I am all right. I tell myself this at the grocery store when, in the midst of an apparent manic episode I begin chatting inanely with the mixed-race store clerk in the designer frames. He is cordial, but it is clear that he thinks I am not quite right. But I am.
Sometimes I blurt things out on the subway. I might be having an imaginary argument with a co-worker, or with Barack Obama, or with someone I’ve just dreamed up. “Pigs!” I mutter. The other passengers eye me warily. I want to tell them that I am all right; that it’s okay because I’m not one of those crazy people that ride the subway.
The same thing happens to me when I find myself laughing out loud sitting in Starbucks or standing in the security line at the airport. I’m not laughing at anything in particular. Sometimes just the sheer absurdity of modern life makes me begin tittering. And then I get those looks. Mothers draw their children closer to them. But it’s okay, because I am all right.
Or am I?
I think I am all right because none of these incidents defines me. I am able to abstract myself from each one and say “I did that, but it wasn’t me. Not the real me.” I was just behaving like I behave at home, by myself. I was simply caught in an unguarded moment, standing in the center of the subway car holding onto a pole, surrounded by 35 people. I also know I’m all right because I could have chosen not to do any of these things. I could have kept my mouth shut and not blurted out “Fucking go to hell!” on the R train. I wasn’t compelled. But crazy people have no choice; they can’t help doing crazy things. I may do crazy things, but I don’t have to do them. And this means that I am all right.
This way of understanding things served me well for many years — until I hit midlife. Finding myself almost forty-five and having lived alone for close to a decade, I started to notice that I was doing these crazy things a lot more often. And then I began to have the same troubling thought over and over: if I consistently do crazy things, isn’t it reasonable to think that I am, in fact, defined by them?
I used to tell myself that I had freedom of will; that I didn’t have to do what I did. But if I “chose” to do these things again and again, my “choice” consistently surprising myself and sundry onlookers, didn’t this suggest some kind of compulsion? I began to think my “freedom of will” was merely an illusion – and I began to worry that I might actually be crazy. Not the really bad Norman Bates crazy. Just sort of Crazy Cat Lady crazy. Or Crazy Old Man on the Subway crazy.
To make matters worse, I began to think about my father, who is a hoarder with stacks of magazines that reach close to the ceiling, and the same yellowing comic strips affixed to his fridge for the last twenty years. And come to think of it, my mother’s mother was a bit crazy too (something blamed at the time on “hormones”).
In short, I entertained the awful thought that I might really be what those people on the R train think I am, and that it might all be due to heredity. But I think that’s actually only half the story. The greater part of my madness consists in my idea that I can abstract myself from everything I say or do or become, and say “well, that’s not the real me.” What is the real me then?
Apparently, it’s the thing that has the power to step back from each of these episodes or standpoints and negate them and proclaim “I am not that.” It’s that Vedanta kind of thing that says neti neti; it’s the coincidentia oppositorum, the Transcendental Ego. But what is that? As Hume asked, once we abstract away all our thoughts, feelings, experiences and memories, what is the self? It’s a zero. An illusion. And if that’s true then maybe I really am all those things my Ego would not own. The idea of the abstractable ego is the great illusion that keeps the craziest of us thinking we are sane.
What is true of myself, as a crazy modern person, is true of the culture. My madness, in fact, is a microcosm of modernity. We imagine that we can abstract ourselves from our biology, from our heredity, from physical limitations of all kinds, as well as from our history, from our families, from the realities of demographics and economics. And, having done that, we can create ourselves anew and be anything we want to be. This is essentially the psychology (more like a metaphysics, actually) underlying everything despised by the readers of Counter-Currents – feminism, multiculturalism, atomic individualism, American exceptionalism, etc.
One of the best examples of this phenomenon is the feminist claim that “gender” differences are “socially constructed.” I once had a conversation with a young woman in which I had occasion to mention the well-established fact that men are physically stronger than women. She patiently explained to me that this is only because women have been told that they are weaker. If they believed that they were stronger, then they would be. (Having established that she believed herself to be just as strong as a man, I challenged her to arm wrestle. To my great disappointment, she declined.)
Needless, to say such claims are fantasy, and fly in the face of thousands of years of human experience, and well over one hundred years of scientific research on sex differences. We now know, for example, that testosterone is linked to strength and aggression, and that the average man has between 10 and 20 times as much of it as the average woman. But facts don’t matter to feminists. Their Transcendental Ego can negate all facts – can negate the physical reality of the bodies they inhabit. They can be anything they want to be.
Turning to men, we are continually told today that “masculinity is being re-defined!” The politically correct love to tell us how things are being re-defined. They’re positively gleeful about it. Usually, it means that something is being re-defined to mean its opposite. And so masculinity is now offered to us in a new, improved, effeminate form. Never mind that that testosterone mentioned above drives men to be aggressive, competitive, and dominant. Biology need not detain us. We can make masculinity anything we want it to be. Leftists love to tell us that we should “follow nature” (you know, like the Native Americans did). But they cast this aside when it comes to the nature in their own bodies, the nature that makes some men and others women, and pushes us to behave in classically male and female ways.
Or take the politically correct view of family. A family does not have to involve a man and a woman, we are told. A child could be raised by a single parent, or by two men, or by two women, or by two hermaphrodites, or two bisexual microcephalics. But why think small? A child could be raised by a whole commune of polymorphous perverse pinheads. Why should we be limited by the fact that for thousands upon thousands of years family has meant a man, a woman, and their children? After all, that probably wasn’t the case because it’s the arrangement that is most natural and works the best. It probably had something to do with men being bad and forcing it on everyone. (When studies were released years ago showing that children raised, for example, in single parent households were not as happy and well-adjusted as other children, liberals were shocked, and the news made the cover of Time. Who knew?)
Multiculturalism is another example. Never mind that a multicultural society of the type advocated by leftists has never existed before in human history (i.e., one where there is no dominant culture to which the others must, to a great extent, assimilate). Why be limited by the past? It’s kind of hard to see how you can have a healthy, cohesive society made up of groups that don’t speak the same language, practice the same religion, share the same history, or share the same values. But if we all put our heads together we can make this work, right? Never mind that the immigrants flooding Europe and America come from virulently misogynistic, homophobic, backward, superstitious, and generally illiberal cultures. We’ll turn them all into good liberals. (But wait, what will happen to diversity? We’ll think about that tomorrow.)
Racial egalitarianism will serve as a final, obvious example. Never mind that in study after study blacks score significantly lower than whites on measures of intelligence. Never mind that this low intelligence is coupled with very high testosterone – an almost infallible predictor of impulsive, anti-social behavior. And please just ignore the statistics that show blacks (12% of the population) committing more than 50% of all violent crimes in the U.S. None of this provides us any basis on which to draw conclusions about what we should expect, or not expect of blacks.
After all, people can be anything they want to be – or that we want them to be. All we have to do is provide them with the right environment, the right messages, and they will soon become astronauts and brain surgeons. If the right environment and messages don’t produce the desired results, all we have to do is manipulate reality so that it looks like they have. We can do this easily by lowering standards in colleges and medical schools, making admissions exams for professions easier for non-whites to pass, or giving non-whites preferential treatment in hiring, school admissions, and promotion. We will euphemistically call the latter “affirmative action.” Once we have done all this, however, we’ll pretend like it never happened and that non-whites have gotten where they’ve gotten entirely without our help.
My friends, there is a serious disconnection with reality here — much worse than my own disconnection from reality. We are not all right. But I’m starting to think that maybe I’m all right after all. My ability to see this social pathology for what it is actually makes me optimistic about my own mental health. Truly, the insane people in our society are those who don’t see this madness as madness, and who are “well-adjusted.”
Running through all of what we call “political correctness” is the same metaphysics described earlier – the metaphysics that implicitly denies the reality of any limitations beyond the capacity of human agents to control. Since we derive a sense of reality itself precisely from those things that resist our whims, this standpoint amounts, in fact, to a kind of willful denial of reality. In short, our culture is literally – not figuratively – in the grip of madness.
This has to lead to some serious reflections on human nature and human history. How did we get to this point? Hegel believed that human history had evolved to the point where we had come to see ourselves as radically self-determining beings. He was right: this is exactly what has happened. Hegel believed, however, that it was something that had happened to Europeans exclusively (the rest of the world might follow, but maybe not). He was right about this too. But he evaluated the whole phenomenon positively.
Perhaps it is time to develop a new theory of history, one which sees our present stage of belief in “radical self-determination” as a necessary stage we must go through. And it promises only to get worse. What stage will succeed it? No one can say with certainty, but what it might be is a stage where, standing in the midst of a civilization ruined by liberalism, we recognize that we must consciously accept and affirm our determination by nature and by history. This means that we would affirm all those things taken for granted by our ancestors: the biological determination of masculinity and femininity, the necessity of the traditional family, the superiority of ethnically homogeneous societies, the inescapable realities of racial differences, and more.
The world of our ancestors was destroyed because they took all of this for granted and could not intellectually defend their world against the onslaught of moralizing Christian egalitarians and pseudo-scientific left-wing sophists. But we are in a position to possibly — just possibly — recover what was lost and to place it on firmer ground. Having seen the consequences of denying reality, we will affirm and defend reality with a wisdom, realism, and ferocity our ancestors were incapable of.
And then we will be all right (again).