. We are not French.
Against the characteristic “rationalism” of the Continent, we’ve always had humble empiricism and common sense. And so the hurricanes of the Enlightenment may rage and uproot the big minds of the Continent, while the average Anglo (with notable exceptions) could not care less. God, country, one’s land, the ways of one’s forefathers, who cares about the “Rights of Man?”
And indeed the “Rights of Man,” as noble as they may be, are redundant in the Anglosphere. This may sound shocking to readers so used to the narrative of “the Enlightenment gave us individual rights!” but no – we’ve ALWAYS had them in the Anglosphere.
Since time immemorial, even if not always consistently applied, our shield and aid in ages past has been the Common Law of England. Unless in the context of a crime you could NEVER simply seize the property of an Englishman. It’s not a new constitutional development, “Wow, we discovered property rights!” Wherever the Common Law was applied, at least since the 17th century, it has granted the individual the ancient rights of property, fair trial, due process, and even free speech (hence various laws defining “sedition” as an implement to limit free speech).
England has had a more or less free press since at least the end of the 17th century, including cartoons lampooning the king on the receiving end of flatulence.
Needless to say, that was the source of the colonists’ anger in America. Beyond a few hysterics of the Thomas Paine type, most were not washed by Enlightenment ideology and really knew very little about the whole thing. Many of the revolutionists simply saw themselves as Englishmen whose ancient rights, those enjoyed by their forefathers, were taken from them. Even Jefferson admitted England to be a “free country” and was not even imagining relinquishing the Common Law. The 9th Amendment to America’s Constitution enshrines the Common Law and specifies that rights not in the Bill of Rights yet already retained by the people (meaning, as Common Law rights) are just as inviolable.
Hence, Continental problems are not our problems. And naturally, Continental solutions are not our solutions. Maybe it is all lost for them, but we CAN reconcile science and religion, we certainly used to fairly recently. We CAN have liberty without Enlightenment values demolishing tradition, it’s in the deepest of our legal traditions. Our own legacy, until recently our lived tradition, has all the genetic material of a happy-go-lucky confident civilization of scientific prowess, elegant churches, faithful households, good manners, and radiant optimism all in one.
We are not France, a nebulous creature raped too many a time now in need of a shocking reboot. Our debasement and corruption are only 60 years old or so, not 250. Yes, we are under a sort of occupation, but that’s a silver lining – with the Potomac Regime gone, we shall have much to restore, even conserve. The 1950s weren’t that long ago.
Ultimately, we are unique. Yes, we are of the West, but the West has many aspects. Ours is the most glorious aspect of the West, its most successful daughter-civilization, both pious and dynamic, both traditional and forward-looking. A little oil change and we are good to go!
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