The Poverty Of The Reactionary
On 4/28/2021, Sohrab Ahmari, the democratically elected leader of the reactionary movement, published an article for Spectator called “Tyranny Is The Inevitable Consequence Of Liberalism.” Like everything Sohrab Ahmari writes, it goes on way too long without actually making a point, it’s nothing more than Ahmari ranting (usually incoherently) about five or six different news stories from the past year or two that he’s mad at instead of actually making any kind of commentary. I have read many articles from Ahmari and attempted in the past to go beneath the surface, but it does not take long to realize that below the surface is literally nothing more than a man who’s mad that things are different from how they once were.
Anything Ahmari writes can be debunked by thinking about anything else Ahmari believes. Take this statement from his article:
Does it make any meaningful difference that in liberal societies, the repression is meted out by large, privately owned corporations, rather than a centralized state? Do a Silicon Valley dweeb’s Birkenstock sandals taste any better than a junta commandant’s boots?
Well it must make some “meaningful difference” considering Ahmari regularly attacks these new forms of authority and praises the old forms of authority. Either Ahmari is telling us that he’s spent his entire career writing commentary that doesn’t actually matter, or he’s being incredibly dishonest. The only reason Ahmari is even implying that these two forms of authority are equivalent is because he knows that if he were to advocate for his preferred system of government, he’d likely be laughed out of the room.
However, the specific statement from Ahmari I want to talk about is this one:
It won’t do for the “classical” liberal to insist that these phenomena are gross distortions of some aboriginal version of his ideology. After a while, he begins to sound like the Trotskyist circa 1936 who, as evidence mounted of show trials, camps and NKVD torture, insisted that none of these crimes could be laid at the feet of “original” Marxism.
I’ve been thinking about this quote ever since I got into a Twitter argument with Imperium Press, a reactionary publishing group. While defending their reactionary positions on 6/7/2021, Imperium Press said:
The reactionary is your Daddy. Without men like us, nothing you take for granted exists. Without patriarchy, hierarchy, ethnocentrism, you still live in a wattle and daub hut like your ancestors did. Were it not for US, YOU wouldn’t exist.
So, basically, the best argument for being a reactionary is that reactionaries created the same society reactionaries dedicate so much time to complaining about. Basically, if this is a civilization created by reactionaries, it’s rather odd that reactionaries dedicate most of their time to destroying it. Sohrab Ahmari calls the modern world a dystopia, before writing an entire book composed of nothing but the thought that started the modern world on the path we are currently seeing the end results of. (One could argue the contradiction is on purpose, because the reactionary realizes he will only have something to react to if he kicks the issues down the road instead of solving them. However, I’d prefer to believe that the reactionary just has a flawed understanding of the concept of linear time and leave it at that.)
Ironically, the best example of Imperium Press’s failure at understanding foresight comes in their latest book published, the old epic poem Beowulf. Of course, Beowulf is an important work in the history of literature as well as one I would encourage every educated person to read. If their translation is really the closest translation from its original Old English yet, then I would definitely encourage everyone to buy a copy. Not just because it’s a good story (although it is), but also because Beowulf is the story that basically all other epics own their existence too in one way or another.
However, here’s their description of the work on their website:
Beowulf is the formative work of Englishness, a story of our origins, a bridge between our Christian and pagan identity. It is also a work of sublime poetry and heroism, telling the tale of the archetypal dragon slayer and king.
And here’s them advertising it through Twitter on 6/8/2021:
[Game Of Thrones] is what you get when an incel who got beat up in high school writes a power politics “epic”. Beowulf is what you get when a warrior monk who has killed many men writes a real epic.
Actually, we have no idea what the writer of Beowulf was like because, to put it simply, we have no idea who it was. Scholars are not even sure when the work was written — with guesses ranging from the seventh century all the way to the eleventh century — let alone who it was that first came up with the story. For that matter, the older the work is, the longer it was only passed down through oral story telling as opposed to written story telling, meaning the more likely the story is to have been telephoned along the way. The scholars who believe the work was written earlier on note that Christians changed many of the Pagan themes in the original work — although exactly what those themes were and how much they changed the story is unknown.
Oh, and then there’s this (thanks to the Lost Media Wiki for giving me this piece of information):
In 1731, [Beowulf] was damaged in a fire while in storage at the Ashburnham House. Portions of the poem were too far gone to be accounted for. One large missing excerpt begins and ends in the middle of the climactic fight with the dragon. It is still possible to follow the story even without the missing piece. Other missing portions merely range from missing sentences, various portions of missing letters, and other minor fragments. Also of note is that it’s suspected that Beowulf was passed down orally and written later. Because of this, it is impossible to know if the author included all of the pieces of the story.
The missing portion has never surfaced, even in older translations of the work. Later printings either attempt to recreate the missing sections or include ellipses to indicate the damage. The missing fragment of the story remains as one of the greatest mysteries of English literature.
However, as Imperium Press mentions in the description on their website, Beowulf is the basis of all English story-telling. As the blog ramapages.us pointed out on 8/31/2017:
Like the emotion the poem still stirs within us,[Beowulf] is still surprisingly relevant to us today. The Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien is said to have been inspired by Beowulf when penning his famous trilogy. To continue to connect this poem to the modern era, George R.R. Martin, malevolent author of the Song of Ice and Fire series, has admitted to being inspired by Tolkien when creating his fictitious universe. As you obviously know, Martin’s series inspired the HBO show Game of Thrones. Therefore, a straight line can be drawn directly from Beowulf, the first epic poem, to a show that 16 million people across the world watch today. It’s incredible how, through this, the story of Beowulf is still very much alive.
While not someone who is typically considered a reactionary, the person who made this mistake the worst is likely Ben Shapiro, in the form of his 2019 book The Right Side of History: How Reason and Moral Purpose Made the West Great. The book basically argues that a straight line can be drawn from Jerusalem and Athens at the beginning of civilization to the Enlightenment to the beginning of America. While I believe Shapiro greatly simplifies this process (he ignores the advancements made by anyone outside of those two cities, going so far as to say that those two cities “invented science” while ignoring the advancements of China or Egypt during that same time — Egypt being the place the Greeks went to in hopes of achieving wisdom), I do actually agree with his basic premise — in fact, I think I take slightly farther than Shapiro does.
As Chapo’s Trap House pointed out in their review of the book, Shapiro seems to leave out what exactly caused us to move away from all of this. It seems as if he believed that an evil wizard by the name of Karl Marx put a spell upon the world leading to the end of those good things. In truth, Karl Marx would have likely agreed with what Ben Shapiro wrote in The Right Side Of History, as he believed communism to be the logical endpoint of human history, the recent advancements in Enlightenment philosophy being the thing that inspired him.
This may surprise you, until you realize how little Shapiro is actually saying. His entire book can be summed up as “actions have consequences,” (a lesson SammyClassicSonicFan taught us much better than Shapiro ever could) specifically, that the actions of people who built civilization led to the creation of modern civilization. Of course, Shapiro then argues that, at some point, we stopped following all of this wisdom — but is that the case, or did we apply this wisdom to new things?
I remember I once saw Shapiro point out that Thomas Jefferson called for castration of those who engaged in sodomy as evidence that same-sex marriage was wrong. The issue at hand is that Thomas Jefferson died in 1826 — a time when slavery still existed in the United States (something he both took full advantage of and hated) — so what Jefferson said specifically on this or that issue is rather irrelevant. Instead, what we should be doing is applying the principals that Jefferson espoused to the modern world, even if Jefferson himself failed too do so on occasion.
I’m not going to say that if Jefferson were alive today he’d support same-sex marriage, I don’t know if that’s the case and I find such speculation to be rather distasteful. However, I will say that the argument from Jefferson’s principals in support of same-sex marriage is a rather strong one, and that’s why the Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal nationwide in 2015 through Obergefell v. Hodges.
Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, the French leftist and first man to call himself an anarchist, famously said he wanted a world where he’d be guillotined as a reactionary. I would argue that one sentence should be the motto of anyone and everyone who fights for progress in the modern world. I want a world that’s so progressive in ways that I can’t even imagine that my writings on barley any better than the writings of the fascist or the social conservative. If, in the progress, principals are espoused that lead to progress for groups that I do not even know about yet, then that just means I’m doing something right. Jefferson likely had the same view as Proudhon — albeit they were at rather different ends of the political spectrum — as did every great civil rights and human rights leader of their days.
If we somehow turn back the clock to the 1950s, the decade after we do so will end up looking an awful lot like the 1960s. If we somehow turn the clock back to the 1770s, two-and-a-half centuries later we’ll be having the same debates once against. And if we somehow turn the clock back to the eleventh century, then one millennium later the world will look just as did now. If the Renaissance taught us anything, it’s that time is going to chug along. You may be able to delay the continuation of that time temporarily, but you will never be able to stop it dead in its tracks.