Tuesday, May 8, 2007 16 Comments

The Utley rule and the BDH alliance

Surely one of the most grievously forgotten authors of the 20th century is Freda Utley. In the immortal words of Rutger Hauer, Utley "saw things... you people wouldn't believe" - she moved to Moscow as a Communist true believer in the 1930s, lost her husband to the Gulag, and never remarried. Her honesty and fearlessness did not make her popular, especially when she spoke out against American abuses in the occupation of Germany, or against Maoism 40 years before it was fashionable.

As Utley put it in her compulsively readable autobiography, Odyssey of a Liberal, her friend Edith Hamilton once warned her "not to expect the material rewards of unrighteousness, while engaged in the pursuit of truth." No such rewards appeared, and today her books are utterly obscure. But when all our "liberals" are Utley's kind, as they once were and surely will be again, I'll be proud to wear the label.

Perhaps Utley's most acute realization in Odyssey, though on a trivial subject, is when she notices that her friend Bertrand Russell always uses the word "we" to refer to the government. She points out that this little linguistic tic is an unmistakable mark of any ruling class.

Apparently this "nostrism" (if I can risk another obscure quasicoinage) was more unusual in the '50s than it is now. Because, although I have tried repeatedly to break myself of the habit, I use exactly the same pronoun. It's an unmistakable sign of my Brahmin upbringing. I can't imagine counting the number of times I've heard someone say "we should..." when what they really mean is "the government should..." Language is repetition, and though my considered view is that it's just as bizarre to define "we" as the US Federal Government, especially for someone who isn't actually an employee of said entity, as it would be to use the first person plural for Safeway, Comcast or OfficeMax, habits die hard.

Today, Russell-style nostrism is peculiar, I believe, to the Brahmin caste. Certainly Helots, Dalits, and Vaisyas all think of the government as very much "they." If Optimates go with "we," it's probably because they're so used to having to pass as Brahmins. I find it rather hard to imagine a cardiologist or a hedge-fund hotshot genuinely thinking of Uncle Sam as "we."

It's all too easy to see nostrism as a trope of monstrous smugness and arrogance. This is very much one with the view of Brahmins you'll get from, say, Lawrence Auster (with whom I often disagree, but who is surely one of the most insightful and principled political writers of our time). To Auster they are all "liberals." This label, which has meant so many things to so many people, is nothing but a brutal slur on his tongue. Auster sees Brahmins more or less the way most of us see Nazis.

And indeed one can imagine an Austerian future in which "liberalism" is just as "discredited" as Nazism is today (or as it was in the Third Reich, for that matter). There is certainly no shortage of crimes that such a future (which I find improbable, but not impossible) could blame on the BDH alliance. For example, it is very easy to see today's Dalit caste as essentially a cynical creation of the Brahmins, a weapon of anarcho-tyranny in the sense of the late Sam Francis, and a key aspect of the ethnic cleansing of the white Vaisya inner-city neighborhoods, which surely if they still existed would be Bushist bastions. From this perspective it's shocking how Europe, in its slavish postwar imitation of the Brahmin system, imported its own Dalit class to fulfill the same essential political function of (often literally) terrorizing the Vaisyas.

In a sense this view is credible. But in another sense, it is completely out to lunch. Because no Brahmin, at least no Brahmin I can imagine, ever thinks that he is (a) the ruling class, (b) allied with criminals and peasants to crush the white working class and the old aristocracy, or (c) a cog in a 75-year-old political machine whose goal is to dominate the world and convert all humans to the worship of a single transnational, bureaucratic superstate in which his caste will play the traditional role of the mandarin priest-oligarch.

Au contraire! He is working for peace and justice. He is fighting against racism, prejudice, corruption and oppression. He has never even considered the possibility of ruling the world. If he can, in some small way, serve it, this will be honor enough. His sincerity is obvious, and it is genuine. No fat salary, no pension plan, no incentive package, is needed to bring him on board. A grown man in his forties, he may work for a sum that is barely a stipend.

Yet to an alien observer, with no understanding of human psychology or motivations, I believe the former interpretation would seem perfectly plausible. Even obvious.

So we have quite a discrepancy to explain. Perhaps our "kernels" and "repeaters" can help us with this puzzle? More later...

16 Comments:

Anonymous Stirner said...

Your point about the "We" construction for government is an interesting one. Of course "we the people" is a hallowed old phrase in the republic, but i do have to wonder when exactly the aristocratic "they" became the democratic "we". Much political mischief has followed from that simple change of phrase.

May 8, 2007 at 8:57 PM  
Blogger Steve said...

Beautiful insight! I remember the time in college when I realized that I was different from most of my classmates because I did not think of the State as "we". This was a major (pharmacologically-assisted) intellectual awakening for me.

The police have a peculiar relationship with the Brahmin sovereign "we". Obviously, police work is Vaisya. As armed agents of the State, police may be inclined to identify themselves with the State as "we". On the other hand, the police are aware of their mercenary status and adroitly extort benefits from the State; thus, they may perceive the State not as "we", but rather as "those poor suckers" who pay the police pensions and bestow ritual honors.

May 9, 2007 at 1:02 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

Your link to the vdare article aroused my curiosity. Based on what I've read of your opinions, I presume that you think that the folks at vdare are "out to lunch" - or at least a bunch of whiners who can't accept how the real world really works.

What exactly do you think of vdare?

May 9, 2007 at 1:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

While I thank Mencius very much for his generous compliment, I must respectfully differ with his characterization of my view of liberals. He writes "Auster sees Brahmins [i.e. liberals] more or less the way most of us see Nazis." How can I see liberals as Nazis, since my constantly repeated point is that virtually all modern Westerners are liberals, including the people who call themselves conservatives?

Lawrence Auster
View from the Right
www.amnation.com/vfr

May 9, 2007 at 11:22 AM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

Max - the connection between democratic and royal "we"'s is interesting indeed. More on this will follow.

Larry - there was a time and place when everyone was a National Socialist, too! I mean that you see liberalism as essentially and fundamentally pernicious, as most of us see Nazism now. I don't quite agree with this perspective, but I certainly think anyone with a brain could benefit from considering it - and from reading your blog.

Steve - I doubt Utley had the same assistance, but you'll never hear me knock pharmacology. As far as I'm concerned one's early twenties exist basically for the purpose of ingesting high-powered pharmaceuticals. Certainly beats the hell out of a liberal education. (As opposed to a technical education, which LSD may enhance but can't replace.)

Your moment of not believing in "we" is basically the modern equivalent of the atheist moment. If more people realized this...

The police mindset, especially now, must be very strange and hateful. They have a dirty job and get no respect. I suspect they think of their pensions, etc, as far less than their due, and they may not be wrong at all.

What do I think of VDare? I hate their Web design, for one. It is hard to be right. It is much harder to say it when you know people will hate you for it. VDare has done much on both these points, and I would respect them for it even if I disagreed with all their views, which obviously I don't. But the third stage, which they have not reached, is to actually market to the people that you need to convince - that is, the elites. There is too much blind faith in democracy on the right side of the political spectrum. If Middle America actually had any political power, Wallace would have won in '72. Public opinion is, at bottom, a matter of fashion. VICE magazine and the eXile give me a lot more hope than VDare on this count.

May 9, 2007 at 9:12 PM  
Anonymous smb said...

Re Disraeli a post or so earlier:

His legacy is certainly questionable, but perhaps a triumph of the OVs might repeat his reign? His political success consisted of uniting aristocrats and proletarians. It's quite a natural alliance, really, as both classes are certainly more inclined to nationalism than any of your other castes. By the same token, looking at today's Middle East debacle, it's within these two castes I see the most support for neoimperial policies. (I've met few or none of the America-first Optimates, who used to be v. prominent in the prewar period. Perhaps they died in the mountains of Korea.)

This is nothing new—witness the Hard Hat Riot, whose anniversary just passed.

This raises an unpleasant thought: If OVs win enough battles in the kulturkampf, it might very well result in short-term domestic benefits for the US, and a variety of long-term international burdens.


Re Brahmins' self-image versus practical behavior:

A) I have rarely encountered snobbery to the extent I've found it in the bureaucracy, professoriate, and legislature. They mightn't consciously acknowledge that they're the "ruling class" but their contempt for the Optimates (as previously discussed) and paternalism towards HDV castes makes explicit acknowledgement superfluous.

B) They generally see themselves as allied with the HDV castes to crush the Optimates. In their minds, this is a completely tenable position.

To borrow your pill terminology from earlier... Most Brahmins have not only taken the Neoliberal (capital-N) blue pill, but ground it up, freebased and injected it. Importing H-caste workers and outsourcing V-caste jobs is quite alright, you see, because it helps all of *humanity*. I've actually listened to Brahmins question how "we" could have the gall, and be so selfish, as to limit the free flow of labor, since it benefits the world entire. After all, the world is flat, right?

Certainly, you can find plenty of Brahmins that are against the evils of outsourcing, but very few are similarly against 'insourcing,' as it were. As if the former were more deleterious to the American middle-classes. Whereas the love of imported Helots can be traced back to the pomo diversity regime, the bile directed toward outsourcing seems like little more than politicking. Or perhaps that's being charitable—Sailer might be right insofar as the elites seem inclined to elect a new people.

Regardless, I think the Brahmins find it easy to hold the Vaisyas in contempt because of the latter’s inborn conservatism (lowercase-c). Red-state yokels are held in contempt almost as severe as that reserved for the capitalist pigdogs.

C) I think *many*, if not a majority, of Brahmins implicitly endorse this. They mayn't phrase it in your frank terms, but by endorsing 'international cooperation' or arguing for the sorts of treaties that limit state sovereignty, they aim for the same ideal. You say they wouldn't consciously acknowledge it, but I think a lot, if not most, would privately admit they would prefer states to give up rights for the sake of international governance. I’m certain because I’ve seen many say so.


Re Brahmins:

I think you might look to Europe for the perfection of this caste. France, in particular.

May 9, 2007 at 10:56 PM  
Anonymous smb said...

Oh, and everyone knows the best part of Vice is the Dos and Donts.

May 9, 2007 at 10:57 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

smb,

Again an interesting comment. I agree with most of it.

But I don't think the Disraeli strategy will work, because the old Optimacy is dead, dead, dead. They lost all their repeaters. It's like losing your supply centers in Diplomacy. There is simply nothing in the Western world that a Victorian aristocrat would recognize as aristocratic.

In other words, there is no organized opposition in the culture war. It has become a culture rout.

Disraeli and the prophets of "Tory Democracy" thought they could get the working man on their side with dressed-up pomp and circumstance, sports-fan style. The Fabians - Brahmins, of course - went straight for his wallet, and won.

I also don't think the Hard Hat Riot strategy - aka Buchanan's "peasants with pitchforks" movement - is viable.

Fundamentally, a Vaisya is a person who doesn't care about politics or big intellectual abstractions. This is the most sensible way to live. Everyone should be a Vaisya. I reserve the right to care about big intellectual abstractions, but I consider it a hobby, no more important than bass fishing. I am not a better person because I have a blog and my neighbor has a bass boat. (Bass - largemouth, of course - is the one true fish of the American Vaisya. And maybe bluefish if you live on the East Coast.)

Re France: yes, the Brahmins are the enarques. And Sarkozy won because he won the over-60 vote by over 2 to 1. Like Reagan and Thatcher, he is a lagging indicator, a last spasm of (some) democratic sense from a dying culture.

I think actually the final defeat of these OV factions is the fastest way to get out of the BDH-OV conflict. The BDH alliance depends on the OVs. It needs a designated enemy. Without it it's just Soviet Union 2.0, and it becomes much easier for young Brahmins to think thoughts they shouldn't be thinking without associating themselves with, well, people who fish for bass.

I haven't actually read VICE. I've just read about it. So there may be some wishful thinking involved. Is it actually any good? How does it compare to, say, Dolan and Ames at the eXile?

May 10, 2007 at 4:54 PM  
Anonymous smb said...

Vice is generally very enjoyable—I like it more than Exile, at any rate. Still, it's primarily a hipster culture rag, so I'm not optimistic about it forming a counter-counter-cultural vanguard. That said, a lot of its content is eminently refreshing, for example:

http://www.viceland.com/issues/v12n8/htdocs/the_vice.php

May 10, 2007 at 6:39 PM  
Blogger Mencius Moldbug said...

Cool.

Don't knock hipster culture - it's a leading indicator. The hipster culture of 1957 is now being drilled into to second-graders everywhere. The fact that democracy, if it means anything, has to mean government by intellectual fashion, is deeply terrifying. But it is not entirely without positive potential.

May 11, 2007 at 12:47 PM  
Anonymous smb said...

You see, as one who's been called a hipster, I'm required to sneer at hipsterdom. The ultimate faux pas is admitting authentic affection. If anyone in Williamsburg found out that I'd said something positive about hipsters, even my impressive vinyl collection couldn't save me from ostracism.

May 11, 2007 at 4:38 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

Of course Bertrand Russell (the third Earl Russell) would have referred to the government as "we." He was an hereditary peer, at a time when the House of Lords had significant political power.

As to snobbery, no one summarized the respective snobberies of Optimates and Brahmins better than did another peer, Lord Tweedsmuir (John Buchan, author of "The 39 Steps," "Greenmantle," etc.). He remarked that the Tories, the Optimates of their day, considered themselves better born, but the Liberals, the Brahmins of their day, were convinced that they were born better.

American conservatives today do not count many among their number who consider themselves better born; but the American left is overflowing with those who imagine themselves "born better," i.e., morally, intellectually, empathetically, and in every other sense personally superior to those who do not share their beliefs and sentiments.

May 14, 2007 at 11:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you have sufficient mental resources to cure your self of a 'tic' - the use of 'we' to describe Brahmin/ State endeavors.

That you have not cured yourself of the tic indicates that we are dealing with something more powerful than a habit.

Be that as it may, I thought it might find the following quote amusing and/ or instructive. Similar quotes from H.G. Wells are Carol Quigley could as easily be adduced:

"We are at present working discreetly with all our might to wrest this mysterious force called sovereignty out of the clutches of the local nation states of the world. All the time we are denying with our lips what we are doing with our hands." --Arnold Toynbee, "The Trend of International Affairs Since the War", International Affairs, November 1931, p. 809

They (Brahmins) know exactly what they are doing - and they know that the economic and cultural policies that they are pursuing will place them, as regards Dalits, Helots, Vaisna, and Optimates in roughly the same relationship that real Brahmins and real Dalits once occupied: a godlike social apex surrounded by intractable and utterly dehuanizing kinds of poverty and social disorder.

To compare Brahmins to Nazis, who sought to - and to a significant extent, did - improve the lot of their own poor, is a calumny on Nazis.

That Brahmins use terms like 'service', 'social justice' and other words to mask their activities - the results of which are very plain, statistcally 'quite robust' you might say - is simply to offer more evidence of that they are driven by a degree of evil for which literary example: Nazis, Lucifer, "demons", MacBeth, etc. are simply inadequate.

The end result - the 2% overclass ruling a sea of ruined humans - can been plainly seen in parts of Latin America - where generations are born and die on landfills, or occupy mountains of cardboard boxes and are shot by the police for sport - or in the early forms of social organization occasionally referred to as "Oriental Despotism".

I think you are an interesting and effective writer. If you find OV castes distateful, that is no cause to mentally join yourself with the Brahmins. Consider the relationship of Simone Weil to the Jews, if you still want for an example.

June 12, 2007 at 2:00 PM  
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