Some white men are identifying with the Alt Right as they realize that the goals and norms celebrated by our social order are underpinned by multiple deceptions, suppression of debate, anti-scientific notions about human equality, and unjust opposition to white identity in the midst of outright celebration of minority group rights.
But it is not easy to dissent. The playbook of the establishment is very simple and very effective: claim that questioners of diversity are driven by plain hatred, that they are poorly-educated hicks who can’t stand losing their white privilege, and are too parochial to understand the progressive cosmopolitanism marvelously spreading through the West.
Nevertheless, the establishment is having difficulties keeping men away from the Alt Right due to the widening gap between its ideals and the sickening realities engendered by these ideals, between the ideal of equality and black crime statistics, between the ideal of multicultural harmony and the reality of Islamic terrorism, between the ideal of freedom of expression and the suppression of criticism against Islamization, and between the ideal of gender equality and the feminist acquiescence to migrant sexual assaults.
Still, one can’t help wonder why the vast majority of white males are still entrapped in these ridiculous ideals. The standard answer is that whites have been brainwashed since birth and the media still has a near-monopoly over the news. The establishment controls the narrative concerning all those realities that don’t square with their ideals. They know how to narrate black crimes as instances of discrimination and enduring inequalities. They know how to portray Islamic terrorism as acts committed by a minority rather than by “most peace-loving Muslims.” They know how to portray the shortcomings of diversity as “challenges” that can be minimized through further sensitivity training and the education of children against xenophobic feelings. They know how to ignore countless stories that run against the narrative while playing up stories that demonstrate its success.
This argument is lacking. Many whites know what’s going on and yet they prefer escapism, secure careers, or a comfortable network of politically correct friends and family members, even when they have a chance to take risks. The majority seem to welcome their own demise. One has to wonder if Alt Right men even have the vigor, vitality, and commitment of the 1960s generation. Everyone knows that contemporary White men are emasculated. Feminism is blamed. My view is that white men are the weakest in the world today because they inhabit the most comfortable, easygoing civilization. Prolonged luxurious living, where food is easily obtainable, as the ancient Greeks understood, breeds indulgent men, malleability, and softness. This weakness is a natural consequence of the cyclical nature of history.
Chateau Heartiste and Return of Kings abound with articles of accusations against feminism. The current article by Heartiste is The Innocent Victims of Feminism are Boys. But feminism is a symptom of a wider decline in Western civilization. Western decline has long been written about. Oswald Spengler’s interpretation is the best-known. But even though Spengler spoke about the rise of pacifism, loss of youthful vitality, senescence, and the dissipation of strong identities and moral values in large metropolitan centers, many have a hard time making sense of his biological metaphors; specifically, his talk about the youth, maturity, old age, and eventual death of civilizations, as if they were organisms.
Giambattista Vico (1668-1744), writing when the West was still rising, and taking the decline of Rome as his main example, identified three main cyclical phases in the trajectory of civilizations:
- Anarchy and savagery
- Order and civilization
- Decay and a new anarchic barbarism
Vico’s novelty was to suggest that the underlying mechanism behind these recurrent cyclical phases was the changing psychological state of human beings in response to different realities facing them in civilizational development. When humans face anarchy and savagery, they accept the necessity of behaving in ways that are useful for protecting themselves. They achieve this by creating order, which leads to civilized behavior. But once they achieve comfort through civilization, they focus more on amusements, growing dissolute in luxury and incapable of the discipline and seriousness required to sustain a civilization.
These underlying psychological dispositions were long understood by the ancient Greeks and Romans as common-sense observations about how the demands of survival and living without comforts nurtured strength of character, whereas a life of luxury and easy acquisitions encouraged effeminacy and licentiousness. Ancient Greek literature is full of objections to the pernicious luxury of the Orientals, the older civilizations surrounding them: their harems, eunuchs, and their corrupt intrigues. The very concept of the “Orient” came to mean opulent meals, indulgence, wantonness: effeminacy.
But the thinkers of the modern era, the ones who came up with a lineal view of history, starting with the Scottish philosophers Adam Ferguson, John Millar, and Adam Smith, rejected this cyclical view, and argued instead that all societies pass through a series of “progressive” stages: from primitive savagery to agricultural civilizations to a final stage of commerce. It was their view that the last stage of commerce would bring peaceful relations among nations and commercial riches, and thus the necessary conditions for the full development of human potentialities.
The logic of this idea was accepted in varying ways by most modern European thinkers. Marx’s innovation was to reject the idea that commercial capitalism would be the last stage. The subsequent rejection of the unilineal theories of cultural evolution that Franz Boas initiated – the celebration of primitive ways of life, which is currently a cornerstone of multicultural thinking – remains a variation of progressivism, since it asks Westerners to treat less-developed cultures with equal respect while calling for everyone to be integrated into a liberal modern world order dedicated to the elimination of poverty, warfare, and inequalities. All these arguments, from Adam Smith to Marx to Boas, are of the view that humans can be improved through changes in cultural development. Even the environmentalists have been unable to escape supporting innovations that cut back on pollutants and create nature-friendly technologies.
We have underestimated the cyclical argument and the simple truth that prolonged comfort, peacefulness, relaxation, and a lack of stress and tension weaken the human character. I am going to leave the theory of historical cycles for a future post, and here show that long ago, before the age of feminism, there were some astute observations about the emasculating effects that luxurious living had on the male character. I already alluded to the Greek association of Persian or Oriental luxury with effeminacy (which academia now dismisses as part of a “racialist discourse” intrinsic to the origins of Western civilization).
Greek and Roman Effeminacy
The Greeks themselves were later to be viewed by the Romans as over-intellectualized and over-refined in their tastes. As the Romans began to enjoy abundant wealth for the first time following their victories over the Carthaginians, with the upper classes developing an appetite for the refined tastes of the Greeks, and wanting their male children to learn about Greek rhetoric, art, and philosophy, Cato the Elder (234-149 BC) warned Romans of the weakening effects that Greek ways would have on their traditional toughness. Cato, although a Roman noble, was known for his “rusticity, austerity, and asceticism.” He hated the permissiveness and hedonism that came along with luxury. Plutarch observes about Cato:
His enemies hated him, he used to say, because he rose every day before it was light and neglecting his own private matters, devoted his time to the public interests. He also used to say that he preferred to do right and get no thanks, rather than to do ill and get no punishment; and that he had pardon for everybody’s mistakes except his own.
The Greek historian Polybius (200-118 BC), who bore witness to the ways in which Imperial plenty affected the lives of young Romans, noted how:
. . . some of [the young Roman men] had abandoned themselves to love affairs with boys and others to consorting with prostitutes, and many to musical entertainments and banquets and all of the extravagances that they entail . . . infected with Greek weaknesses.
Sallust (86-35 BC) would attribute the collapse of the Republican form of government to the corrupting influence of wealth and the resulting abandonment of traditional values:
When toil is replaced by an attack of indolence, and self-control and fairness by one of lust and haughtiness, there is a change in fortune as well as in morals and behavior.
By the time of Livy (64 or 59 BC-AD 17), we have a historian who believed that the decline of Roman morals was irreversible, lamenting in the Preface to his monumental history of Rome that:
. . . with the gradual decline of discipline, morals slid, and then more and more collapsed, and finally began to plunge, which has brought us to our present pass, when we can endure neither of vices nor their cures.
Don’t Blame Feminist Women
Some years ago, Chateau Heartiste had a post with the strange title Feminism Responsible for the Fall of Rome. It was strange in that no one has ever spoken about feminism in ancient times, but this post, which consists essentially of a long quote from a comment by some unknown person, could find no other way to account for this commentator’s observations about the dramatic changes that took place in the relation between the sexes in Roman times following the arrival of luxurious living. The commentator goes overboard in his efforts to draw parallels between our times and Rome, but is correct in noting that relations between men and women changed drastically, going from a very patriarchal culture in which family life was revered to a situation in the first century AD in which women had more say over financial and family matters, and the upper classes were uninterested in children:
~1 century BC: Roman civilization blossoms into the most powerful and advanced civilization in the world. Material wealth is astounding, citizens (i.e.: non slaves) do not need to work. They have running water, baths and import spices from thousands of miles away. The Romans enjoy the arts and philosophy; they know and appreciate democracy, commerce, science, human rights, animal rights, children rights and women become emancipated. No-fault divorce is enacted, and quickly becomes popular by the end of the century.
~1-2 century AD: The family unit is destroyed. Men refuse to marry and the government tries to revive marriage with a “bachelor tax,” to no avail. Children are growing up without fathers, Roman women show little interest in raising their own children and frequently use nannies. The wealth and power of women grows very fast, while men become increasingly demotivated and engage in prostitution and vice. Prostitution and homosexuality become widespread.
Blaming feminism for this change in Rome is anachronistic. Feminism is an ideology that emerged in the contemporary West as an expression of decline, but in Rome the decline happened without this ideology. Feminism has accentuated decline in our times, and celebrates it. But blaming feminism, or Cultural Marxism writ large, independent of any other factors, misses the fundamental cyclical nature of history. The Great Depression raised the vitality of men, and produced the “greatest generation” and the baby boom, but this was a temporary check on an otherwise declining trend that began in the nineteenth century.
Rise and Decline of Europe
When Rome fell apart, Germanic barbarians revived the West and brought in new blood, vitality, aggression, and expansionism, culminating in Charles the Great’s empire. This empire broke apart with the intrusion of new barbarians in the ninth century, combined with the decentralizing dynamic of vassal-lord relations. While the more brutalizing aspects of the nobility were “civilized” with the spread of chivalry and the Christian “Truce of God” after 1000 AD, Europeans were still full of zest for glorious actions, testified in their Crusading marches from the eleventh through the thirteenth centuries, the Portuguese rounding of Africa at the end of the fifteenth century, and the Spanish crossing of the Atlantic, culminating in the Industrial Revolution.
Through these major epochs, Europeans came to de-emphasize the martial virtues associated with feudalism, and as they turned to commerce, new virtues came to gain precedence: commodious living, orderly existence, and the Protestant emphasis on hard work (notwithstanding the excessive brutality of the religious wars and the interstate rivalries resulting from nation-building during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries).
David Hume, in An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals (1777), noted this transformation from the martial temper of medieval times to the “sociable, good-natured, humane, merciful, grateful, friendly, generous, beneficent” qualities of the moderns. This was a relative contrast; the eighteenth century was hardly merciful and soft by today’s standards; this was the age of worldwide colonization and the imminent brutal Napoleonic wars. The point is that the violent aggressiveness of earlier centuries, which still prevailed in the religious wars and found its expression in Hobbes’ pessimistic view of human nature, was declining and being replaced by a new form of civilized vitality, industriousness, and an intense desire to master the laws of nature.
In 1836, just a year before the great Victorian Age began, when Britain was known for its military vitality and its consolidation of the greatest Empire in history, John Stuart Mill was already lamenting the fact that:
. . . there has crept over the refined classes, over the whole class of gentlemen in England, a moral effeminacy, an ineptitude for every kind of struggle. They shrink from all effort, from everything which is troublesome and disagreeable . . . They cannot undergo labor, they cannot brook ridicule, they cannot brave evil tongues: they have not the hardihood to say an unpleasant thing to any one whom they are in the habit of seeing . . . This torpidity and cowardice, as a general characteristic, is new in the world . . . it is a natural consequence of the progress of civilization, and will continue until met by a system of cultivation adapted to counteract it (“Civilization – Signs of the Times,” in Prefaces to Liberty: Selected Writings of John Stuart Mill, [Boston: Beacon Press, 1959]).
One wonders what J. S. Mill would have said about the preoccupation of our current manosphere, such as Return of Kings, with clothing, color, fabric matching, and complexion. Victorian men cared about clothing, but with the intent of reinforcing the ideal of the proper British man as being self-sufficient, an adventurer, and scientifically-minded, which they felt was damaged with clothing of rich color; only dark colors, straight cuts, and stiff materials could project hardiness and endurance.
The key in J. S. Mill’s observation is that “torpidity and cowardice” are a “natural consequence of the progress of civilization” and of the comforts brought by bourgeois affluence. The expectation recently articulated in a Counter-Currents article that reading about Rome’s glories can teach current White men to regain their valor and heroism is pure wishful thinking. White men today will never build up their “resolve as great as that of the Romans” by reading about the Romans. The Romans built their character, before and during the time of Cato the Elder, by living at a point in the historical cycle when anarchy and savagery demanded hardness, by working extremely hard as farmers, by living in a very patriarchal culture that had harsh laws and expectations, and by undergoing intense military training and warfare. The Rome of Cato was a civilization at its peak; the West today is senile and childless, its families in decline, preoccupied with appearances, and overall too lazy and comfortable.
Decline is irreversible. The relentless occupation of the West by hordes of Muslims and Africans is an expression of White male decadence and effeminacy. Only out of the coming chaos and violence will strong White men rise to resurrect the West.
This essay was originally published at the Council of European Canadians Website on March 28, 2017.