In the domain of inner reactions and characterology, two basic forms may be distinguished. They can be designated, respectively, with the expressions “love of the close” and “love of the distant” (Nietzsche’s “Liebe der Ferne”). In the former case, one is attracted to that which is close to one, in the second, to what is distant. The former is related to “democracy” in the broadest, and especially the existential sense; the second is related to a higher human type, found mostly in the world of Tradition.
In the first case, in order for a person, a leader, be followed, he has to be seen as “one of us.” Someone has coined a felicitous term for this attitude: “nostrism” [the term was coined by the Austrian National Socialist Walther Pembauer in his book Nationalismus und Ethik]. It is obviously connected with “popularity,” “reaching out the people,” or “being among the people,” as well as, on the other hand, with an intolerance for every qualitative difference. Recent aspects of this orientation are known to all; including the insipid circulating and “traveling” of the Pontiffs, when the only normal thing would be the quasi-inaccessibility that once made certain sovereigns appear to the people as “solitary peaks.” Here, the pathos of the situation should be noted, since there is such a thing as physical proximity which does not preclude, but instead maintains, interior distance.
We know of the significant part played by “nostrism” in totalitarian regimes of the past and present. The scenes of dictators who are pleased to appear among “the people,” scenes which are then recorded and publicized, are pathetic. If the basis of power is more or less demagogic, such scenes are, indeed, almost a necessity. The “great comrade” (Stalin) is still a comrade. All this corresponds to a specific collective climate. Already more than a century and a half ago, Juan Donoso Cortés, the Spanish philosopher and statesman, wrote bitterly that there are no more rulers who wish to really present themselves as such; if they did, perhaps hardly anyone would follow them. Thus, a kind of prostitution imposes itself in the world of politics, as pointed out by Otto Weininger. It would be no exaggeration to say that if today there were leaders in an authentic aristocratic sense, they would often be forced to conceal their nature and to present themselves as democratic agitators of the masses, if they wanted to be able to exert any influence. The only area that has remained partially immune to this contamination is the army, although it is not always easy to find in it the stern and impersonal style that characterized Prussianism, for example.
The type of man that corresponds to “nostrism” is essentially plebeian. The opposite type is the one associated with the expression “love of the distant.” Not “human” proximity, but distance, arouses a deeply uplifting feeling in this kind of man, and at the same time pushes him to follow and obey, but in terms very different from the plebeian type. In ancient times, one could speak of the magic or fascination of “Olympian superiority.” Here, other strings in the soul vibrate. In another domain, we certainly cannot see any progress in the transition from the god-man of the classical world (even if only a symbol or ideal) to the man-god of Christianity, to the God who became a man and founded a human religion, with a love that is supposed to unite all men, bringing them close to one other. Not without reason, Nietzsche pointed out that this was the opposite of what he called vornehm (a term that can be translated as “distinguished” or “aristocratic”).
The starry night sky above exhilarated Kant through its unspeakable distance, and this feeling is experienced by many non-vulgar beings in a completely natural way. Here we are at the limit. However, a reflection of this can also be detected on infinitely more conditioned planes. To “anagogical” distance (i.e., the distance that uplifts), one can oppose something that instead is often concealed under the guise of humility. Seneca said that there is no more detestable pride than that of the humble. This saying comes from a keen analysis of what lies at the bottom of the humility flaunted by people who, deep down, are complacent about themselves, and who harbor feelings of loathing for anyone who is superior to them. The feeling of being together [il sentirsi insieme] is natural to such people, and points back to what we said above about “nostrism.”
As in many other cases, the considerations set forth here are intended to fix discriminating criteria of measurement and, naturally, go against the main current of our time [controcorrente].
Regarding the craze of leaders descending to the level of the people, we cannot resist the temptation to recount a personal anecdote. Years ago, we sent one of our books to a certain sovereign [Umberto II], respecting the normal rules of etiquette, i.e., sending it to him not directly, but through an intermediary. Well, we are stating the complete truth when we say that we were quite shocked to receive a letter of thanks that began with the words “Dear (!) Evola,” even though I had never met him in person or ever spoken to him. This “democratic” spirit seems to be bon ton. But it disgusts anyone who still has a feeling for the old values.
In a completely everyday domain, one can recall, as an indicator of the same kind, a very widespread practice in the United States, the most plebeian country in the world. Especially among the younger generations, one cannot have a simple chat with someone without being invited by them to set aside formalities and call them by their first name, Al, Joe, etc. In contrast, we can remember certain children who addressed their own parents with the formal “Lei” [the Italian equivalent of “vous” in French or “Sie” in German], and a certain person, quite “close” to us, who continued to address girls (respectable girls) with the “Lei” even after having been to bed with them, while in films that surely reflect American mores present us with the stereotype of the “he” who after a simple, insipid kiss immediately is on informal terms with the woman.
Source: Julius Evola, Ricognizioni: uomini e problemi (Rome: Edizioni Mediterranee, 1974).