Sunday, November 18, 2018

Whittaker Chambers: The Enemy Within

August 5, 1954

Dear Bill:

 I no longer believe that political solutions are possible for us. I am baffled by the way people still speak of the West as if it were at least a cultural unity against Communism though it is divided not only by a political, but by an invisible cleavage. On one side are the voiceless masses with their own subdivisions and fractures. On the other side is the enlightened, articulate elite which, to one degree or other, has rejected the religious roots of the civilization—the roots with-out which it is no longer Western civilization, but a new order of beliefs, attitudes and mandates. [ED]

In short, this is the order of which Communism is one logical expression, originating not in Russia, but in the culture capitals of the West, reaching Russia by clandestine delivery via the old underground centers in Cracow, Vienna, Berne, Zurich, and Geneva. It is a Western body of belief that now threatens the West from Russia. As a body of Western beliefs, secular and rationalistic, the intelligentsia of the West share it, and are therefore always committed to a secret emotional complicity with Communism of which they dislike, not the Communism, but only what, by the chances of history, Russia has specifically added to it—slave-labor camps, purges, MVD et al. And that, not because the Western intellectuals find them unjustifiable, but because they are afraid of being caught in them. If they could have Communism without the brutalities of ruling that the Russian experience bred, they have only marginal objections. Why should they object? What else is socialism but Communism with the claws retracted? And there is positivism. 'What is more, every garage mechanic in the West, insofar as he believes in nuts and bolts, but asks: "The Holy Ghost, what's that?" shares the substance of those same beliefs. Of course, the mechanic does not know, when he asks: "The Holy Ghost, what's that?" that he is simply echoing Stalin at Teheran: "The Pope—how many divisions has the Pope?" [ED]
That is the real confrontation of forces. The enemy—he is ourselves. That is why it is idle to talk about preventing the wreck of Western civilization. It is already a wreck from within. That is why we can hope to do little more now than snatch a fingernail of a saint from the rack or a handful of ashes from the faggots, and bury them secretly in a flowerpot against the day, ages hence, when a few men begin again to dare to believe that there was once something else, that some-thing else is thinkable, and need some evidence of what it was, and the fortifying knowledge that there were those who, at the great nightfall, took loving thought to preserve the tokens of hope and truth.

Sincerely, Whittaker

Look at the date. People tend to think of the 1950's as the Halcyon years of the West yet Whittaker Chambers saw that West was on its death spiral even then. The suddenness of the cultural revolution of the Sixties was due to the fact that the Western cultural institutions were by that stage hollow shells and one only had to push on them a bit for them to fall over.

Also note the fact that Chambers equates the West with a belief in God. Anyone selling you a "West" without God is selling you a false bill of goods.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Stink of the Common

Every now and then you read something on the internet that is so good that you want to share it with others. This is from a book review of Whittaker Chambers, Witness by the Brothers Judd.  The book was written in the 1950's but the insights are pertinent today:
What was truly unfortunate about McCarthyism was not the fact of the Red Hunt itself, but that it was left to such an incompetent as Joe McCarthy.  If, instead of circling the wagons to protect their own, responsible members of the Left had joined with the Right to root out men and women in government, academia, and the media who were actively trying to subvert democracy, the entire process might have been salutary, rather than turning into one of the more divisive episodes in our domestic political history.  But the Left, as a general rule, which had been untroubled by FDR's decision to imprison every American of Japanese descent on the West Coast during WWII, reacted viscerally to the idea of exposing and removing genuine agents of an enemy government from positions of power.

To a great, and unacknowledged, degree, this reaction was dictated by class animosity.  For the bitter truth is that Communism, particularly in America, was an ethos of the upper classes and the intelligentsia.  The middle classes, for obvious reasons, and the lower classes, for more complex reasons, never subscribed to the ideals of Communism.  And so, when the time came to destroy the Fifth Column, the destruction was led by men like McCarthy and Nixon, men with the stink of the common on them, and opposed by those who, like Hiss, had gone to the best Eastern schools and moved in the best social circles :
No feature of the Hiss Case is more obvious, or more troubling as history, than the jagged fissure, which it did not so much open as reveal, between plain men and women of the nation, and those who affected to act, think and speak for them.  It was, not invariably, but in general, the "best people" who were for Alger Hiss and who were  prepared to go to almost any length to protect and defend him. It was the enlightened and the powerful, the clamorous proponents of the open mind and the common man, who snapped their minds shut in a pro-Hiss psychosis, of a kind which, in an individual patient, means the simple failure of the ability to distinguish between reality and    unreality, and, in a nation, is a warning of the end. 
Those seeking to understand the passions stirred up by the Hiss Case need look no farther than the condescending aside of Hiss to Nixon : "My college was Harvard, I understand yours was Whittier."  There, in a sentence, is expressed the contempt and animosity between classes which would soon turn a simple espionage case into the cause which separated a generation of Americans.  So while it was common to blame Chambers and his supporters for McCarthyism, most of the blame should really fall upon the Anti-Anti-Communists, those who, though they did oppose communism, could not bear to see their peers brought down by commoners, no matter what crimes those peers may have committed in the putative name of those very commoners.

The further time removes us from the events of the Hiss case and the more information is revealed from the secret archives of both the U. S. government and the old Soviet Union, the less ambiguous the legacy of Whittaker Chambers becomes.  No one outside of the most irrational Left wing circles will any longer argue that Hiss was innocent; at most they try to impugn the character of Chambers, hinting darkly at elements of psychosexual drama in the case.  And the files further reveal that throughout the Cold War, many of the groups on the Left (like those disarmament groups that Clinton and Blair supported) were, either wittingly or unwittingly, funded and controlled by the Soviet Union.  The scope and effectiveness of Soviet subversion in the West is continually being revised upwards and those who warned about it and opposed it look better and better in retrospect.  No one looks better than Whittaker Chambers, whose life's journey from darkness into light so closely parallels that of the West as to serve as an allegory for the age.  Witness, his testimony to that journey and his statement of faith, stands as one of the great books of any age and perhaps the best book of the 20th century.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Z-Man, Whittaker Chambers, Principles

Recently,  Z-man put up a post, Learning from the Past, which I felt deserved some comment. I like Z-man, he's one of the sharpest tools in the shed but the post itself was intellectually incoherent and illustrates just how conceptually confused the Right is when it comes to an understanding of itself.
Similarly, paleos were prone to negotiating with themselves. The endless debating over principles is really just an excuse for not moving forward. It may not be intentional, but that is the result. When the conqueror sets out to sack a city, the one thing he never does is wait until he has a detailed administrative plan for managing the city after the siege. The winners of life never lose sight of this truth. Principles are the things you create after the victory to lock in your gains and give the people a reason to celebrate your dominance.

Another thing that all forms of conservatism in the democratic era have struggled to understand is the role of the pseudo-intellectual trimmer. These are the sorts of people who attach themselves to right-wing movements, and immediately begin working to turn them into useful losers. A good recent example of this is Ross Douthat, who thinks the goal of his tribe is to infiltrate populist movements and then purge them of anything useful, turning them into a uniform that poseurs like himself can wear in the morality play.

This is exactly what happened with the Tea Party. What started out as an authentic white middle-class revolt was quickly hijacked by charlatans. In fact, the grifters arrived so quickly it looked like the Normandy invasion. These types of people operate in the same way English pirates operated in the age of sail. That is, the people in charge give them a free pass, as long as they meddle in the affairs of dissidents. The Right has never figured out how to defend itself from this attack or even tried to understand it.
Now here's the problem; how do you pick who is the pseudo-intellectual trimmer, what's your metric?  What exactly makes Douthat so toxic? Z-man bemoans the influx of underminers but undercuts any corrective principles to identify them.

One of the big reasons why the Right has never been able to defend itself from undermining attacks is because the current definition of the Right seems to be simply "not Left", and that is a stupid definition. Defining yourself by the negation of your enemies principles doesn't exactly reality calibrate you. Being against stupid doesn't automatically mean smarts, because there is always the possibility of being stupid in another way.  And most for most of the 20th Century that exactly what the Right was doing, it was being stupid in its own way. Understand this and you'll understand why the Right has been on a century losing streak.

Because what exactly is "the Left". How does it differ from the Right? Once you start drilling down a bit deeper into the distinctions things aren't as they seem.

It's a shame that Whittaker Chambers doesn't get much love these days because he is deep, really deep. In fact I'd go as far to say that he really needs to be understood as the American Right's only ever political mystic.  Emerging from the cultural and spiritual abyss of the early part of the last century he saw what the shit-fight of the 20th Century was really all about:

What I had been fell from me like dirty rags. The rags that fell from me were not only Communism. What fell was the whole web of the materialist modern mind—the luminous shroud which it has spun about the spirit of man, paralyzing in the name of rationalism the instinct of his soul for God, denying in the name of knowledge the reality of the soul and its birthright in that mystery on which mere knowledge falters and shatters at every step. If I had rejected only Communism, I would have rejected only one political expression of the modern mind[Ed], the most logical because the most brutal in enforcing the myth of man's material perfectibility.
The important line here is "only one political expression" implying that there were other forms of materialist political expression.  This is the key insight.  Chambers recognised that modern materialism could morph into different political forms, different forms which would superficially appear to be mutually incompatible and yet on foundational principles ultimately the same.  Chambers understood that when a Communist fights a Fascist the outcome doesn't matter because materialism wins in the end.  This is why the Left never loses even when the "Right " wins, because the modern Right is merely a differently dressed version of the Left.

The average person doesn't see this is because he is a cognitive miser and judges political ideologies on superficialities instead of foundational principles. They judge on gut instinct instead of reasoned principle.  The sad fact of life is that most conservatives are cognitive misers of a conservative temperament. As long as someone waves the flag, kicks out the wogs and keeps taxes low he becomes part of their club, never mind the fact that the managerial state continues to expand and his freedom becomes slowly diminished. Better managerialism does not get you out of this trap.

Chambers understood perfectly well how to defend the Right from being undermined because chambers understood what this battle was all about. He could not, for instance, ever ally with the Libertarians because he knew that they were selling the same progressivist rubbish, albeit in a different packaging.  His evisceration of Ayn Rand comes from a deep understanding of the philosophical principles from which her ideology arouse. They were the same principles which underpinned Communism, Fascism and  Radical Liberalism. He would have loathed the Neocons.

Unfortunately for Chambers, he was one of the very few people who saw this and that's why he was so despondent, famously stating that he was joining the "losing side" after defecting from Communism. He was literally a lone voice in the Right intellectual wilderness of the mid 20th C.  The key principle that Chambers, Solzhenitsyn and Dostoevsky  had discerned was the 20th Century was going to be a fight between those who saw man as a child of God and those who had cast God out.

The other guy who has a lot to teach us is George Orwell. My impression of Orwell is that while he was not the smartest of men he had that great, but rare, virtue of being intellectually honest and would modify his beliefs in light of the facts. While he, temperamentally, always remained a socialist his intellectual honesty led him to repudiate the contemporary expressions of political Socialism/Communism.  He recognised the other great principle that separates the Left from the Right was Truth.

When Chambers left the National Review he famously told Buckley that he "was not a conservative but a man of the Right."  Chambers understood that the conservative movement had it own pretty lies and he wanted no part of it. From Z-Man again:
They spend a lot of time rehashing old fights and discussing the things they fought, like the Civil Rights Act or the Reagan amnesty, but they always seem to stop at the water’s edge when analyzing these things. It’s almost as if they agree with the Left that these policies were inevitable, due to the tides of history. Part of it, of course, is the losing side never wants to spend a lot of time dwelling on their own failures. Even the humbling experience of being hurled into the void is not enough to overcome ego. We see that on our side of the great divide, where some alt-right figures simply cannot come to terms with the fact that they screw up a lot.
I think there are many people on the Conservative/Dissident/Alt-Right who prefer their pretty lies to the Truth. Belief in "Race Realism" requires one ignore a fair chunk of reality.  IQ fetishists have to explain away why Hi IQ people do dumb things.  Push some of the stupid ideas out there to the limit and they become self-repudiating and start resembling those of the Left.  Hence the stepping back from the brink and the gradual acquiescence. Many of the Right are really crypto Leftists.

Still, I'd give the Paleo's some respect. They were given a bum deal.  The American Constitution, as a stand alone document, was a product of radical Enlightenment thinking with all the errors that entailed, and the only reason why it "worked" was because of the legislative "correctives" that were enacted soon after, and the relatively homogeneous cultural outlook that the U.S. had until the 1960's.  The Paleos who in the whole were reality-calibrated were tasked with defending the indefensible. No wonder that they couldn't real-think to the limit while defending American founding principles.

The "principles" are incompatible.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

People Like Us

One of the tactics deliberately used by communist guerillas is to conceal themselves among the local population. This approach has many advantages as it makes it very difficult for the enemy to distinguish friend from foe. When the inevitable reprisals are unleashed in response to the actions of the guerillas, the enemy's lack of discrimination results in many innocent bystanders being caught up in events. This hamfisted approach results in many ambivalent bystanders being forced into the guerilla camp, which is the precise intention of communists. The lack of discrimination in reprisals multiplies your enemies while decreasing your friends. 

Now the reason I bring this up is in response to a recent post by Z-Man on the subject of race and the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. Z-Man is one of smarter bloggers out there and has plenty of intelligent things to say but I feel he was completely way off  in this post.
Despite spending so much time with Kavanaugh, they appear to have misjudged how he would handle being smeared. It also reveals how petrified white men in the Democrat coalition feel right now. They just assumed Kavanaugh was as scared about this stuff as they are right now. Either way, the judge turns out to be a Boy Scout, who thinks he has a duty to defend his honor in public against these smears. His speech last week resonated with white people, who are the only demographic that still believes in fair play.
Z-Man then linked to a graphic produced by Audacious Epigone showing support for Brett Kavanaugh according to race and sex. Now, despite obvious confounding factors, I do think that support for Mr Kavanaugh is a good proxy metric for belief in fair play.

Looking at the graphic, the first thing that comes to mind is that there are a hell of a lot of White people who don't support fair play. The notion that whiteness and fair play are inherent is repudiated by Z-Man's own data. Indeed, the support levels between White women and Hispanic men were very similar.  If we translate the Black support figures in to real world numbers, there are about four and half million Black men in the U.S. who support fair play. That's a lot of allies, people you really don't want to alienate.

What the data also shows that nearly 40% of White men and 50% of White women don't support fair play. Z-Man's own choice of data repudiates the simplistic NPC like notion that {White=Good: Not(White)=Bad} Real life, unlike simplistic conceptual reductions is far more complex. The problem with Genetic Calvinists is that they assert that those people working against me are my allies by virtue of the colour of their skin, while the 24% of Black men who support Kavanaugh are my enemies.  People who assert this sort of crap are just dumb, not only dumb but counterproductive. It's one of the huge problems of racial supremacist ideologies. It's also one of the reasons why white racial consciousness goes nowhere.  People who believe in fair play recognise that this is unjust and want to have nothing to do with it, no matter what the race.

Of course, in asserting this position, I immediate exposed to the charge that I'm a civic-nationalist, as if color blind civic-nationalism or straight out racism were the only two political options out there. There are other alternatives, the problem is that you have to THINK about them. It may just be that a dignified soft segregation is possible and may be the best possible outcome for all parties concerned. But it's hard to advocate that position when vice is overlooked because you're White and imputed because you're Black. The Dissident Right is about reality calibration, not make-believe and you really can't say that you're an advocate for fair play if you want to throw under the bus other people who believe in fair play but who have a different skin colour.

One of the great "what ifs" in Military history is what if Hitler had invaded Ukraine as a liberator instead of an exterminator. The Germans were welcomed with open arms in the Ukraine after the experience of Soviet Terror and many Ukranians would have gladly joined the fight against communism. Many Russians would have probably done the same thing. Instead, the Nazi's stupid racial ideology, ensured their eventual defeat. It seems like some people never learn.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

A Little Eulogy for Zippy

I image that the people who frequent this corner of the blogosphere have by now all heard the news that Zippy Catholic was killed in an accident about a month ago. Zippy are I were long term intellectual opponents, clashing on the issues of sexuality and the application of the principles of double effect. I know he made a bit of name for himself on the subject of Usury, something I didn't have a particular interest in. I didn't really care much for his debating style nor, do I imagine, did he care much for mine.

One of the things about debating a guy like Zippy is that it forces you to dig deeper into the reasons and logic of your own arguments. In this sense, Zippy's arguments helped me develop a deeper intellectual foundation for my own. I don't imagine it was the effect he intended but it was the effect produced.

I'd like to think that there is still some honor in the world and while we were intellectual opponents I cannot but feel grieved at his loss. Some of his personal details were accidentally revealed in the blogposts of others and I'll admit that I fished around, curious to know the personal details of the man whom I debated with so often. Surprisingly, we had a rather remarkable amount of similarities.  It made his loss more personal.

Even more eerily, I too had a health scare over the last few weeks and was fortunate to have "dodged a bullet." Zippy was not that fortunate. You realise just how fragile our grip on this life is. I feel so sorry for his family at this loss.

By all accounts he was a loving father and husband, a  successful businessman and a good friend to those who knew him.  I will miss him as an opponent.

May he rest in God's eternal peace.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Mr Kavanaugh Goes to Washington

It's all there in the 1930's movie, Mr Smith Goes to Washington.

The Cathedral has been put to work to destroy him.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Luther's Knocking

I have been in Italy one week, and have had countless rich, stimulating conversations with Italian Catholic friends. Yet I find that I struggle to convey the gravity of the scandal roiling the US Catholic Church. It doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense to many folks here. Some think it’s nothing more than a political attack on Pope Francis. Others agree that it’s bad, but they say the Church has always been corrupt to a certain degree, and don’t grasp why Americans are so worked up about it.
Rod Dreher: The Very Big Deal Catholic Crisis

Massimo Faggioli and Rod Dreher have both been writing--and tweeting--extensively on the sexual abuse saga that seems to have thoroughly permeated the Catholic Church.  While both writers have polar opposite approaches to the issue one thing both can agree on is recognition that American Catholicism is different from it's European version..

Faggioli, particularly, seems to have grasped  just how vast the difference is between the two in mindset,  and recognises that the Europeans have underestimated the seriousness of the American angst--and desired response--to the situation as it is. The Europeans, on the other hand, perplexed as they are by the American response, don't seem particularly perturbed by the saga as their underlying attitude seems to combine both a recognition of the historical corruption of the Church hierarchy and a resignation to its permanence and inevitability.

The Italian response, in my mind, is probably a consequence of Italian culture and I'm not saying this pejoratively. Catholicism has had a long history of illiberality when it came to the rights and opinions of the common man. The laity were subjects to both clergy and nobles and were expected to do what they were told.  Pushback was not permitted, and if the elites or the clergy were corrupt there was nothing you could really do about it: it was a matter for elites to sort out among themselves. This attitude and the reality of life on the ground encultured among the people an attitude of resignation and adaptation.  The family, instead of the State, became the unit of social organisation Any new initiatives were strictly private affairs because assistance from above was likely to be counter productive. It had been this way for centuries and as a result,  a certain resignation cultural resignation within the Italian mindset. You learn to accept it and work around it because there's nothing you can do to change it. When you hear that the local bishop's a pedophile and not much is being done to remove him you've heard it all before; what's the big deal? The Church (clergy) is corrupt.  In a Darwinian manner, Italians have learned to forge a life in a manner which accommodates and accepts institutional corruption.**

This Italian attitude is prototypical of the Latin mindset. One of the things that European, particularly Latin, Catholic culture suffers from is its inability to deal with institutional corruption in any meaningful way. There are many reasons for this. Some are the result of traditional habit, others the result of certain theological biases and it's beyond the scope of this post to go into this deeper, however the overall effect is that corruption remains an entrenched endemic phenomenon.

Protestantism didn't have this problem. One of the main drivers of national development and wealth is institutional honesty and it's no surprise that until the advent of widespread secularisation the Catholic countries were Europe's most backward. Protestantism's apparent economic superiority wasn't just due to the work ethic but the superiority of its institutions, which relative to Catholic ones, were seen to be more honest and efficient.

Protestantism, on the other hand, gave the believer far more legitimacy in public affairs  and the theology of Protestantism expected the  believer to behave act as one of the elect. There was no reliance on the confessional to wipe away misdeeds and poor behaviour was an outward sign of perdition which rightly disqualified a man from institutional office. The net effect of this "theological bias" in Protestant culture was attitude towards institutions which demanded honesty and efficiency.

Which brings us to the phenomenon of American Catholicism. The United States was founded as a Protestant Enlightenment project: the institutional culture is Protestant. While the country was explicitly secular, Protestantism was the de-facto institutional religion of the country and within its theological framework established it's habits, ideas and cultural practices. It was into this culture that the waves of Catholic migrants flooded and eventually became assimilated. However, the assimilation wasn't one way, Catholicism too had to adapt to the culture with the overall result that American Catholicism became Protestantised. (The Church recognised the phenomenon early on issuing an encyclical.) The same phenomenon seems to have occurred in other countries where Catholics lived within a dominant Protestant culture. The Germans and Canadians seem to have been liberally Protestantised while the Americans have assumed more of the conservative faction. Australia seems split down the middle.

Years ago while reading G.K. Chesteron's, Why I am a Catholic, I was struck by this line.
In all probability, all that is best in Protestantism will only survive in Catholicism; and in that sense all Catholics will still be Puritans when all Puritans are Pagans.
What I think what I'm seeing now in American Catholicism, particularly, is the realisation of Chesterton's prophecy, in that it has incorporated the best bits of Protestantism and is now using it as a battering ram to reform the institutional corruption of the Church.  Unlike Latin Catholicism, American Catholicism won't put up with institutional corruption. Massimo Faggioli, in analysing the current situation, sees it as the  machinations of the "right wing" of the American church, using the sexual abuse crisis as an opportunity to dispose of the Pope and his process of reform,  and there is certainly an element of truth in this.  However,  I don't think he fully realises that the current revulsion by the American Church, particularly the laity, is less directed towards the Papacy per se, than the institutional corruption which he is seen to be upholding by failing to adequately deal with the issues at hand. The Catholic Church in America wants the Church leadership to live up to it's ideals. Acceptance of the fallen nature of man as an excuse to do nothing is not going to cut it.

I am generally supportive of Francis and his policy of reform, if not his liberal theology. However I do feel that he his management of the sexual abuse crisis, on the basis of the facts seen by me, hasn't been up to scratch. The Church has got some serious problems that need to be fixed and I'm getting the impression that Luther is going to get his second chance at instituting church reform.

*In other news, Brazilian Bishop Jose Ronaldo Ribeiro of Formosa resigned after he was arrested for stealing $606,000 of diocesan money. Apparently he'd done something similar before and was "transferred". The Church has got some serious problems.

**De Gasperi, one of the great Italian politicians following WW2 shocked Italians by his lack of corruption. To quote Wiki:
It is said that he had to be given a State funeral as he had died with almost no means of his own - a jaw-dropping fact in a country where, even then, politicians were expected to do well for themselves.