“So check it out, and next time you go cruising down the street, take a look around. We are Franklin Franklin.” — Jeff Frankas
After reading Jeff Frankas’ excellent review of Small Apartments I did what I usually do in such circumstances–head over to Amazon to see if there are any used copies in the $0.25 range (my current book budget). Once there, I discovered that it has already been made into a movie, a veritable “underground hit” with big stars like . . . Billy Crystal.
I can’t say as I ever heard of the movie, either, but one thing caught my eye among the reviews and PR material on Amazon: several comparisons to the Ignatius Reilly of John Kennedy Toole’s Confederacy of Dunces. Although superficially plausible, and you can’t blame the publishers for trying to hitch a ride on an established hit novel, on reflection it seems to ring false, and for reasons I think will interest Counter-Currents readers. Says Frankas about Franklin:
Part of Franklin’s problem is his image and lack of, well, common knowledge of how anything works. He’s out of shape. He’s socially inept. He can’t fix anything. He can’t drive a manual five-speed. He doesn’t stick up for himself. He is easily pushed around. He cringes when spoken to. He daydreams. He has no real skills for a real job. He screeches like a small girl when something frightens him. He’s basically useless, taking up space and consuming junk food.
Yes, that seems something like our boy Ignatius. And yet, I think not. Partly, Ignatius does indeed stick up for himself, when challenged, and even sticks up for others, as in his Crusade for Moorish Dignity. Nor does he cringe when spoken to; he responds with vociferous verbal rodomontade, and seems not to really hear anyone anyway.
“Is my paranoia getting completely out of hand, or are you mongoloids really talking about me?”
But Ignatius problem is not his lack of knowledge about how anything works; it’s his refusal to acquire that knowledge, to sully his being by contact with the modern world. He’s full of knowledge of theology and geometry, but as he points out incessantly, the modern world is not.
“I am at the moment writing a lengthy indictment against our century. When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip.”
“. . . I doubt very seriously whether anyone will hire me.”
“What do you mean, babe? You a fine boy with a good education.”
“Employers sense in me a denial of their values.” He rolled over onto his back. “They fear me. I suspect that they can see that I am forced to function in a century I loathe. This was true even when I worked for the New Orleans Public Library.”
Franklin, on the other hand, has no knowledge, no greater background; he takes on faith what the world tells him is important, and simply fails to succeed in acquiring it. Franklin (his name, ironically, means “free man”) wants to fit in; Ignatius does not.
Ignatius, instead, battles against the modern world (like a certain Sicilian baron), which gives him the tragic dignity of a Don Quixote, and makes him suitable for a (hopefully somewhat ironic) hero on the Right.
Take, for example, their attitude toward bowling. For Franklin, it might seem, at least initially, as a way out of his dilemma of solitude, at least according to his brother, and other theorists of “game”:
Bernard brought home a parade of girlfriends. He would usually take them bowling on a first date. Bernard carried a 160 average, but he would sandbag for the girls. Bernard did not put on airs. He did not care what impressed a woman. “Take them bowling,” Bernard would say. “That’s how you flush out the tight-asses. Uptight chicks refuse to bowl. And if they won’t bowl, they won’t roll. If you know what I mean.”
Ignatius, for his part, actually seems to be commenting on this future event, sort of giving his side of it:
“My mother is currently associating with some undesirables who are attempting to transform her into an athlete of sorts, depraved specimens of mankind who regularly bowl their way to oblivion.”
Ah yes, depraved specimens of mankind. In this respect, he does indeed, as Frankas says, “represent the devolution of today’s white male.” But it goes beyond needing to get out more and exercise. Lacking knowledge, culture, in a word, Tradition, modern folks lack roots in the past; they lack, as Tom Moore would say, soul.
This is related, in some way I hope to make clear, to a cable doco I accidentally ran across last night: the Smithsonian Channel’s The Nazi Temple of Doom. Here’s their description, and a video here:
A 23-pound, solid-gold cauldron was found at the bottom of a Bavarian lake in 2001. Thought to be a 2,000-year-old Celtic treasure, one expert valued it at 1.4 billion dollars . . . until it was proven to be a fake. Yet the origins of this forgery prove to be just as historically significant. Discover the astonishing secrets behind this recently found artifact. Our investigation uncovers a story of intrigue, shady deals, and a plot by Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler to create a sinister Camelot inside The Nazi Temple of Doom, Germany’s Wewelsburg Castle.
I missed the first third or so, the whole Celtic cauldron rigmarole, but the Himmler stuff was of interest. Of course, it was the usual cable agitprop: grainy films, dramatic “reconstructions,” which is the audience draw, while occasional academics pop up to sneer (as one did, approximately like this): “Yes, these mystical ideas sound childish and absurd, but we must remember that they served to justify Hitler’s death machine.”
Well, not quite. My understanding is that Hitler, ever the modernist and even pragmatist, had little patience with Himmler’s constant attempts to dig up the German past — “The Greeks were building temples when our people lived in caves, and now he wants to dig the whole thing up again to embarrass us!”
The whole cable Nazi thing, especially the “occult” variations, is sort of a cultural vaccination, giving people a little of the dangerous Nazi intoxication they crave, but not enough to let them get out of hand, and with plenty of Afterschool Special warnings along the way.
In the same way, every day or so someone on the Left or Right (funny, that unity) will work themselves up into a pitch of fury at the Obama administration, or the Big Banks, and hurl the “Nazi” or “fascist” epithet. In a way, it’s meaningless and childish, simply using “the worst word” you can, but it still rankles those of us (on this site, for example) who know that the real National Socialists were fighting against Big Banks and what’s come to be called the NWO (to the extent that it exists at all, that was the target in the ’30s).
Be that as it may, the cable Nazi fetish and the “Nazi” Obama administration share the same roots: the need for us to believe that the boot that stamps on our face, forever, at least belongs to someone with class.
I recall that the Romanians were horrified when, after the revolution, TV broadcasts showed that Ceausescu’s supposedly luxurious mansion was decorated in the worst taste and with the cheapest materials. “For this we were enslaved?” Better the Pyramids, or Versailles!
We may have destroyed “Himmler’s Camelot” but we had our own under Kennedy. Now, instead of Versailles we have Versace, or even Versayce. And can you imagine the banality, the dopeyess, of the Obamas at home, or the Bidens? And God only knows what a Mitch McConnell or Mitt Romney would be like behind the scenes. Give us Skull and Bones! Give us the Illuminati!
Hence, the appeal of national or global conspiracies, preferably of the most occult or Satanic nature. Surely, behind the banal faces of our own Springfield’s local types, there must be . . . the Stonecutters!
Who holds back the electric car?
Who makes Steve Gutenberg a star?
We do, we do!
Alas, as Paul Fussell points out in his invaluable survey Class: A Guide Through the American Status System, life among what he calls the “Top Out of Sight” class (the old, truly wealthy, not striving show-off and busybodies like Gates or Branson; the WASP Establishment, if you will) might seem ideal — never a worry about money or status! — but you must resign yourself to “never hearing anyone saying anything intelligent or original.”
But it’s not simply a matter of high class tastes in wine or decorating. It always seems to eventually work its way back to a yearning for a higher dimension of existence. If it’s the Jews behind it, they’re not just an ethnic group but “the synagogue of Satan.” If it’s the Nazis, it’s not just geopolitics but “the occult.” Only in this way will our world be re-enchanted, and the elite we are forced to endure be somehow justified by its role in a spiritually rooted social hierarchy.
So-called “conservatives” are mistakenly portrayed as wanting to “turn back the clock,” which, if possible, no one actually wants to do–Alan Watts alluded to a chap who wanted to live in the 18th century of Mozart and Molière, but with modern dentistry and electric lights.
What they want is to return to the roots, and those are always already accessible today–archeofuturism, in short. That was the motive force of the movements of the European Revolution of the interwar period; maybe we should let “conservative” apply to the real old fogies at that, and call ourselves what we are: fascists.
But there are no “movements” today, certainly none aiming at that kind of palingeneis. The roots are there, but no one seems to want to grab hold, as Odin did.
The same night, I heard O’Reilly (not at all like Reilly) grousing in his usual sour way, this time about the prognosticated lack of turnout on Election Day. How could over 60% of the electorate not care enough to vote, while the whole country says things are going to Hell in a hand basket?
Well, there are a number of answers to that (starting with: neither party will change the status quo, since they are the status quo), but I’ve frequently felt rather nostalgic, and resentful, really, about the lack of any serious Movement for we who are being crushed between the forces of Cultural Revolution and Economic Immiseration. (Notice how nominally they are Left and Right, respectively, yet work hand in hand against the vast majority?).
Now, in the Old Days, there was a Party for use lumpen malcontents to join! Postwar, Ignatius has no such option (although he does try to organize the exploited darkies with his Crusade for Moorish Dignity), making his a lonely, misunderstood, futile crusade. By Franklin’s time, our time, the Powers That Be just want you to consume. Stay on the horizontal, don’t think of any “silly” metaphysical ideas. Besides, that way leads to Auschwitz! Instead devote your time and energy to work and play. As I said at the beginning, Franklin is a failure at work and play, not a metaphysical warrior like Ignatius, and not a Man against Time, like the Hero of the XXth Century.
And so we reach the Age of Franklin: rootless consumers who can’t even successfully consume, and a rootless elite that bores even itself and increasingly can’t provide the goods. Lacking Tradition, the one can’t even conceive of anything to organize themselves to fight for, and the other is a loose coalition of capitalist freebooters that wouldn’t know what to say at a midnight cabal.
So, don’t forget to vote!
1. “Laughing at Our Own Reflection,” here.
2. Evelyn Williams: “You hate that job anyway. I don’t see why you just don’t quit.”
Patrick Bateman: “Because I want to fit in.” — American Psycho
3. Read, if you don’t think it too middle-brow, his The Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life (HarperCollins, 1992).
4. “It’s Always Nazi Week” on cable (Two and a Half Men, Season 6, Episode 6).
5. See my review of Look Who’s Back here.
6. Unconsciously echoing Disraeli: “When [the Anglo-Saxons] combed their hair with bear grease, my people were priests of Yahweh.”
7. Oh, they love vaccinations, now don’t they?
8. Clay Shaw: “Such a pity, that assassination. In fact, I admired President Kennedy. A man with true panache, and a wife with impeccable taste.”–Oliver Stone, JFK.
9. Simon and Schuster, 1983, p. 33. This lack of ideas is corroborated in Fritz Zorn’s autobiography of life among the Gold Coast of Zürich in Mars (translated from the German by Robert and Rita Kimber; Knopf, 1982) where all discussion is forbidden, since disagreement would be, well, disagreeable. Taking ideas seriously is for Russian films, which his parents find amusing.
10. “The words of Charles Foster Kane are a menace to every working man in this land. He is today what he has always been–and always will be–a Fascist!” Kane: “I’m an American. Always been an American.”
11. One thinks of Judaic academic George Steiner’s series of little anthologies, Roots of the Right: Readings in Racist, Fascist and Elitist Ideology, (Stirner, Gobineau, Alfred Rosenberg, de Maistre, Maurras), well worth looking for on the used market. From the series title to their literal black book jackets, was there ever a more seductive series of books?
12. Not that there’s anything wrong with our own metapolitical project here at Counter-Currents, but I’m talking about an all-purpose, top to bottom, soup to nutzi outfit that can run whole cities. If not fascism, how about good old fashion Tammany Hall graft? Jobs for the boys, indeed!
13. “Don’t be stupid, be a smartie/Come and join the Nazi party!”–Mel Brooks, Springtime for Hitler. Or as Frank Costello says, “Years ago we had the church. That was only a way of saying–we had each other. The Knights of Columbus were real head-breakers, true guineas. They took over their piece of the city. Twenty years after an Irishman couldn’t get a fucking job, we had the presidency. [Camelot!] May he rest in peace. That’s what the niggers don’t realize. If I got one thing against the black chappies, it’s this–no one gives it to you. You have to take it.”–Martin Scorsese, The Departed.
14. Although when he returns to post-reunification Germany in Look Who’s Back, his metaphysical intensity is mistaken for a comic routine and therefore thought of as a harmless eccentric like Ignatius; see my review, cited in note 5 above.
15. “Year by year, generation after generation, they enriched and extended [Brideshead], year by year the great harvest of timber in the park grew to ripeness; until, in sudden frost, came the age of Hooper; the place was desolate and the work all brought to nothing; Quomodo sedt sola civitas. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity” (Brideshead Revisited). “All is ratio and ceaseless activity, calculating and doing; there is no contemplation, no intellect. The [Franklins] of this world are not evil or malicious, then. They, like Hooper, simply lack ‘intellectual curiosity, or natural piety.’ Without at least the longing for faith, the world of Hooper is incapable of grasping just how forsaken it is.” — Tim Black “Demeaning Waugh’s Hateful, Beautiful Novel,” here.