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Epiphanies

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I believe this is a really important article that you should read as soon as you have a spare 15 minutes.

It’s about the young men — and they are all men, very much not coincidentally — who are forming a kind of Leninist vanguard of radical reactionaries, intent on overthrowing what they see as the corrupt, sclerotic decadence of the Republican establishment, or what’s left of it in these Trumpist times.

Most of them are Catholics, either by birth or conversion, and reading the piece reminded me how in the 1920s and 1930s the most ideologically zealous young people in non-fascist Europe, England, and America, tended to either “join” the Party, or be “received” into the Church. One of those people — sort of: he went Anglo-Catholic rather than Catholic simpliciter — was T.S. Eliot, who composed this marvelous poem about the Feast of the Epiphany, which is today in both the traditional Church calendar and in the Trumpist New Order:

Journey of the Magi

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

Here’s a more foreboding vision, from W. B. Yeats, a somewhat mentally unhinged radically reactionary proto-fascist, who was probably the previous century’s greatest poet in the English language:

The Magi

Now as at all times I can see in the mind’s eye,
In their stiff, painted clothes, the pale unsatisfied ones
Appear and disappear in the blue depths of the sky
With all their ancient faces like rain-beaten stones,
And all their helms of silver hovering side by side,
And all their eyes still fixed, hoping to find once more,
Being by Calvary’s turbulence unsatisfied,
The uncontrollable mystery on the bestial floor.

And here’s a passage from Sam Adler-Bell’s article linked above:

If the regime has already been corrupted, usurped by evil forces who will punish anyone who dissents from the woke orthodoxy, what measures aren’t justified to redeem it? If the founding principles have been distorted beyond recognition by an unjust regime, why should the legal parameters of that regime circumscribe acceptable means of rebellion? As Claremont senior fellow Glenn Ellmers recently put it, “Overturning the existing post-American order, and re-establishing America’s ancient principles in practice, is a sort of counter-revolution, and the only road forward.” Liberal democracy as the founders envisioned can only be restored by subverting liberal democracy as it has become. “I think the vast majority of people feel … that this is the end,” Leary told me. “We’ve either got to take control or all is lost.”

The key to understanding the attitudes of young conservatives is their pervasive sense that the war for the soul of America has already been lost, their belief that progressives have taken control of every efficacious power center in American society—save a few hours per night of Fox News—and reshaped the country beyond recognition. The most acute expressions of this revolution, in their view, are the normalizing of transgender identities, the pervasiveness of racial “equity,” abortion, cancel culture, and the pornification of media (including for young children). But their catastrophist sense of American affairs is difficult to fully grasp for those of us who don’t feel it. It has a decidedly religious, eschatological dimension. Buckley’s febrile heirs have convinced themselves “that basically we’re at Megiddo,” Butler said, referring to the site of the final showdown in the Book of Revelation. “We’re in the battle at the end of time, and the prince of darkness is already at the door, and the whole world is now a contest between activist left and activist right.”

What linked the communist left and the fascist right a century ago was a deep conviction that the liberal democratic order had failed, because it was nothing but an ultimately nihilistic charade, designed to advance the corporatist interests of a thoroughly decadent power elite, and that at all costs and by any means necessary this elite had to be destroyed.

Plus ca change.

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