Three short essays about one thing
Opening my notepad today, I happened on three notes that added up to one essay. The first read “The biggest intellectual mistake of the 20th century”, the second “The Benefits of Monarchy”, and the last simply “The Woman Question”. Perhaps the sum will be greater than the parts?
“The Great Mistake”
I should start with what’s wrong, What is the biggest intellectual mistake of the 20th century? Here, I would submit that the biggest error of the last 100 (perhaps 200 ) years is the organization of political systems around idealized notions of how humans should make decisions rather than how humans actually do make decisions.
To be sure, this is an old mistake. Since the enlightenment, the Western academy has been obsessed with organizing political thinking around rational self-interest; structuring systems of theory by how idealized humans should conceptualize their “material” interests and the “common good”. As always, the process falls into the same pitfalls. Working by analogy to physical sciences, thinkers start by abstracting humans in the individual case, and then extend the problem to human collectives, modeling a "general will" as if the quality of peoples, nations, and civilizations might be approached like Sims mulling around a theoretical SimEarth. Sociological models of this variety are legion, but a student of history might pick out some particularly hilarious examples ranging from Charles Fourier's (and later Peter Kropotkin's) model of a spontaneously universalist and altruistic working class, to 21st-century rationalists believing that they could capture collective human reason by jamming more information and CPU cycles into Bayes Theorem.
I should admit, this isn't a very original critique. From Thomas Sowell to Curtis Yarvin, right-wingers have been quick to criticize idealized models of human behavior. But the mistake is buried deep within our modern mode of thought, and the same tendency towards abstract thinking plagues right-wing power analysis and Machiavellian political realism. Sure, the theory might be less clouded by progressive wishful thinking. However, the method still falls into the same trap, modeling human beings by analogy to systems and ignoring the real way individuals and communities engage with power and principle.
On this point, I think back to James Burnhan's attack on Dante Alighieri's dream of a Christian Imperium in De Monarchia, or Curtis Yarvin’s respectful but dismissive attitude towards Christian idealism in American politics. Perhaps we can explain the facts on the ground more succinctly with reference to raw power, but doesn’t this method miss something essential about being human in a political order? Outside of the notion that we can leave behind our own irrationality, the exercise doesn't properly capture what we want as the end of politics itself.
Dante's vision of a universal Christian empire might smack as fanciful 14th-century gibberish, but analyzing it as a sociology text misses the point. Dante wasn't creating a blueprint for a society, he was experiencing an ideal world as a motivating spirit, as an active religious zeitgeist. Politics (by which here I mean societal stewardship) is not simply the purview of philosophers and rulers but is broader. In this sense, political consciousness is a shared teleological reality, an aspirational core of civilization, and the foundation for a collective ethos.
After all, have you ever wondered why the Hebrews were hopeful as they wandered for 40 years in the desert to find a promised land that they would never see? Why the middle ages, despite its material deprivations was optimistic, and why the 21st century West, despite its material abundance is pessimistic? You can't have a political system, without a dream. America properly begins with John Winthrop’s “The City on the Hill” and not the drafting of the Declaration of Independence or the constitution. And without the former, the latter two quickly fade.
At once, I think this issue underlies the central problem of developing a generative theory of politics on the right. We are good at critiquing things, and bad at describing (much less motivating) alternatives. Perhaps we are looking in the wrong direction?
The right has a well-known problem finding a positive vision. And I think the issue originates from its fixation with raw power analysis. Don’t get me wrong, Machiavellian perspectives are ever so useful. The framework cuts through the slop of modern liberal and progressive bullshit like a laser. But, like a laser, the perspective obtains its strength through its narrowness and, as such, blinds us to important historical realities.
The “Iron Law of Oligarchy” and the “Conservation of Sovereignty” are generally observable phenomena in politics. And with some simplification, it’s easy to see human events reducible to simple power struggles between elites, with all religious, ethical, and moral trappings being pretense. In fact, in our supremely cynical age, this simplification is remarkably useful since the mainstay of all modern morality is pretense, the ghost of old religious forms masquerading as objective truth. Still, an analysis limited to power, even a sophisticated understanding of power is radically incomplete.
We could start with some rather basic observations, apparent to even the most steely-eyed realist. People don’t manufacture ideologies, they encounter them organically, and are shaped by their influences. And those ideas do have radically divergent consequences, without which, history would have no color or quality. We can all see the differences between spiritually healthy civilizations and degenerate empires, we can sense intuitively the differences between good government and bad, the feeling that a people has a future. But on explaining these differences, or even defining them, material power analysis seems a particularly poor tool.
After all, gravity, stress, and corrosion can explain all bridge collapses, but not a single bridge construction. For that, an entirely different approach is required. One that can conceptualize what motivates a human collective to optimistically confront the world, what the Arab Ibn Khaldun called Asabiyyah, or social vitalism. A force operating at a more superficial level than our deep religious instincts, but more removed, and deeper, than the ordinary political power struggles in the day-to-day world, the political missing link, the Rosetta Stone to good governance.
But, the problem, as always is that the nature of this general vitalism, resists technical political analysis, disappearing like a mirage when details come into focus. Part of the issue is one of observation. It is easy to see macro-cosmic power and money, both historically and in social science. It is hard to notice the spirit of the age and the workings of men’s souls necessarily going on in the background. Another more fundamental problem is that we are trying to describe something organic, volitional, and human in a scientific language that, by its very nature, confines itself to the mechanistic, deterministic, and physical. As such, the core phenomenon can never be described in those terms and is, therefore, ever-fleeting.
But what if we were to remove the goggles of modernity, and look at the issue intuitively? What if we were to step over the great mistake of the 20th century? Answering the question based on what we know about humans, as humans?
What gives us hope? What makes us feel vital? How do we feel the spirit of the age inside of our lives? What gives us the feeling of peoplehood? And what makes a leader worthy of leadership? A country worthy of defense? A principle, or even a document, worth fighting for?
I would propose that these questions have a common answer. Or rather a common pair of answers. First, there is an aristocratic spirit embodied in a sovereign person (which can only be further explained in religious terms), land, or object. Second, there is a corresponding reciprocal feeling of humility and submission that binds a group to a sovereign in united political purpose. This is the spiritual force behind the idea of covenant, what Americans feel about the constitution, what many other nations feel about their monarch or homeland.
After all, we have an intuitive sense of what being ruled well means. We know it when we see it. We have all witnessed effective organizations, tight-knit communities of morals, and collectives with common purpose. We know the drive that draws people into common collective action and greatness, we can feel it in our bones. And this should be the goal of all human political organization.
Remember, when we talk about politics, we are talking about power over humans. That means whatever system we prefer, will also have to be a system that constrains us. Not “us” in the abstract disembodied brain sense, but “us” as real people, sitting in our dying mortal bodies, aging and living with all the natural insecurities and desires about the future. There is a question of what is optimal, but also a more real question of what is worthy of loyalty. What person, or principle, would you bend a knee to, knowing it could constrain your own life in the future? What would you take an oath to uphold?
When we ask these questions to ourselves as humans, the answers get much closer to the force behind Kaldune’s Asabiyyah. It is, I would maintain, the essence of being a political animal in the best sense of the word, the art of ruling and being ruled well. And political power analysis actually does very little to determine this problem. We have to ask ourselves, at a more fundamental level, When do we feel that we are ruled legitimately?
At the risk of reusing a right-wing cliche, I remember first becoming conscious of this intuition on rightful ruler-ship watching the 1984 film, Revenge of the Nerds, which has since become a seminal cultural touchstone in describing modern American caste-conflict and culture war. It’s strange, but even as I watched this film as a young adult, at the height of my identity as a liberal modern progressive nerd, I felt that there was something fundamentally wrong about this film, even as it depicted the victory of my own social group over its putative rivals. There was something morally gross about the Nerds winning in the way that they did, and not just because of the implied rape scene.
But it’s not easy to explain why the smart nerds shouldn’t defeat the dumb jocks, granting the premise that the jocks depicted in the film were tyrannical and cruel. But part of the narrative was missing, a fundamental step had been left out of the standard “rags-to-riches” parable, something needed to change about the protagonists before they had the right to be declared the heroes at the roll of the credits.
Besides, for all the “winning” that the nerds pulled off, there was very little depicted in the way of personal development. The nerds had won, they had defeated the jocks, the cheerleaders were now their girlfriends, I guess? But how could they stay winning? How were these natural losers going to remain on the right side of history? How would they remain the champions, even after the memory of their initial revolutionary coup faded into the background?
One option, probably the option that most people assumed when watching the film, is that there was a transformation accomplished off-screen. The nerds were developing masculine virtue and leadership, just in their own time and in their own way. Eventually, these guys would graduate, join Silicone Valley companies and become the intrepid leaders of a new technological revolution following the classic tradition of the American man. But as Harvey Pekar from American Splendor pointed out, doesn't this betray the original concept of the film? The nerds would have only won because they had stopped being nerds.
The fundamental conclusion I was left with watching Revenge of the Nerds, cut against the happy ending presented by the director. When it came to power, there was a fundamental asymmetry in personality type between the two groups. The jocks could secure their victory as jocks, but the nerds could not secure their victory as nerds. The jock’s humiliation of the nerds was unnecessary, therefore a mark of their tyranny. But, in a more menacing way, the nerd’s humiliation of the jocks, while perhaps more justified, was necessary and therefore would have to become a fundamental centerpiece in the narrative about why they were the top dogs. For the jock’s dominance was natural, built into how they carried themselves and the men they were, it needed no additional narrative support. For the nerds, dominance was unnatural, only justifiable through a story about revolution retold and reenacted continuously in order for it to be felt viscerally. And so in order for the nerds to win as nerds, their “revenge” would have to be played rerun again and again, the ceremonial humiliation of the old rulers reenacted, just so everyone was certain about who was actually on top. A portent, that in our own age seems all too prophetic.
Although I couldn’t explain it a the time, it was apparent to me even as a progressive tech bro, that the jocks needed to conquer the nerd, if not in the conflict between groups then in a struggle within the individual’s soul.
The nerds needed to kill their inner nerd. That’s what was necessary for society to accept them as proper men and leaders. And no whining about the cruelty of rivals, “being a nice guy”, or even technical expertise would change this reality. And it was a reality felt and expressed no more keenly than in the cruel hearts and affections of women, as much as my adolescent self might rage against this state of affairs.Subscribe
“The Women Question”
I suppose this brings me, organically, to the second topic, the infamous "woman" question. Of course, the subject of women's desire (and what governs it) has formed the seedy underbelly of the internet since its inception, but it wasn’t until 2014 that the conversations about the female mind tore the internet asunder. Now, in present year, the left and right are defined in their style respectively by either a transparently fake feminine sycophancy, or a transparently exaggerated retrograde misogyny, both sides incapable of speaking each others’ language. Perhaps it is no surprise that the issue that launched a thousand ships to burn Troy, would also be the death of open discourse online.
The origins of the modern problem trace back initially, I think, to the ceding of educational leadership to a group of bitter and ideologically-motivated women, intent on seeding untruths in the minds of the young. The total extent of these lies are well beyond the scope of this essay. However, by the time a young man is through the first part of his institutionalized education and enters the “sexual marketplace”, his mind is already filled with absurdities about the real relationship between men and women, and the appropriate way to approach sex and dating. As such, most young men, post contact with the real world embrace a strange cognitive dissonance, either doubling down on the progressive ideology with increasing obsequiousness or bailing out of the entire world-view and heading down the red-pill rabbit hole online.
Under our currently ineffectual educational regime, the likes of Andrew Tate and the “Pick-Up-Artists” are a natural magnet for disillusioned young men. There, many seek a new more realistic world-view, and also the easy access to sex and fulfilling relationships they thought were promised to them by the modern world. But the draw of the “Red Pill” scene is broader, and fills a cultural niche within the modern world, even appealing to many who have no interest in pursuing a hedonistic lifestyle.
In fact, I remember reading the likes of Heartiste in the middle of my conversion to Catholicism in the early 2010s as a very guilty pleasure. Sure I knew the perspective was fundamentally juvenile, but there was something cathartic about ripping the feminist propaganda to shreds with the avenging cruelty it so richly deserved. After all, where else could you find women called out for all of their little games and double standards that modern men like myself saw constantly but were expected to ignore? The hyper-gammy, the shit tests, the narcissism explained as "self-care", and the constant appeal for “empathy” that was never reciprocated? Seeing the liar revealed and the mask ripped off of the pretense of female saintliness was fun, even though my better half knew that the act was indulgent.
Because as delicious as the performative misogyny of the red-pillers was, the adherents could never really get over the fact that the movement was a con. On an individual level, “The Game” (or aggressive tips for seducing women) was only marginally effective. It couldn’t change the total number of winners and losers in the dating market. Moreover, the vast vast majority of young men’s dating prospects were controlled by confidence, self-respect, and professional competence notably cultivated by working with other men to accomplish things rather than by accumulating casual sexual experiences.
But, at a more intellectual level, even the red-pill “realist” description of female psychology, the main draw that brought me to these blogs in the first place, turned out to be wrong-headed. Granted, the red-pillers were more accurate than the feminists, but their perspective missed the forest for the trees, often mistaking feminine behavior itself as inherently pathological when it was simply mismatched to an anti-human modern world.
Of course, today, many, more intellectually astute, red-pillers understand that the female misbehavior they decry is caused by a biological mismatch with the modern world, and that women’s emotional and hypergamous behavior was once a successful adaptation that helped the species survive. Still, even with this concession, their approach to “the women problem” falls into the same modern trap of over abstraction. By attempting to deconstruct a natural object through critique and vivisection rather than understanding how it exists in life, the approach misses the opportunity to learn, intuitively, from its animating genius. Like in politics, this modern perspective inevitably transforms into a science of deconstruction, narrowing the frame to only see the disorder, and turning observers into physicists of death’s mechanics rather than students of life’s cultivation.
And this critique-oriented modern focus can even be found in authors and thinkers distinctly trying to break with the contemporary style. Here, I am thinking of the author Bronze Age Pervert who fashioned the most famous recent description of female degeneracy in his concept of “The Long House”.
With BAP’s Long House, we see the stifling influence of matriarchy made manifest as a perverse endpoint of civilization. In this example, a civilization’s decline is triggered by a sudden material over-abundance which kills its heroic and masculine spirit and drains it of the strength necessary to reach for new horizons. What remains is “The Long House”, a degenerated societal shell ruled by sedentary female matriarchs divorced from ordered striving and dominated by chaotic back-biting and effeminate politics. In BAP's depiction, the aesthetics of the Longhouse are likened to "yeast" both in its quality of growing on a moribund macro-organism, and in its association with the decaying obese bodies of its indolent ruling class.
It’s probably not surprising that this vision of primitive degeneration has become so popular in our own dying empire. It seems to draw together many threads of modern decline into a single line running from the wretched home life of modern failing welfare communities to the stifling reign of modern HR departments, to the ceaseless narcissism of sexuality-based politics, finally terminating in the form of the devouring mother. Indeed there is almost a Manichean element to the depiction with the heroic figure of the patriarchal adventurer, contrasted with the debased matriarch, a primordial demoness lurking behind the "girl-boss" female empowerment culture constantly being shoved down the collective throats of western society.
Once the archetype enters your mind you start seeing the shadow of the Longhouse everywhere, and can't look away. High-IQ women handing over their credit cards to their drug-dealer boyfriends and agreeing to an "open relationship", activists whining about trans-women's rights and then shrieking in horror when they feel their own privileges being threatened, the PR-war waged against any society of men focused on external goals and self-improvement, and the constant mewling of the female-dominated chaterrati, all prefigure BAP’s prophesied end.
BAP’s vision of the Longhouse is genius but it bears the limitations of a debauched age. Like a primitive tribe witnessing a train wreck, we understand that something catastrophic has occurred and that it was the result of a grave human error. But the incompleteness of the vision hides the more pertinent reality: that once, in the place of this wreckage, was a magnificent wonder that mankind was able to wield for the purpose of greater civilization.
Here it seems that right-wingers similarly misunderstand female power, or matriarchy more broadly since we only observe it in post-mortem, trying to reimagine what might have been the great glory of Eve by examining her most debauched daughters with ever more meticulous microscopes.
After all, we all know matriarchy in a very different form than that of BAP’s longhouse, a species of imperious woman who existed before the likes of Cheryl Sandburg and the gender goblins of TikTok weaponized the concept of “girlhood”. For my own generation, this reference doesn’t need to reach back further than grandmothers born before World War 2, to whom "girl power" would have been anathema. Yet their distance from this modern “empowering” concept of womanhood made these women more matriarchal. And what was true for grandmothers might hold for any of the female heroines of Christendom, all of whom held power, magnanimity, and poise without the faintest waft of the longhouse.
But putting one’s finger on this mysterious property of feminine power still seems difficult.
This is the great irony of our age, that in a period obsessed with the girl boss, we seem incapable of describing the nature of native female power. In fact, everything in our modern language about women seems designed to obscure this mystery. As I notice even when singing the praises of early 20th-century women, my language lapses into the feministic “Women are Wonderful” trope, a core cliche of girl-boss validation totally alien to the subtle force under discussion. In truth our culture has no real concept of the powerful feminine, we only know a very degraded form of masculine power wielded, sometimes, by females and drenched in narcissism to obscure the gaps.
An approach to illustrating the problem occurred to me several years back after doing a corporate leadership exercise and seeing how men and women approached a thought experiment describing leadership under crisis. Re-configuring the narrative dilemma slightly, I posed my wife a question:
"Suppose you were a single woman in her 20s of above-average beauty and intelligence (as my wife is, albeit not single), would you rather be sent to a deserted island with 5 men of slightly below average looks and intelligence or with one giga-chad strong-man super genius?"
The question wasn’t hard, it was the giga-chad-option with a bullet. Even leaving aside the question of sex (suppose he's a monk or a Warhammer Space Marine), even leaving aside the question of the physical utility of one very competent body versus five mediocre ones, the answer seemed obvious to my wife. "The woman wouldn't know how to control the group of men or defend herself from them," she said, "But the strong man would protect her.".
Of course, this is a rather silly example, of course, your results will vary depending on the woman, and of course, we are taking on this question intuitively. But, nit-picking aside, I think there is something telling in the revealed preference I see frequently from the fairer sex, to be the first lieutenant of monarchy rather than the president of a squabbling oligarchy. For myself examining the two options of companions on a deserted isle was an issue of management and competence, but for my wife it was more a question of instinct and survival.
More telling yet was her automatic assumption that a woman had more to fear from a group of middling men than a single supremely competent one. However, this made more sense on deeper consideration. The woman would be an asset to the men, and therefore a focal object in the political struggle which would inevitably emerge among them. Yet also, despite her own competence, she couldn’t naturally rule them. Her intelligence would mean little in a political conflict, and her strength could be overcome by the least of her underlings. Her leadership would be a political disaster waiting to happen with herself as the most likely victim.
But why would the single giga-chad be a better option? After all the prompt didn’t indicate he was more moral than the group of men in the alternative. Yet it is assumed he would be her caretaker, and her his helpmate. That was the way things were. That was natural. With a single man at the head, there was no political struggle to overcome, just the task of winning his devotion, supporting his design, and inspiring him to reach for greater courage than he could have ordinarily found in isolation. And the female imagination took to this task like a fish to water or a bird to flight.
I am reminded here of my favorite quote about female leadership, one of the most insightful entries in Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary.
QUEEN -n. A woman by whom the realm is ruled when there is a king, and through whom it is ruled when there is not.
In other words, a woman rules when she doesn't take power, and is ruled when she does. A straight contradiction. And no doubt, this was Bierce’s own early 20th-century version of BAP-style performative misogyny. But it suggests something profound. After all, power is power and sovereignty is absolute, how can an individual wield more power when their will is removed from it?
But it does make a certain sense in a human context. Because power is only power if you actually can wield it. And it does nothing for a person to grasp the scepter of authority if it crumbles into chaos the moment they hold it firmly.
Our approach to power must therefore expand. It is not simply a question of whether a person possesses it or not, but what kind of person they are and what position they must occupy to best taste its fruits.
An astute, student of history will be well aware of how differential inclination towards ruler-ship can be exploited cynically. A manipulator simply proposes power be given to a body (like the “people”) that is incapable of using it, and then rules in its name, safely insulated from accountability. But the same phenomenon can be expressed in a more natural and organic way, where power is wielded in a mode of asymmetrical symbiosis, expressing many wills through the ruler-ship of a few, each soul within its designated place.
Under these circumstances of ordered ruler-ship, it is not simply that some parties are incompetent and therefore forced to relinquish power (through some Hobbesian bargain) for the greater good of all concerned. Rather, at a more basic level, these people’s wills are more faithfully expressed, better expressed, when they stand more remote from the reigns of explicit sovereignty. In an implicit sense, they can actually wield more power by not directly holding it. And we see this effect, in perfect relief, in the form of the female sex.
When forced into the role of dictator, a woman must dominate men’s actions, But as the buttress to a king, her task is to rule a man’s heart and inspire his vision. Her power extends from this task. Whether in the context of a court or in plain matrimony, this is woman’s design. Even without sex, even as a daughter, an eternal virgin, or an untouchable muse; whether maiden, mother, or crone; whether vulnerable, austere, or gregarious; here is the feminine telos and the nature of feminine power.
In the Longhouse, the degenerate matriarch perches precariously on a chaotic system shifting under its own weight. Constantly shoving down the tides of discontent, the femoid wardens sow stifling despair and spiritual poison to their children to ward off the constant fear of a new strength great enough to strike them down. But, as the helpmate of an ordered ruler, female prestige takes a different form. The matriarch rarely touches sovereignty directly, but her will as felt, constantly, in her desire for the strength of her people and her man, an inspirational and fully feminine magnanimity transferred viscerally to all those drawn to her virtue and beauty.
And the queen may rule more hearts with her coronet and countenance than her husband rules with his sword and scepter. Eve stoops to conquer, but those who fall under her banner are elevated. And isn’t this the form of ruler-ship we recognize in the heroines of yore, increasingly rare today?
As such, what we should expect to see in examples of healthy human ruler-ship is a dance between masculine and feminine forms of power, never a war. The strong and direct forms of masculine sovereignty creating the broad outlines of a social order, its feminine reflection more subtly directing power to reveal strength and courage impossible to live without, existing in combination like the sun and moon.
Many women have an intuitive sense of what it means to exist inside an organic dance of power, where “to rule” often means “to serve”, and where “to serve” often means “to rule”. As such, the female sex has a strong understanding of organic human politics, at an emotional and personal level, even as they might embrace the most asinine political opinions intellectually. For example, while it is well-known women spew endless left-wing drivel when given a soapbox when it comes to the things they value (their friendships, their mate selection, and the ideal lives they imagine for themselves) every woman is at heart a monarchist. Subscribe
“The Case For Monarchy”
I now arrive at the final prompt for this essay: Monarchism. Being an outspoken skeptic of Democracy, my readers have long asked me to make a defense of “Monarchy” that doesn’t simply rehash the political case made by Aristotle or the historical case for Caesar, so frequently rehashed by luminaries like Charles Haywood and Curtis Yarvin. This is always difficult, since, while I don’t consider myself a Monarchist properly, I do have a certain attraction to the concept which is difficult to express in terms of power relationships and formal political analysis. It relates more broadly to the concept of proper loyalty and proper subject-hood seen so distinctly in feminine psychology and the power of classic Christian matriarchs.
More to the point, within my own marriage, the issue is felt keenly since my wife, who, good subject of the British Common Wealth that she is, remains a stalwart defender of both “Western Democracy” and the prestige of the House of Windsor. I, a grumbling cynic on both of these fronts, keep my objections somewhat muted for the purpose of marital harmony.
But recently, post the death of Queen Elizabeth II, I found myself reflecting more seriously on the lived experience of Monarchy, not simply on Monarchy as a theoretical alternative to broken liberal politics. Of course, my wife and her family watched the memorial service, as most royal devotees, and we had a chance to discuss the legacy of the Queen’s reign which was notable, if for no other reason, than for its incredible length. The Britain she died in was a different country than the one which had coronated her in the previous century.
But really, the most interesting thing was seeing the reaction of the native English people to the event. Of course, the loyalists were deeply affected by the death of their Monarch, but there was also a deep feeling of loss from ordinary shit-libs and cosmopolitan Londoners, a group of people I had long thought to be too deracinated and modern to consider the Queen as anything more than a classy national soap opera they had to put up with to maintain appearances. But their reaction was deep, sorrowful, and genuine.
I suppose witnessing it did fill me with a strange type of wistfulness, like seeing the flagging remnant of summer-time flowers futilely persisting well into a bitter cultural winter. Maybe this feeling was wrong-headed? I knew this didn’t change anything about the general will of the British ruling class. They still held all of their modern vanities and contempt for the tradition the royal family represented. And the sincere respect paid to Elizabeth II by many of her subjects with explicitly republican politics was not as it would have been in previous generations. It was more a dirge, a sending off of an England that no longer existed, and whose final silhouette in the form of house Windsor could not be expected to last much longer.
I saw a similar tension listening to my friends on the British right discussing the legacy of the Queen. For the most part, the feelings towards the late monarch were warm. But there was an implicit tension. History would inevitably look back on the reign of Elizabeth II as the age when Britain deconstructed herself, starting with the dismantling of the Empire, and ending with the obliteration of the nation’s cultural and demographic core.
Sure, it was true that Elizabeth even at the time of her ascension, was a complete figurehead. But was that an excuse? After all, the entire point of the Monarchy was to deploy exceptional power for the defense of the nation and people. And future English people, who maintain their love of old Britain with all of its cultural, ethnic, and religious trappings, will not fail to notice that, in the 20th century when England was facing a dire threat to its existence, the monarchical exception was notably un-wielded.
Perhaps, it’s inappropriate for an outsider to comment on this tension. But if I may, I think I can try to square the circle. I think that Elizabeth’s role will rightfully be remembered more as a teacher than a head of state. She occupied a throne without power, and wore a crown with no authority, and yet through it all, she maintained her grace and aristocratic poise. As the English people enter the new reality of the 21st century, very much for the first time as a people without a state to represent them, an ever-present problem will be how to express their collective dignity in a relative state of powerlessness. And here the memory of Elizabeth II will be a guiding light.
I arrive at this latest thesis fully expecting my audience to be quite frustrated with this somewhat rambling essay, seemingly disconnected. Over the course of this writing, I have in fact chased three propositions: First, I have maintained that any meaningful approach to real human leadership must break from analytical political science. Second, I have argued that human power, in most cases, expresses itself better and more perfectly when it refuses to grasp sovereignty directly, as observed most distinctly in the psychology of the healthy human female. And third, I have proposed that the late Queen’s legacy will ultimately be as a symbol of grace under conditions of powerlessness, rather than as a figurehead of state.
Perhaps not the most original points within the dissident sphere? But I would argue that each of these theses finds resolution in one central imperative: the pursuit of ordered spiritual monarchy.
With slightly less pretense, I might simply say that humanity is returning to a more organic form of politics, and we had better start adapting. In the last year since the COVID regime has wanned, it is apparent that the politics of the Enlightenment are over. The idea that there are well-separated spheres of personal issues and political issues with the former guarded by rights and the latter governed by spontaneous public opinion, the notion that there is a value-neutral way to manage politics, the pretense of “expert” driven government and “secular”society”. All of it is quickly receding into the distance. And what replaces it? Something much more similar to historical human existence, where the personal, the political, and the religious are integrated at a basic level.
We must remember, that politics, and political stewardship, is not something we do, but something that we live. This is not simply because we have to deal with the problem of power struggles among our rulers, but more fundamentally because we experience a very similar conflict within our own souls. Just as there is a political struggle for who will rule the government of a territory, there is an internal struggle within man over whether his chaotic or aspirational spirit will dominate his actions. And as such, at all times and places in history, the conflict within mirrors the conflict without, a singular human struggle.
What we are coming to realize in these late days of modernity, and what the spiritual thinkers of the ancient world might have taught us, is that these two political struggles are fundamentally inseparable, each feeding off the other, and they cannot be solved as separate problems.
Humanity’s political problem can therefore more simply be conceived, to ensure that the elevated and ordered principles dominate and sublimate the disordered and chaotic ones at all levels of our existence. How do we approach this task responsibly? By cultivating strength and virtue in the places nearest to ourselves to wield what power we are given, and then, to the extent that this burden is beyond our capacities, relinquishing it to those who are better able to bear the load. We put our trust in others who we deem worthy, and in exchange receive loyal ruler-ship, the cornerstone of a high-trust society, or even a basically functional one.
And under these constraints, the political task of ordinary individuals has a certain seamless quality: to cultivate the aristocratic and support it in others where possible. The common reactionary refrain “become worthy, then rule” hints at this reality, but always feels grossly transactional. To rephrase and re-emphasize what is likely the more important sentiment, we might say “become worthy to be ruled well”. And it does require worthiness to be ruled well. Because the act of being ruled is nothing like rank abasement, instead, it is a considered submission directed only towards objects and men who represent the greater good. The act of proper subject-hood requires a difficult combination of virtues, the prudence and humility to surrender power matched with the fortitude and vivacity to demand from that power loyalty, faith, and respect. This is the basis for a type of spiritual monarchy, a utility for cohesion that can be deployed at whatever level of organization necessary if we can but learn its secrets.
The point of modern political thought is not to develop a populist power that we can’t wield, to come up with theories about civilizational decline, or to threaten our enemies with punishments we can’t carry out. The purpose of political thought, in the present day, is to cultivate the right psychological attitudes towards the age in which we live, with the hope that these attitudes will birth better survival strategies and eventually a healthier political order.
And it is the cultivation of “spiritual monarchy” (which might better be termed "spiritual aristocracy" when practiced en-masse) that will increasingly mark individuals as well adapted to live in the post-modern world. The democratic impulse pulls down in an endless contest of voice and attention, it demands "rights" be granted with no corresponding responsibility, it attempts to lean its entitlement on a social trust it can’t maintain, and base its outrage on a moral sense it can’t justify. But the aristocrat of spirit makes no such assumptions, he seeks only to reflect the virtuous decision-making he himself would submit to if wielded by a just monarch. This is the underlying political dynamic of all human operation under hardship and also the political orientation that Divinity commands for Itself.
Is this an idealized concept of government and fidelity-based politics? Of course, it is. But that's the point. We need this principle as an internalized ideal to rebuild the shattered trust within our own bonds, to base loyalty and incentives that encourage nobility, and escape demotic impulses of the attention economy and prolificity. Because without a monarchical sense, where all men look upwards towards a single point of goodness and authority, there can be no trust, no humility, and no order.
In the late stage of the old Christian order, men believed that this central point of authority could be symbolic and exist implicitly without manifestation in the realm of temporal power. However, as time goes on, I have grown entirely skeptical that this can exist in an irreligious post-enlightenment society so far from its Christian origins. And I default back to the classical wisdom, that as power exists in Heaven, so it will have to exist on Earth. Man must kneel before he can dream of ruling, and this lesson will have to be taught to him through law and authority, if necessary with a rod of iron.
There remains, always, the menacing possibility, that the human race can only learn deep and necessary lessons, such as this, through a process of pain, death, and hardship. But, I remain more hopeful. I think mankind is capable of learning meaningful things through exemplary individuals who carry a sense of authority. And we, the first true natives of post-modernity, may find our way out of the modern crisis by making ourselves disciples of exceptional teachers who manage to perfectly marry humility and imperiousness.
And now I return to the archetype of the Queen, because the combination of healthy submission with healthy ruler-ship, which exists so rarely in the actions of modern leaders, exists in a more natural and acute form in the heart of the lady. The elevated female, exhibits in her prominence the discipline of glorified submission so hard for men to grasp outside the humiliation of force. And so the flower of virtuous femininity is actually a critical political signpost in chaotic times. Perhaps this is the true power of the human female? First that she crushes the serpent of chaotic ambition within her own heart, and second that she inspires others, wishing to be worthy of her grace, to do likewise; a true spirit of monarchy with nary a connection to power or sovereignty.
The late Queen Elizabeth II well embodied spiritual monarchy, and this, I would argue, was the reason why even her thoroughly secular and republican subjects loved her sincerely. In fact, I am reminded of Shekhar Kapur’s 1998 mediocre masterpiece, Elizabeth, when the film apocryphally described the institution of the modern British monarchy under Elizabeth I as a replacement for the Catholic Marian devotion recently discarded post-reformation. Without commenting on the historicity of this claim, it reflects sincerely the emotion I perceive in the English people. They follow in the shadow of Our Lady.
For when perceiving Queen Elizabeth, the spirit of every English person was changed. In her eyes, each wanted to be the men and women they always should have been, they wanted to make Britain the country it always should have been, and for a moment each became better than the thing they were, transcending the temporal modes towards something sublime. This is the core of ruling men’s hearts while still letting them be free. It is the moment when ruler-ship liberates the subject from their shackles of debased selfishness and lifts their souls higher towards greater aspirations. It is the dream of truth goodness, and beauty found in the countenance of one figure. It is the beginning of hope for the future.
Is this enough to save England? Enough to save Western civilization? Enough to save the human race? We should start with our own souls. So, may we fasten our attention on the elusive figure standing behind the throne and pray sincerely, now, and at the hour of our deaths.Subscribe