A Reply to Matthew Lyons, Part Three: Sheep, Wolves, and Owls 57

This is the final in a series of essays in response to Matthew Lyons’ critique “Rising Above the Herd: Keith Preston’s Authoritarian Anti-Statism.” And here is the transcript of a recent lecture by Lyons where yours truly gets a couple of mentions. Part One may be viewed here. Part Two may be seen here.

By Keith Preston

“‘As long as the sun shall shine upon man’s misfortunes, the sheep will be eaten by the wolf.’ All that is left is, for those who know and can, to avoid becoming sheep.” –

-Vilfredo Pareto, The Rise & Fall of Elites

“(There is) a perpetual struggle between ‘freedom’ and ‘authority’; neither one of which will be annihilated. It appears, indeed, that we are left with a politics of perpetual protest. There cannot be any point at which those dedicated to liberty can sit back in security and assume the world is in peace, harmony and freedom…(E)ven if anarchy were to be achieved, eternal vigilance would be the bare minimum price for a modicum of success…(T)here is no final battle. The battle is forever.”

-Harold Barclay, Anarchist anthropologist

“What the common man longs for in this world, before and above all his other longings, is the simplest and most ignominious sort of peace — the peace of a trusty in a well-managed penitentiary. He is willing to sacrifice everything else to it. He puts it above his dignity and he puts it above his pride. Above all, he puts it above his liberty. The fact, perhaps, explains his veneration for policemen, in all the forms they take — his belief that there is a mysterious sanctity in law, however absurd it may be in fact. A policeman is a charlatan who offers, in return for obedience, to protect him (a) from his superiors, (b) from his equals, and (c) from himself. “

-H. L. Mencken

“…a series of fundamental misconceptions…which prevented (man) from learning the lessons of the past, and…now put his survival in question. The first of these..is putting the blame for man’s predicament on his selfishness, greed, etc.; in a word, on the aggressive, self-assertive tendencies of the individual…I would like to suggest that the integrative tendencies of the individual are incomparably more dangerous than his self-assertive tendencies.”

-Arthur Koestler

Matthew Lyons depicts the philosophical foundations that inform my political views in this way:

Preston’s opposition to the state is based on a radically anti-humanistic philosophy of elitism, ruthless struggle, and contempt for most people.

Preston embraces “a philosophical conservatism regarding human nature and the nature of society,” whose tenets include “natural inequality of persons at both the individual and collective levels, [and] the inevitability and legitimacy of otherness…”He is harshly critical of the left’s egalitarianism and universalism. Instead, he offers an elitist, anti-humanist philosophy that echoes Friedrich Nietzsche, Ernst Jünger, and Ayn Rand:

those who obtain the upper hand in the ongoing power struggle will almost always be the most ruthless, cunning and merciless of the competitors. The wolves will always win out over the sheep. Within the bleak framework of a perpetual war of each against all, there from time to time arises the exceedingly rare individual whom Nietzsche referred to as the “ubermensch.” This is the individual of superior will, strength, mind, spirit, discipline, intelligence, intuition, perceptiveness, shrewdness, wisdom, creativity, inventiveness, generosity and other such characteristics that set the human species a half step above the other animals. It is this individual who becomes the “anarch,” the “egoist,” the one who rises above the perpetual fog in which both the sheepish people and their vicious masters dwell…. It is persons such as these who carry with them the seeds of cultural and civilizational growth. For any sort of human existence to emerge beyond that of the merely animalistic, this type of individual must thrive…

Preston argues further that “the first purpose of any politics or ethics beyond the purely material or defensive” must be to protect and foster these rare, superior individuals, the anarchs. “It is apparent that the political framework most conducive to the advancement of the anarch is some sort of anarchism.” In other words, the main reason Preston supports anarchism is not to liberate all people — but to help a handful of superior individuals rise above the bestial mass of humanity.

This is a generally accurate portrayal of my view of human nature and the nature of human societies, as the extensive quotations from me in the above passages from Lyons’ essay would indicate. Just as Lyons’ critique of my economic outlook provides, on a general level, an illustration of the historic differences between the Marxist and Anarchist approaches to political economy, so does his critique also exemplify one of the most crucial philosophical conflicts in the history of modern Western political philosophy. This is the battle between egalitarianism and non-egalitarianism. This conflict is not necessarily a struggle between the Left and Right. As no less a man of the Right than Richard Spencer has observed:

 

…in my fantasyland, there would still be a Left and a Right—and granolas and libertarians and animal rights activists and Mormons, et al.—but they would operate within Western unity and natural hierarchy.

Some, no doubt, might counter that you can’t have a “non-egalitarian Left.” But I don’t agree with this at all. Jack London was a collectivist; HL Mencken, an anarchist; both were “leftists,” of sorts, and both rejected egalitarianism. And they both operated on a different planet than the whole spectrum of contemporary Leftists and Rightists, from Glenn Beck to Cornell West.

To this list of anti-egalitarian liberals and leftists could be added the socialist George Bernard Shaw, the anarchist Pierre Joseph Proudhon, and the classical liberal John Stuart Mill, all of whom expressed skepticism of the tendency of modern democracy towards ochlocracy. In his discussions of the conflicting visions of humanity and society found in traditional Western thought, Thomas Sowell has identified Plato as a proto-typical utopian radical and Aristotle as a proto-typical conservative realist. Yet it is interesting to note that neither of these two of the greatest thinkers from antiquity were egalitarians.

It should be a matter of common understanding that human beings are not “equal” on either an innate or behavioral level. Wide variation exists among human types with regards to both intellectual ability and physical or psychological fitness. It is therefore obvious that any sort of prosperous civilization with functional institutions must rank the intelligent over the stupid, the healthy over the diseased, the physically fit over the disabled, and the psychologically stable over the mentally disturbed. Persons with Down’s syndrome are not going to be neurosurgeons. Stratification must also exist whereby the wise are ranked over the foolish, the competent over the incompetent, the sober over drunks and addicts, the productive over the lazy, and so forth. Not even the most ideologically rigid leftist-anarchist commune could survive for very long and tolerate freeloaders, moochers, predators, or perpetually destructive or disruptive individuals, no matter how fervently committed the communards were to their egalitarian ideals.

An “equality of equals” may be possible, but not an equality of unequals. A group of scientists may be capable of engaging in common research projects in a relatively egalitarian manner, but they cannot reasonably be expected to seek guidance from the laboratory custodian with an IQ of 90. This does not mean that some people cannot be inferior in some ways and superior in others. Many of the greatest writers, artists, and musicians have been alcoholics and drug addicts. A person with severe physical handicaps can also be an intellectual giant (see Stephen Hawking). A person of limited intelligence can be relatively functional in their daily life while a person of much superior intellectual ability can be lacking routine life management skills. Nor should those who are inferior in many ways be subject to mistreatment. Very few people have written more defensively of a wide assortment of lumpen or marginal populations than I have. Even persons with severe moral limitations and greatly exaggerated antisocial impulses can make contributions to civilization in other ways. For instance, the violent criminal who is also talented at creative endeavors: Phil Spector, Jack Henry Abbot, Jim Gordon, or Bobby Beausoleil.

Just as there is inequality between individuals, so is there organizational and institutional inequality. Robert Michel’s well-known study of the Social Democratic Party in Germany of the early twentieth century indicated that even organizations that are ostensibly committed to egalitarian ideals, even fervently so, tend to develop an oligarchic internal structure over time. Likewise, Pareto’s also somewhat widely recognized “80/20 principle” indicates that the top twenty percent of an organization will tend to dominate the bottom eighty percent. Mosca’s conception of the “circulation of elites” suggested that elites in one organization will overlap with elites in other organizations within the wider society, and that this overlapping will have the effect of a rotating transfer of elite personnel from one organization to another. One of Georges Sorel’s key insights was that most people are more motivated by the myths surrounding institutionally established ideals than by the actual reality or substance of those ideals. The arguments of these elite theorists have been borne out quite well by empirical analysis.

There is no particular reason to think that the kinds of organizations and institutions favored by the radical Left would be any different in this regard than more conventional kinds. To be sure, I am all for the development of anarcho-syndicalist labor unions, workers councils, cooperatives, collectives, communes, land trusts, mutual banks and mutual aid societies, alternative currencies, municipalized industries, consumer cooperatives, tenants unions, claimants unions, alternative schools and universities, and other such institutions as the libertarian left has traditionally advocated. But even within the context of such institutions, the iron law of oligarchy, the 80/20 principle, the circulation of elites, and the power of myth would still apply as general sociological principles. Certainly, there are matters of degree. It is obviously not necessary for all forms of human organization to be run in the same way as the United States Marine Corps. But the extreme egalitarianism that Lyons apparently advocates in neither possible nor desirable. At some point, equality has to yield to merit and ability.

Inequality of individuals and within organizational and institutional structures, a fact of human existence that cannot be dispensed with, inevitably means social inequality. The primary barometers of social stratification identified by Max Weber-wealth, power, and status-automatically come into play here. The greater levels of merit and ability possessed by some, combined with the fact of institutional inequality, guarantees that some individuals and groups will necessarily have more wealth, power, and status than others. This certainly does not mean that we should desire a society with huge class divisions such as those found in traditional Third World societies or of the kind that the United States is rapidly becoming. Aristotle himself recognized that the most successful political units are those with a large middle class which in turn requires a widespread dispersion of wealth, power, and resources. Plutocracy is not compatible with a healthy civilization but neither is the kind of parasitical bureaucracy that modern welfare statist-mass democracies inevitably generate. Equality does not naturally occur. Therefore enforced equality requires a massive administrative bureaucracy of the kind leftists typically favor. But even this is self-defeating as the bureaucratic overlords become an elite class unto themselves. This is one of the core insights of “new class” theory.

A wide array of factors also guarantees the inequality of different population groups. Different levels of technological development and economic success, environmental circumstances, climate, topography, natural disasters, susceptibility to disease, military conquest, inherited genetic traits, historically evolved cultural factors, and different levels of social evolution indicate that there will always be “inequality” between regions, nations, communities, cultural and ethnic groups, socioeconomic categories, and so forth. For instance, with regard to gender differences, the different biological roles assumed by males and females in the procreation and child-bearing process indicates that “gender inequality” of some kind will always be with us. Further, the insights of conflict theory indicate that once former outgroups become powerful, they become as abusive and exploitative as the former ruling classes whom they replaced. The historical and contemporary world evidence for this is overwhelming. As awful as the former systems of oligarchic racial supremacy in nations like South Africa and Zimbabwe were, there is no evidence of any particular improvement in those societies since their conversion to majority rule. Indeed, the economic decline experienced by those countries has been dramatic and violent crime has increased exponentially. A new kind of puritanism motivated by misandry has begun to emerge in those countries where feminists have become the most influential. The increased political power of the homosexual movement has brought with it increased repression of free speech in the name of exempting gays from criticism. One of history’s most widely recognized outcast groups, the Jewish people, have become every bit as tyrannical as their former Gentile masters since their assumption of state power in the nation of Israel. There is no reason to believe that pervasive totalitarian humanist rule in the United States or other Western countries would be any more benevolent than any traditional system of social and political stratification found in those countries, particularly not after decades of hate propaganda depicting white Christians as evil oppressors, the formal institutionalization of victimology as the ideological superstructure of the state, and the dissemination of such in state educational institutions and the mass media.

Yet another form of inequality exists that is even more important than any kind discussed thus far. This involves the matter of moral inequality. I should begin by clarifying that I do not accept the view that any sort of objective morality exists. Morality is the outgrowth of the subjective individual and collective value judgments of human beings. Conceptions of morality, ethics, virtue, “right and wrong,” and the like are social constructs that human beings create to give order to their communities and societies and meaning and structure to their own lives. Collective moral judgments represent the specific totems and taboos erected by particular tribes. The modern leftist tribe considers any kind of differentiation on the basis of race, gender, sexuality and a few other forbidden categories to be the ultimate taboo. The religious right considers aborting a fetus or buggery to be the ultimate taboo. Nazis presumably believe racial miscegenation to be the ultimate taboo. Eco-radicals believe pollution or killing a member of an endangered species to be the ultimate taboo. No evidence exists that any of these value systems are somehow decreed by the cosmos. In the grand scheme of existence, all of these belief systems are just another way of looking at things.

What is important to this discussion is the relationship of social and cultural constructions of morality to the psychological characteristics of individuals. The well-known experiments conducted by Stanley Milgram and Philip Zimbardo indicate the susceptibility of the average individual to both group pressure and the influence of perceived authority figures. The evidence from social psychology is overwhelming that Arthur Koestler was correct in his observation that it is the herd instinct exhibited by the average human type rather than the much rarer impulse towards extreme egocentrism that poses the greatest social and political danger. In his study of fundamentalist religious cults, Edmund Cohen observed the distinction between the effects of cultic psychology on different personality types and the relationship of such to the herd instinct. Specifically, Cohen differentiated between the normal, “other-directed” personality and the much rarer “inner-directed” personality:

…by “inner-directed,” we mean an individual whose relation to others and to situations is guided mainly by conscience, a person who is sensitive and responsive to the several layers of his own conscience. And by “other-directed,” we mean an individual who takes his cues from peers and from generally approved points of view. He is capable of being confronted with what ought properly to disgust him but can accept it with feckless cheerfulness if others around him give off no cues to the contrary. Most people, we are warned, are really much more other-directed than appears on the surface, and it is terrible to contemplate what most of our friends and neighbors would blithely do were leaders and peers to turn malignant. Inner-directedness, particularly if accompanied by particular intuitive sensitivity or perspicacity, means than many an intrinsically admirable person must pass through life in conflict with the prevailing ethos.

In other words, the person who is “inner-directed” is an individual that is both rare and superior. It is this kind of individual who is most appropriately labeled with Nietzschean or Jungerian terms like “ubermensch” or “anarch.” It is this kind of individual that is the foundation of human advancement, achievement, and civilization.

An understanding of the “sheepish” nature of the average human type helps to properly contextualize the tendency of human herds to engage in massively predatory behavior. The gulag or concentration camp guard, invading soldier, or routine “pig” policeman is not a specifically egocentric, selfish, or antisocial individual. In fact, quite the opposite may be true. In his private life, such a person may often be the model of a good neighbor, devoted family man, or responsible citizen. It is in his role as a herd creature that he becomes a predator, and he does so not because he is a schemer or manipulator but out of a sense of duty and moral commitment to the herd, its leaders, and the specific value system that guides the herd. This phenomenon is what Hannah Arendt described as the “banality of evil.” The administrative personnel of the local gulag or the rank and file members of the terrorist SWAT team are fundamentally no different from the check out clerks at the local grocery store. They are simply ordinary individuals who are going about their business and doing their jobs.

It should also be understood that even normally superior individuals are susceptible to the herd instinct in completely irrational ways when faced with conditions of extreme pressure. For instance, the Dutch psychiatrist Joost Meerloo described how after being imprisoned by the Nazis for his activities as a member of the Dutch Resistance he began to develop feelings of guilt for his resistance activities and an impulse to confess his supposed crimes. Said Meerloo of his experience:

As soon as man is alone, closed off from the world and from the news of what is going on, his mental activity is replaced by quite different processes. Long-forgotten anxieties come to the surface, long repressed memories knock on his mind from inside. His fantasy life begins to develop and assume gigantic proportions. He cannot evaluate or check his fantasies against the events of his ordinary days, and very soon they may take possession of him.

I remember very clearly my own fantasies during the time I was in a Nazi prison. It was almost impossible for me to control my depressive thoughts of hopelessness. I had to tell myself over and over again: “Think, think. Keep your senses alert: don’t give in.” I tried to use all my psychiatric knowledge to keep my mind in a state of relaxed mobilization, and on many days I felt it was a losing battle.

To the horrors the accused victim suffers from without must be added the horrors from within. He is pursued by the unsteadiness of his own mind, which cannot always produce the same answer to a repeated question. As a human being with a conscience he is pursued by possible hidden guilt feelings, however pious he may have been, that undermine his rational awareness of his innocence. The panic of the “brainwashee,” is the total confusion he suffers about all concepts….The enemy knows that, far below the surface, human life is built up of inner contradictions. He uses this knowledge to defeat and confuse the brainwashee.

Not only superior individuals such as Meerloo but even lower order elements on the margins of society and with an overdeveloped tendency towards antisocial impulses are prone to a similar inclination for “sheepishness” when faced with the pressures of institutionalized authority. Edmund Cohen observed this phenomenon during his time as a defense attorney representing ordinary street-level criminals:

…generally I found the criminals to have good information as to the punishment risk entailed by their crimes. They had weighed the risks realistically and made the conscious decision that the benefit was worth it. The comments one often hears from criminologists about the supposed ineffectiveness of deterrence against crime ring false to those who have dealt with criminals on an individual basis. The sole gaping exception to the rule that criminals exhibit quite a functional approach to their own self-interest is in the area of confessions and admissions. Because self-disserving admissions can be used as evidence against one in court and the suspicions or inferences of the police based on the person’s silence or lack of cooperation cannot be so used, it is never in the self-interest of one suspected of a common crime to cooperate with police…Every criminal knows this from his street education, from his past experiences with defense attorneys, and from the Miranda ritual that must proceed any police interrogation…And yet, one never ceases to be amazed at the substantial proportion of convictions that would have been unobtainable had the defendant not convicted himself out of his own mouth. The typicalness of the compulsion to confess and the underlying sound but guilty conscience indicated by it are clear and impressive to all who work with common criminals.

If the evidence overwhelmingly indicates that Koestler was correct in his observation that the tendency towards “sheepishness” is grossly overdeveloped in most people, even seemingly superior or otherwise antisocial or even predatory people, then from where do the wolves arise? One of the most important observations of Friedrich Hayek is that the “worst get to the top” within the context of authoritarian institutions. The reason for this is obvious enough. Those who are the least inhibited by social norms, regard for others, innate conscience, or values exterior to one’s own self-interest are precisely those who will be driven to achieve positions of wealth, power, and status by whatever means available. Lord John Acton’s dictum that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely” only tells half of the story. It is also likely that those who are absolutely “corrupt” to begin with will be the ones most driven to seek to obtain “absolute power.”

If most people have an overdeveloped tendency towards a “sheep” personality, then the “wolf” personality may well be an evolutionary overcompensation. If this is indeed the case, then the personality type commonly labeled as “sociopathic” may actually be a manifestation of nature’s efforts to genetically counter the overdeveloped herd instinct. The notion of the “wolf” personality as essentially superior though maldeveloped in particular areas would go a long way to explain why “wolves” tend to be dominant in virtually all human societies. Indeed, this observation is relatively compatible with a Hobbesian conception of the nature of human societies. A possibly necessary revision to the Hobbesian outlook might be to conceive of society as less of a “war of each against all” and more as a war of individual wolves or wolf packs guiding and dominating herds of sheep.

If society can generally be conceived of as a permanent war of wolf packs leading much larger herds of sheep, then it is obviously crucial that the power to engage in coercive violence be dispersed as widely as possible. Some may object that this only creates a scenario where smaller wolf packs are dominating smaller sheep herds, but it may well be that this is the best humanity can do. Clearly, the dangers of overly centralized power are well demonstrated by historical experience. The historical evidence is also rather clear that societies with a widespread dispersion of power ultimately create better and higher achieving civilizations. For instance, it was during the eras of the Greek cities and the Roman Republic that classical civilization reached its apex, with the decline taking part as the Roman Empire became ever more expansive and bloated. The most successful empires have been those that afforded a great deal of autonomy to their regions, possessions and subject peoples such as the Ottomans or the Hapsburgs. The traditional Chinese civilization typically lacked an overly extensive or pervasive state in spite of its tradition of consolidated imperial rule by the emperor.

Besides the sheep and the wolves, we might identify a third kind of primary human personality type which is consistent with Nietzsche’s “ubermensch,” Junger’s “Anarch,” or Max Stirner’s “Egoist.” This type of person we can characterize as an “owl.” Such a people is neither a servile sheep grazing in the pasture, but nor is he a predatory wolf. Instead, such a person exhibits the characteristics we have previously identified as “inner-directed.” For civilization to genuinely thrive and continually advance, such a person and his/her survival, cultivation, and flourishing must be made paramount. What kinds of conditions make the advancement of the “owls” most probable? Just as the animal species that is most likely to survive the process of natural selection is not necessarily the strongest or most vicious animal but the kind of animal with the greatest ability at evolutionary adaption, so it is the owl personality rather than the wolf personality with the greatest prospects for evolutionary survival. Just as the adaptive animal becomes more adaptive in an ecological environment where, among other things, cover and camouflage are more readily available, so is the owl personality better protected and developed in a social and political environment where what might be called “niches of refuge” are more prevalent and a Kafkaesque all-pervasive authority is absent.

Bringing things down to the ground level once again, considerations such as these imply that the socio-political ecology most conducive to the advancement of the owl personality is some kind of political anarchism, where power, wealth, status, and resources are dispersed as widely as reasonably possible and where “niches of refuge” become exceedingly common. Most of the ideas of classical anarchism would seem to be compatible with this objective. To the degree that there are gaps to be filled in the classical anarchist ideological paradigm, other ideological systems, whether contemporary or pre-existing, may provide assistance. Among these are classical liberalism, traditional American populism, paleoconservatism, distributism, and the European New Right.

Regarding specific institutional arrangements, an anarchic civilization would likely be a collection of city-state-like entities with affiliated towns and villages, perhaps regionally federated for the purpose of maintaining common utilities and public goods. Economic arrangements could vary widely with the kinds of economic institutions favored by anarcho-syndicalists, mutalists, distributists, or Georgists playing a prominent role. There might well be common law provisions built into the legal structures of anarchic polities for the purpose of preventing over-centralization of control of wealth, such as limits on individual inheritance or land accumulation. Political power should naturally be spread out among hundreds of different communities, and among dozens of institutions within a single community. The autonomy of non-political institutions should be nurtured and preserved. Both social practices and legal norms would likely reflect the mores of particular communities.

Regarding Lyons’ claims concerning my supposed “authoritarianism,” it is clear enough that “freedom” means different things to different people. For instance, Troy Southgate is widely attacked by leftists for having uttered the following statement years ago:

The most important thing for us is the Natural Order. It is natural for men and women to procreate. Anything which threatens the harmony of Nature must be opposed. Feminism is dangerous and unnatural … because it ignores the complimentary relationship between the sexes and encourages women to rebel against their inherent feminine instincts … Homosexuality is contrary to the Natural Order because sodomy is quite undeniably an unnatural act. Groups such as OutRage are not campaigning for love between males – which has always existed in a brotherly or fatherly form – but have created a vast cult which has led to a rise in cottaging, male-rape and child sex attacks. Nature is about life and health, not death and AIDS. But we are not trying to stop homosexuals engaging in this kind of activity like the Christian moralists or bigoted denizens of censorship are doing, on the contrary, as long as this behaviour does not affect the forthcoming National-Anarchist communities then we have no interest in what people get up to elsewhere … As far as abortion is concerned, this process violates the sanctity of life and once again the killing of an unborn child is flying in the face of Nature.

The comments from Southgate are often cited as evidence of the incipient fascism of National-Anarchism. But it has to be understood that leftists have plenty of taboos of their own of a comparable nature. As one “left-libertarian” (who utterly despises me, by the way) says of his experiences with the leftist-anarchist movement:

I  used to be an anarcho-communist. Actually, I started out as someone who was vaguely sympathetic to mainstream libertarianism but could never fully embrace it due to the perceived economic implications. I eventually drifted to social anarchism thanks to someone who’s name I won’t mention, because it’s too embarrassing.

After hanging around them for a while I realized that, for all their pretenses, most of them were really just state-socialists who wanted to abolish the State by making it smaller and calling it something else. After about a year of hanging around Libcom and the livejournal anarchist community, I encountered people who, under the aegis of “community self-management”, supported

  • smoking and alcohol bans
  • bans on currently illicit drugs
  • bans on caffeinated substances (all drugs are really just preventing you from dealing with problems, you see)
  • censorship of pornography (on feminist grounds)
  • sexual practices like BDSM (same grounds, no matter the gender of the participants or who was in what role)
  • bans on prostitution (same grounds)
  • bans on religion or public religious expression (this included atheist religions like Buddhism, which were the same thing because they were “irrational”)
  • bans on advertisement (which in this context meant any free speech with a commercial twist)
  • bans on eating meat
  • gun control (except for members of the official community-approved militia, which is in no way the same thing as a local police department)
  • mandatory work assignments (ie slavery)
  • the blatant statement, in these exact words, that “Anarchism is not individualist” on no less than twelve separate occasions over the course of seven months. Not everybody in those communities actively agreed with them, but nobody got up and seriously disputed it.
  • that if you don’t like any of these rules, you’re not free to just quit the community, draw a line around your house and choose not to obey while forfeiting any benefits. No, as long as you’re in what they say are the the boundaries (borders?) of “the community”, you’re bound to follow the rules, otherwise you have to move someplace else (“love it or leave it”, as the conservative mantra goes). You’d think for a moment that this conflicts with An-comm property conceptions because they’re effectively exercising power over land that they do not occupy, implying that they own it and making “the community” into One Big Landlord a la Hoppean feudalism.

So I decided that we really didn’t want the same things, and that what they wanted was really some kind of Maoist concentration commune where we all sit in a circle and publicly harass the people who aren’t conforming hard enough. No thanks, comrade.

And this commentator is merely describing the anarchist wing of the Left, not the avowedly statist variation which dominates the mainstream of leftism. There is no intrinsic reason why the “right’ to, for instance, engage in inter-racial or homosexual sex or have an abortion is any more inherently sacred than the “right” to possess handguns or switchblade knives, engage in drug use or prostitution, eat meat, accumulate money or property, practice religion, practice BSDM, drink alcohol at age seventeen, ride a motorcycle without a helmet, or smoke cigarettes in restaurants, bars and nightclubs. Radical feminists represent only a subset of modern American women. There are likely many more female born-again Christians than devotees of Catherine MacKinnon. Being a good civil libertarian and Stirnerite individualist, I would prefer a “do your own thing” approach to legal and social matters. Combine the Gun Owners of America, the NRA, the ACLU, NORML, COYOTE, and Critical Resistance and you have a pretty good summation of my views on such matters. But clearly not everyone feels this way, not even most so-called “progressives.”

Says Matthew Lyons:

Unlike Preston’s version of revolution, that means fighting not just centralized state power, but all forms of oppression.

Unlike Lyons’ version of revolution, this means fighting for a genuine dispersion of power, not just creating a Marxist state dominated by self-appointed leaders of narrow interest groups claiming special victim status.

57 comments

  1. This rates as one of my favourite articles of yours, Keith (and one that has the potential to ruffle some feathers, to boot)!

    I especially like the spots of nuance that are too often absent from discussions of inequality elsewhere:

    “An “equality of equals” may be possible, but not an equality of unequals…This does not mean that some people cannot be inferior in some ways and superior in others. Many of the greatest writers, artists, and musicians have been alcoholics and drug addicts. A person with severe physical handicaps can also be an intellectual giant (see Stephen Hawking). A person of limited intelligence can be relatively functional in their daily life while a person of much superior intellectual ability can be lacking routine life management skills. Nor should those who are inferior in many ways be subject to mistreatment. Very few people have written more defensively of a wide assortment of lumpen or marginal populations than I have. Even persons with severe moral limitations and greatly exaggerated antisocial impulses can make contributions to civilization in other ways. “

    “It should also be understood that even normally superior individuals are susceptible to the herd instinct in completely irrational ways when faced with conditions of extreme pressure.”

    That said, don’t you think all this talk of superiority/inferiority could potentially undermine your coalition-building goals, somewhat? Some of the groups you wish to reach out to are, both here and elsewhere, lumped into the “inferior” category (lumpenproles, the religious, the “marginals”)–not a great idea, if you plan to build bridges to them, I’d have thought.

    Also, you say…

    “Just as the animal species that is most likely to survive the process of natural selection is not necessarily the strongest or most vicious animal but the kind of animal with the greatest ability at evolutionary adaption, so it is the owl personality rather than the wolf personality with the greatest prospects for evolutionary survival.”

    …but, isn’t it the case that natural selection, and general human society, favours the most herdlike and “sheepish”, rather than the wise old owl? “Staying to the ways” seems to ensure long-term survival and propagation. Given the subjectivity of values, it could be said that such servility is seen as “superior” by the majority of mankind, no?

  2. “That said, don’t you think all this talk of superiority/inferiority could potentially undermine your coalition-building goals, somewhat?”

    Possibly, but such a coalition wouldn’t exactly be a place for the sensitive or easily offended in the first place. The necessary attitude among the numerous partners to such a coalition would need to be something like “you guys may be assholes, but the system is a bigger bunch of assholes.”

  3. I want to draw a picture of Keith’s “coalition” someday.

    It will be like this:

    http://www.ep.tc/realist/74/12.html

    But with the Disney characters replaced with IQ 60 Bible Bashers, negro-terrorists, hackers, deadbeats, multilevel marketers, assorted nonwhites and THE UNABOMBER.

  4. I do wonder where it came along that you rejected the Jacobin/Rousseauian dictum of “man is born free, but is everywhere in chains”, which seems to be your disagreement with a lot of traditional anarchist-socialism, or the idea that we are all deeply shaped by our institutions, which all seems to be a core part of at least most of anarchist socialism, at least up till now. From your writing style it seems to be the idealistic, millenarian, you could say Wilsonian, State-worship and collective-worshipping that came out of perverting that ideal, which I would probably agree with. And it is certainly interesting to see “elitism” and “aristocracism” put in a context that doesnt necissarily make the jump to somewhat of a fatalist, conservative position that most people do.

  5. Very good rebuttal of Lyons’ arguments. Has he answered in any of the previous parts of the reply?

    The greatest problem with the left-anarchists is that, much like liberals who think that freedom is “being governed by liberals”, they believe that freedom is “being governed by liberals somehow without a state”. In a way, they are nothing more than theocrats who believe that people should be governed by God, (which in the secural age equalsideology). The God is dead, but the angelic orchestra is still praises Him.

  6. I agree with MRDA that this is one of your better articles and I really liked the fact that you discussed how the heard mentality is really responsible for most of the destruction and strife in the world. It’s always been one of my gripes with Conservatives that they blame selfishness and egoism for all of the problems in society when nothing could be further from the truth. Ironically, an actual war of all against all might be less worse than everything else as the amount of power on all sides would be about equal, thus it would be far more difficult to bully others when one has to rely solely on one’s own strength.

    On the equality thing, I generally agree, though I think that some of the points about people possessing different attributes and skills as a rebuttal of equality depends to some extent upon a false understanding of what people mean by equality. Most intelligent anarchists of the left would not deny that people have different levels of ability, I recall a section in the anarchist Faq dealing exactly with this criticism of the left. I happen to think to that the basis of libertarianism is based on equality http://mises.org/daily/804 of a certain type, as Roderick Long points out in that article. It is really a just a universalizing of the don’t tread on me attitude. I’m also leery of those on the right who argue against equality, as I think that most of them are really objecting to the libertarian idea of equality of rights, though they will use of the sorts of arguments that you did. That is not an accusation against you, I’m just pointing out that the right will do a bait and switch on this issue much in the same way that white nationalists will whine about the violations of liberty caused by forced integration while desiring themselves to violate people’s liberties by forced segregation.

    Lastly, your analysis is cynical if not pessimistic to a degree, but despite that, I tend to agree with it. I also have re-reconsidered pan-secessionism and I actually am quite favourable to it again. The reason being that given the unlikeness of achieving classical anarchist goals in the immediate future, I have started to lean more towards libertinism (perhaps my reading of de Sade had something to do with it) than anything else and I figure pan-secessionism might be the best to achieve this. I advocate a territory with: All drugs legal, NO alcohol laws (including age restrictions, legal prostitution (Faust might be happy to know that if I had my way, they wouldn’t be white either :) http://attackthesystem.com/2011/06/26/peoria-illinois-black-flash-mob-kill-all-the-white-people/#comment-15684) no nudity laws, legalized public sex , no speech codes, no noise ordinances, all gambling legal, no seatbelt or helmet laws, no mandatory school and/or truancy laws, legal (voluntary) cannibalism and necrophilia, no recognized marriage licenses nor any benefits afforded to those married, legalized public intoxication, legalized dwarf throwing http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2mJBaXN6sXs, and that’s about all I can think of for now. Anyone else interested?

    I

  7. Keith, this is one of your best pieces, ever.

    But you know it screams conflict of interest in terms of philosophy in respect to the wider anarcho-pluralist framework. For instance, the anti-New World Order Christians would be an essential constituency for pan-secessionism. How would the Christian Patriots/conspiracy theorists reconcile with the New Right, the Nietzscheans, and the Owl’s association with WASP elitism?

  8. Noonan,

    “I do wonder where it came along that you rejected the Jacobin/Rousseauian dictum of “man is born free, but is everywhere in chains”, which seems to be your disagreement with a lot of traditional anarchist-socialism,”

    Initially by studying social psychology and theories of personality, and later by studying major conservative thinkers likes Hobbes and Burke.

    Dennis,

    “Very good rebuttal of Lyons’ arguments. Has he answered in any of the previous parts of the reply? ”

    Not that I know of. I posted links to my responses on his blog.

    Jared,

    “Most intelligent anarchists of the left would not deny that people have different levels of ability, I recall a section in the anarchist Faq dealing exactly with this criticism of the left. I happen to think to that the basis of libertarianism is based on equality http://mises.org/daily/804 of a certain type, as Roderick Long points out in that article. It is really a just a universalizing of the don’t tread on me attitude. I’m also leery of those on the right who argue against equality, as I think that most of them are really objecting to the libertarian idea of equality of rights, though they will use of the sorts of arguments that you did.”

    Well, I accept the classical liberal idea of “equal rights” within a political and legal context. I’m obviously not in favor of something like the Ottoman system where a sultan could kill anyone he wanted with impunity. But the Marxists of course take this further and advocate “equality of things” in terms of wealth and property. I’m opposed to state created plutocracy and other forms of artificial economic privilege. I’m in favor of economic self-organization and self-defense by the lower socioeconomic orders. I also reject the vulgar economism that you find in much mainstream libertarian thought, the deification of capitalists in Randian thinking, or the glorification of outright class exploitation found in some classical Social Darwinist thought. But I also reject the view that an egalitarian, classless society is possible and I certainly reject the view that classlessness and statelessness are compatible. All stateless or near-stateless societies that have thus far existed have had classes. All efforts to abolish classes have resulted in extreme statism. I generally share Aristotle’s outlook on this question.

    Additionally, modern post-Marxist leftists advocate not only equality of wealth and property but social equality as well. For instance, if you read the literature of contemporary radical feminists you will find a common complaint is not so much a lack of “equal pay for equal work” as is commonly believed. The evidence actually shows that male and female workers in modern societies typically do receive equal pay for equal work and the more candid radical feminists will admit this. Instead, what they will attack is “gender segregation by occupation” which means that women are more likely to be found in professions that are on average lower paying. Of course, this is attributed to malevolent male conspiracy rather than the fact that, for instance, women are more likely to interrupt their careers, work part time, and so forth in order to pursue other activities, like child-birth and child-rearing.

    You will also find “critical race theorists” and the like who argue that simply because whites are an ethnic majority, this alone constitutes racism and white supremacy irrespective of any actual social, economic, or political policies, legislation, etc. concerning race that a particular society may implement. This is every bit as much a form of racial determinism as anything found on the far Right.

    Even subjective individual feelings are often regarded as “oppression” regardless of the actual behavior or intentions of others. For instance, I once read an article by an Asian feminist who claimed she “felt oppressed” by the depiction of Asian women as dominatrixes in porn, even though no one was requiring her to participate in or even view such activities. Maybe some Asian women want to be dominatrixes.

    These kinds of things are why I tend to dismiss the modern cultural left as a movement for overgrown three year olds whose “grievances against society” are basically on the level of kids throwing a tantrum because their parents won’t let them have ice cream and cake for dinner every night. That “oppression” could continually be re-defined in ever more loopy ways indicates that the people who make such “arguments” are themselves extraordinarily privileged individuals for whom personal neurosis or stunted maturation is expressed as political ideology.

  9. Here’s how I would see the core differences between my outlook and Matthew Lyons’ outlook:

    For Lyons, everything is a question of what will or will not advance the struggle toward some future classless, raceless, genderless, polysexual, polyglot, egalitarian, universalist utopia that he sees at the end of history or at least as some kind of historical destiny. For Lyons, ideas and groups that he labels “right-wing” are “reactionary” and “backward” and not in tune with the historical march. It’s also true that for the Left what is “reactionary” shifts as new ideological paradigms come to dominate the Left. For instance, homosexuality was regarded as “bourgeois decadence” by old-style commies. And Marx and Engels themselves held some rather un-PC views on things like race. There are also some things in the history of the South African Communist Party that modern leftists would find rather embarrassing: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_African_Communist_Party#History

    I would say my perspective is more about figuring out what kind of empirically discernible criteria are necessary for a functional, prosperous, sustainable civilization, which isn’t necessarily as an inspiring an approach when its comes to emotional commitment. I think Leftists find my views offensive for the same reasons a lot of Christians would find my philosophical views offensive. Religious people don’t like to accept that nature and the universe are impersonal and don’t care about their well-being. They don’t like to accept that human beings are basically just another kind of animal whose larger brains give them the capacity for reason, language, art, and science and when you die, that’s all, folk. They don’t like to accept that morals are simply subjective human creations and that even mass murder is wrong only because most people regard it as contrary to their own self-interest. They don’t like that existence is a series of random events in which the individual is responsible for and can control only his own actions. So they retreat into a fantasy world of big brother/daddy figure gods, imaginary friend saviors, guardian angels, saints, devils, spirit guides, rigid absolutes, other-worldly paradises, eternal punishment for the “evil,” etc. It seems to have the same appeal as a drug: the opium of the masses and all that.

    Leftist true believers seem to have a similar psychology. Whenever I hear them talking about their ideas, I’m always reminded a quote from the biblical Book of Revelation: “And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”

    Having been a fundamentalist in my childhood and early adolescence, I’ve noticed that Leftists react to the suggestion that perhaps “racism and sexism” are just another way of looking at things in the same way my early associates react to the suggestion that perhaps there is no god or perhaps the Jesus story is just mythology. It’s just too horrible for them to even consider. In fact, Roderick Long once criticized my “moral relativism” with regards to some comments I made he considered to be homophobic in a way that reminded me of fundamentalist criticisms of “situation ethics” and all that. Essentially, his argument amounted to: “Homophobia is not just an alternative lifestyle but a sin against…” Sound familiar?

  10. “I have started to lean more towards libertinism (perhaps my reading of de Sade had something to do with it) than anything else and I figure pan-secessionism might be the best to achieve this. I advocate a territory with: All drugs legal, NO alcohol laws (including age restrictions, legal prostitution (Faust might be happy to know that if I had my way, they wouldn’t be white either :) http://attackthesystem.com/2011/06/26/peoria-illinois-black-flash-mob-kill-all-the-white-people/#comment-15684) no nudity laws, legalized public sex , no speech codes, no noise ordinances, all gambling legal, no seatbelt or helmet laws, no mandatory school and/or truancy laws, legal (voluntary) cannibalism and necrophilia, no recognized marriage licenses nor any benefits afforded to those married, legalized public intoxication, legalized dwarf throwing http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2mJBaXN6sXs, and that’s about all I can think of for now. Anyone else interested?”

    I’m with you.

    One thing I’ve always found odd about the Left’s reaction to views is that they completely ignore this aspect of my thinking and continue to put the “fascist” label on me anyway. When I first started encountering that, I used think, “How can someone who hates the cops and wants to abolish prisons be a fascist?” Eventually, I realized that my anti-authoritarianism doesn’t interest them because they’re not anti-authoritarians.

  11. I like this article, too, although I’m not sure it addresses Lyons’s arguments in a way he’d accept (one would have to deal with the problems in this anarch-centric approach and not just explain it, just as in order for Lyons to make a positive argument for his approach he’d have to do more than bash the other side and assume his side can be the default). Maybe that means I need to whip up a treatment myself.

    In any case, fair warning: I’m always going to agitate for a substantive discussion here rather than competing “just-so” stories. If values and morals and ethics are subjective, then that doesn’t mean that we can just tread water around them. It means, rather, that we have to be that much clearer about why we advocate for our chosen approaches, especially when they aren’t value-neutral. That may be where Keith and I most fundamentally disagree: I feel like the highest value for me as a political writer is to strive for honesty. Not for society’s sake, but for my own, since I have to have something animating my actions and opinions, and I might as well come to peace with that. I don’t always hit the mark, and I don’t even believe it’s an effective short-term tactic, but it’s what I try to do. I contrast that with an approach that sees ridicule and a counter-elite disdain for the opposition as the right way to go about making one’s case.

    One of the things that rubs me wrong about Keith’s responses to Leftists is that I don’t think he underlines the emptiness of ideology and moral certitude at the foundation of his approach to degree that he should when taking on the doctrinaire wings of his enemies. For instance, how can one hold that all values and morals are subjective and yet, in the same breath, rank people according to how they measure up on the inner/outer directed scale? Why should one care if all values are arbitrary? I think Keith and I have discussed this before, but we always just chalk it up to personal opinion. This is great in a situation where both parties share a respect for each other. In the case where they don’t – in the case where they project hostilities on the other, regardless of the accuracy – this is likely to confuse utterly.

    Here is where I think the confusion is likely to arise, and it’s something I’ve dealt with in several essays over the past year: what is important is not to call into question the rigid priorities of these ideologies of statism, humanism, therapeutism, etc. People adopt these approaches, I’d argue, for functional reasons: because they believe they realize their inner ideals best among the other options. They stick with them in the face of critiques such as the very erudite ones advanced by Keith out of identitarian inertia. To argue for an anarcho-pluralist approach, the last thing you want to do is advance a rigid worldview that a person has to adopt or reject (the sheep/wolf/owl story).

    What I’d think you’d want to do is break down the identitarian inertia, wear down the certitude, to make people radically open to self-doubt, to face themselves and their prescriptions for the rest of us. If you can get them to be honest with themselves, and be honest with you, then you can have the kind of conversation where they don’t feel so threatened by a non-rigid ideological approach to realizing their inner ideals and values. They can take responsibility for their own ideals and values, and see anarcho-pluralism not as an attack but as an opportunity. Maybe this is just me reading my own priorities into the program, but it is what it is.

    In the end it doesn’t matter that I find much value in the way Keith looks at the human condition, because – after all – I find much to recommend Lyons’s view. Neither is complete, but I lean towards Keith on the honesty meter because I know Keith makes no claims of completeness. Perhaps what I’m on about is to encourage Keith to find a way to talk about his own approach without conflating it with the anarcho-pluralist response to leftism. Or maybe an improvement would be for Keith to articulate values in this sheep/wolf/owl paradigm that are leftists are likely to dig – in an email discussion Keith did once mention that Nietzsche saw part of being an elite as helping the sheep, if I’m not erroneously paraphrasing. Why is being a lone anarch, self-directed and detached, so much more important to talk about than being a helping hand in a social zoo? Must we emphasize the virtue of inner-direction to such a degree that we evoke the typical me-first libertarian dismissal of altruism?

    This is all not to say I didn’t enjoy the essay, because I did enjoy it. But as a tactical ally of Keith’s, I’m interested in a tactically effective blog. My critiques are designed to achieve this, secure in the notion that none of us who frequent these pages need to be adherents of the same religion.

  12. Thinking about this some more, I don’t really think the fact of being powerful by itself qualifies one as an uberman. I’d say most powerful people are wolves rather than owls. I don’t necessarily think all owls are ubermen either, just potential ubermen. I should have made that clearer in the essay.

    Nietzsche considered the ubermen to have been those who affected the course of world history and civilizational evolution is some very significant way like Pericles, Alexander, Julius Caesar, Machiavelli, Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Goethe, Napolean, etc. With the exception of the founding generation and maybe Lincoln, maybe FDR. Do any American presidents really fall into this category? Hayek observed that democratic regimes almost by definition elect mediocrities as heads of state. I’d say other figures from American history might qualify as ubermenschen. Maybe Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, maybe Thoreau. As far as international figures from the 20th century, maybe Ghandhi, maybe Albert Einstein.

    Btw, I would by no means consider myself to be an uberman. At the very best, I might qualify as a baby owl or high end wolf. :-)

  13. Jeremy,

    “For instance, how can one hold that all values and morals are subjective and yet, in the same breath, rank people according to how they measure up on the inner/outer directed scale? Why should one care if all values are arbitrary?”

    I tried to make clear in the essay, perhaps unsuccessfully, that the “inner-directed/other-directed” dichotomy is functional and descriptive in nature and has to do with individual states of mind and not absolutes that exist outside of the individual. Perhaps the quote from the psychologist I cited was confusing, as he is a Jamesian pragmatist rather than a moral skeptic and his comments reflect that. I lean more towards moral skepticism of course, but I still thing the notion of inner/other directed personalities is a helpful descriptive concept even if the wider circumstantial context is relative.

    “Perhaps what I’m on about is to encourage Keith to find a way to talk about his own approach without conflating it with the anarcho-pluralist response to leftism. Or maybe an improvement would be for Keith to articulate values in this sheep/wolf/owl paradigm that are leftists are likely to dig – in an email discussion Keith did once mention that Nietzsche saw part of being an elite as helping the sheep, if I’m not erroneously paraphrasing. Why is being a lone anarch, self-directed and detached, so much more important to talk about than being a helping hand in a social zoo?”

    Well, I did identify Ghandhi as an uberman in my previous post. Maybe if I identified Marx, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frederick Douglas, MLK, Mandela, Betty Friedan, or Harvey Milk as ubermenschen or at least as owls they would get the idea. :-)

    Marx might qualify as an uberman, regardless of what one thinks of his ideas. As Nietzsche said, “The errors of great men are still greater than the truths of lesser men.” The others might qualify as owls on varying levels.

  14. I always thought there was something of a difference between the einzige and the übermensch: both are self-directed, free of the taboos that spook most of humanity, and “a cut above”, as a result; but the übermensch seems to have a “grand design” or “sense of mission” on top of all that–and probably some extra attributes I ain’t accounted for.

    As I see it, a übermensch is an einzige/owl/anarch working on a “higher level”. Whether anyone has ever attained that “higher level” is debatable, at best (I think I remember reading that the übermensch is something that can only be approximated, or partially-realized).

  15. “I have started to lean more towards libertinism (perhaps my reading of de Sade had something to do with it) than anything else and I figure pan-secessionism might be the best to achieve this. I advocate a territory with: All drugs legal, NO alcohol laws (including age restrictions, legal prostitution (Faust might be happy to know that if I had my way, they wouldn’t be white either :) http://attackthesystem.com/2011/06/26/peoria-illinois-black-flash-mob-kill-all-the-white-people/#comment-15684) no nudity laws, legalized public sex , no speech codes, no noise ordinances, all gambling legal, no seatbelt or helmet laws, no mandatory school and/or truancy laws, legal (voluntary) cannibalism and necrophilia, no recognized marriage licenses nor any benefits afforded to those married, legalized public intoxication, legalized dwarf throwing http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2mJBaXN6sXs, and that’s about all I can think of for now. Anyone else interested?”

    Aah…eutopia!

  16. Aster is too busy fisting herself in front of a television broadcast of the RuPaul show to comment.

  17. Faust,

    “You left out the part about legalizing the rape of young white girls.”

    No, I’m not into white girls so when you get your Aryan utopia, you can have all of the prepubescent golden haired angels that you can get your hands on, but until then, here’s some clips to get off on http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=toddlers+and+tiaras&aq=f

    Keith,

    I think the typical leftist would as many things objectionable in my list as the typical right-winger.

    “ou will also find “critical race theorists” and the like who argue that simply because whites are an ethnic majority, this alone constitutes racism and white supremacy irrespective of any actual social, economic, or political policies, legislation, etc. concerning race that a particular society may implement. This is every bit as much a form of racial determinism as anything found on the far Right.”

    I too think there is a parlallell between the way the right and the left see race in that both groups subscribe to ultra–deterministic views on the subject. I think that the root is a kind of collectivistic notion of human beings that is typical of both the racialist type right and the ultra-pc left, and the leftists and the rightists both see individualism as a conspiracy of the other side.

    “Even subjective individual feelings are often regarded as “oppression” regardless of the actual behavior or intentions of others. For instance, I once read an article by an Asian feminist who claimed she “felt oppressed” by the depiction of Asian women as dominatrixes in porn, even though no one was requiring her to participate in or even view such activities”

    That is one of my biggest pet peeves about these types, the idea that they are qualified to speak for millions of other people just because they share some traits with those people. Feminists I think are usually the most notorious offenders in this area, and if people go against what they proscribe (women becoming mothers and homemakers as opposed to career women) than it must be because they have been brainwashed.

    “Maybe some Asian women want to be dominatrixes.”

    I hope so :)

    “These kinds of things are why I tend to dismiss the modern cultural left as a movement for overgrown three year olds whose “grievances against society” are basically on the level of kids throwing a tantrum because their parents won’t let them have ice cream and cake for dinner every night. That “oppression” could continually be re-defined in ever more loopy ways indicates that the people who make such “arguments” are themselves extraordinarily privileged individuals for whom personal neurosis or stunted maturation is expressed as political ideology.”

    I mostly agree, though I do think that it is not necessarily unreasonable that as more problems are remedied, other lesser problems will then be able to be looked at. An analogy here would be that if you would be that if you had a serious wound like stabbing or something and you were bleeding to death, you would take care of that before a broken wrist, and you would probably take care of a broken wrist before an ingrown toenail, but just because prioritize these things, it doesn’t mean that the things of lesser importance are not real issues. I do think though that most of the problems that leftists are up in arms about are bullshit, as was mentioned earlier.

  18. Aster is too busy fisting herself in front of a television broadcast of the RuPaul show to comment.

    Classy ass shit.

  19. “Maybe some Asian women want to be dominatrixes.”

    I hope so :)

    Wait, so you’re not a faggot? My apologies, I even depicted you as a HOT TWINK in the memorial orgy picture.

  20. Faust,

    “Wait, so you’re not a faggot?”

    Well no , but I am a lot more open to different sexual experiences and expressions than most people are and I don’t think one should limit one’s sexual interest based on any kind of silly nonsense. Having said that, I would wonder how the hell you came up with my sexual orientation based on what I wrote before, as none of that, at least to my mind, could have possibly indicated that I was gay. Of course, your the guy that thought Miles was a white dude so I wouldn’t put any lunacy past you.

    “My apologies, I even depicted you as a HOT TWINK in the memorial orgy picture.”

    Your apologies? A guy that spews hate filled nonsense toward others based solely on their ethnicity, yet you are apologizing for labeling me something that I don’t even think is bad. BTW, I think you mean Tink, a twink is a term for a male http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twink_(gay_slang) And I personally think that was the best looking character in the picture :)

    RJ,

    I think that the whole elitist thing is a dangerous path to go down. It’s one thing to acknowledge that people have different levels of skill and endowments, but when one starts basing one’s whole approach who was more of these characteristics, I think it’s a recipe for disaster. After all, many of these beltway liberals and neocons believe they are endowed with intellectual prowess and wisdom far exceeding that of the masses and they believe as a consequence that they should be able to run other people’s lives for them because of their intellectual superiority.

  21. Here are some illustrations that might help make my views clearer:

    I’d consider Ayn Rand an owl, even though she wasn’t a specifically virtuous person, deified selfishness and self-centeredness, and is widely regarded as a sociopath by her critics, left and right. And even though I’m not a fan of her work. LOL.

    I’d consider Ernst Junger an owl. He wasn’t an uberman because he wasn’t a world historical figure. Whether he was “good” is subject to interpretation. Some say he was “evil” because of his romanticizing war and his political authoritarianism. Others say he was “good” because of his role as a dissident in the Hitler era and other things.

    I’d say Carl Schmitt was an owl in wolf’s clothing. He functioning as a wolf most of his life, working as a servant to power and apologist for the status quo. But if you get into the substance of his work, life, and ideas, the picture of an owl begins to emerge.

  22. Just like their can be owl’s in wolves clothing, there can also be wolves in owl’s clothing. This is the most dangerous category of person of all. I’d put all of the great modern tyrants in this category: Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Ayatollah Khomeini, Castro.

  23. Wolves, sheep and owls, funny I used this same analogy many times in the past but with wolves, sheep and ravens. Funny that the natural inclination is to use a bird in the third position, connotations of remaining above the fray. I liked the ideal of the raven because it stays out of the struggle but leisurely shows up later to pick at the corpses of both the wolves and the sheep. Everyone wants to be a wolf but a wolf is just as dependent on the sheep as they are on him. Wolves are more often than not at the top more through chance than merit and can easily become sheep when their context changes. It is better to be outside of the pecking order than at the top of it but that is seldom possible. I think of figures like Thomas Morton, there is no remaining above the fray. The sheep will come for you because you remind them of their sheepishness and the wolves will come for you because you may corrupt their flock. This is what I believe Beausoleil and his friends realized, there is no dropping out, they’ll always come for you.

  24. Keith:

    I tried to make clear in the essay, perhaps unsuccessfully, that the “inner-directed/other-directed” dichotomy is functional and descriptive in nature and has to do with individual states of mind and not absolutes that exist outside of the individual.

    Hey, look, I personally like this way of bifurcating human identity. It fits in nicely with my political, social, and even spiritual beliefs. Even the sheep/wolf/owl system isn’t particularly objectionable (although I wouldn’t take it as rigidly as some are construing it in these comments, as enlightening as they are).

    The issue I have is not with its accuracy but whether it’s fertile ground for allying around a cross-ideological political program. For example:

    In other words, the person who is “inner-directed” is an individual that is both rare and superior. It is this kind of individual who is most appropriately labeled with Nietzschean or Jungerian terms like “ubermensch” or “anarch.” It is this kind of individual that is the foundation of human advancement, achievement, and civilization. (my emphasis)

    Now, come on: this is not merely a functional categorization as you have construed it, unless you’re holding that advancement, achievement, and civilization are fixed, uncontested, objective terms. I believe this is called goalpost-moving in other company. :)

    Like I said earlier, maybe I’m reading too much primitivist stuff lately, but I just can’t imagine you would accept anybody else sneaking in such normative egalitarian premises in a similar fashion. After all, what is the end goal of egalitarianism but to press society into the service of its agenda? How is that any different than making society all about serving the interests of “owls”? This is the challenge us moral relativists always face: since we place a high value on honesty and understanding these matters with eyes unclouded by the normative, we have a self-imposed duty to be up front about our chosen values and principles, and not simply use rhetoric to sneak in commitments we then beat others over the head with (not that you’re taking it that far).

    And you could very well part ways with me about this “duty”, since I know you have spoken in the past about, for example, advocating ridicule for political enemies instead of meeting their arguments head on. We can agree to disagree if that’s the case.

    There’s also a dimension of “faux-therapeutism” in the wolf/sheep/owl system, in the sense that all of this can be traced to baked-in psychological or psychic mechanisms or, even worse from my point of view, rote essentialism. As soon as you start making society all about one class of individual or personality type/trait, every other class transforms into pathology at some level. It would be one thing if this were just a functional analysis (after all, the therapeutic state claims it’s merely the calculated application of cold science), but it isn’t: it clearly accompanies a political agenda. I don’t blame Lyons at all for calling the underlying philosophy out; indeed, it is a service in my view (even if can’t call his own bias out with equal fervor).

    I do want to say how pleased I am to see such a diversity of writing on the site lately. The more we can get several political visions articulating pan-secessionist approaches, the more freely you (Keith) will be able to articulate your personal ideas without the entire ARV program hanging in the balance.

  25. “And you could very well part ways with me about this “duty”, since I know you have spoken in the past about, for example, advocating ridicule for political enemies instead of meeting their arguments head on.”

    Make them ridiculous to the people, but meet them the best you can when you actually decide to engage with the people who are putting them forth

    And I think Keith may be getting to a less rigid and “authoritarian” view of the “elites” in society than you think, seeing the owl thing seems very close to the view of the “enlightened” that I mentioned awhile back, the people in society that are blessed with a non-traditional view that might put them far apart from their peers, or are more “awakened” intellectually or spiritually. I’d always personally included, say, the wizened old man on the edge of town with alot of knowledge who no one knows where he came from, or the deep-thinking 6 year old, in the “enlightened” types. Much more egalitarian-minded. That’s why I’d consider almost everyone here an “owl” or an “awakened” type.

  26. Then just accentuate what we already have in common with them, and attempt to show that most everything else we could think up, especially with the diversity of thought, is really just “special little things” we have mostly to ourselves, and that we really in the long run work with the intent of carving out no particular little “section of the ideological debate” for ourselves, with no real over-arching strategy or ideological dogma. Then we can try to introduce the lot of them to some anarchist principles.

  27. Jeremy,

    “Now, come on: this is not merely a functional categorization as you have construed it, unless you’re holding that advancement, achievement, and civilization are fixed, uncontested, objective terms. I believe this is called goalpost-moving in other company.”

    Not really. For instance, I don’t think the ideals of someone like Ted Kaczynski or John Zerzan who want to return to a pre-industrial or even pre-agrarian existence are necessarily “wrong.” I think what you’d see in such a scenario is mass starvation and disease, but maybe that’s what they want. Here’s another example: Euro-centrists will argue that the fact that the indigenous peoples of southern-central Africa had not invented the wheel as late as when they were first discovered by European settlers in the early to mid nineteenth century is evidence of Western superiority. But who is to say they were doing anything “wrong” by not inventing the wheel? If there were no wheels there would be no modern military vehicles for the purpose of waging total war.

    What I mean by the statement you quote is that it’s never the masses or the ruling classes who come up with ideas like, “Maybe it’s not a good idea to burn witches at the stake.” or “Maybe slavery is something we shouldn’t do anymore.” It’s always single, solitary individuals or small groups of dissenting thinkers (the owls) who come up with such ideas, and always they encounter the hostility of the the ruling classes (the wolves) and the masses (the sheep). Of course, even then, it’s still subjective. There is no cosmic law that says witch hunting and chattel slavery are necessarily bad ideas.

  28. Rj,

    Some very good points! This is an issue I struggle with in the sense of being able to draw a distinction between my own personal views about philosophy, psychology, religion, economics, political theory, et.al. ad nauseum and the wider anarcho-pluralist/pan-secessionist paradigm as a meta-political and strategic outlook. In fact, I’d say one of my greatest weaknesses is my failure to draw a sharp enough distinction between the two. One of the reasons I wanted to bring you, Miles, Vince, etc. on board as co-editors was to get a wider variety of outlooks more heavily represented here as Jeremy points out. In fact, I hope to add more co-editors representing still a greater diversity of beliefs and backgrounds in the future.

    I addressed some of the questions you raise in a very limited way in the piece on Jones I did for AltRight: http://www.alternativeright.com/main/blogs/zeitgeist/our-glenn-beck/

    I’ve never really intended for ATS to be an outreach effort to the general public or even the general dissenting public per se, as much as a forum for people from different dissident backgrounds who are interested in growing out of their own narrowing ideological ghettos and discussing common issues and areas of interest. As Noonan says, this automatically means our own circle will be limited to those who are capable of doing that. In other words, I’ve always conceived of ARV/ATS itself to be an elitist concept for radical elites who will then be capable of organizing within other more ground level movements and organizations with the goal of assuming leadership positions in those milieus and steering them in our direction and towards our common meta-political outlook and strategic paradigm.

    This is obviously a slow, tedious, and difficult process. For instance, I’ve established a position for myself among the Alternative Right, paleocon, and radical libertarian milieus, but even that is more of a process of connecting with other elitist groups who have some overlapping ideas on some of the bigger questions even if they often come from a different set of motivations or theoretical premises. But even the Alternative Right has a large gap between itself and the more grassroots populist right.

    You mentioned to me once that the subscribers on your Youtube channel were drawn mostly from anarcho-capitalist/super-libertarian types, anti-NWO Christians, and left-anarchists. Is that still the case? Because if so, I’d say the videos you produce are right in line with what we need to be doing as far as reaching audiences on the ground level. Over time, we will need a wider array of projects like yours directed towards particular target audiences as a means of growing the movement at the ground level which is ultimately what it is all about.

    When I first started the ARV/ATS project years ago, I knew from the beginning that we would on one hand attract a wide assortment of sympathizers from all over the spectrum. I also knew we would attract an assortment of enemies from all kinds of places. And let’s face it, we do just that. We regularly get sympathetic postings here for example from libertine-individualists, traditionalists, racialists, what Lyons called “people of color nationalist movements,” left-libertarians, Green New Age types, etc. And we also get hostile posts from the usual suspects: Nazis, antifa, leftoids, et.al. One thing that’s particularly funny is that I actually get hate mail from leftoids and antifa simply because characters like Faust post here, even if they’re completely hostile and unsympathetic posts.

    One thing that would be absolutely hilarious would be to have some future public event for ARV/ATS that both the Antifa and the Nazis showed up to protest and they ended up getting into a huge brawl with each other. Imagine what a publicity bonanza it would be if, for instance, we held a conference somewhere on pan-secessionism featuring speakers and presentations from all over the spectrum. The Nazis would show up carrying placards saying “Death to Race Traitor Negro-Loving Anarchist Faggots and Perverts” and the leftoids would show up with signs saying “Fuck the Racist Fascist Sexist Homophobic National-Anarchist Nazi Scum.” Then the two groups attack each other in the streets outside the conference center. Imagine the confusion this would create in the eyes of the press and the free publicity it would create for us by default.

  29. Noonan,

    “And I think Keith may be getting to a less rigid and “authoritarian” view of the “elites” in society than you think, seeing the owl thing seems very close to the view of the “enlightened” that I mentioned awhile back, the people in society that are blessed with a non-traditional view that might put them far apart from their peers, or are more “awakened” intellectually or spiritually. I’d always personally included, say, the wizened old man on the edge of town with alot of knowledge who no one knows where he came from, or the deep-thinking 6 year old, in the “enlightened” types.”

    Right.

    “Then just accentuate what we already have in common with them, and attempt to show that most everything else we could think up, especially with the diversity of thought, is really just “special little things” we have mostly to ourselves, and that we really in the long run work with the intent of carving out no particular little “section of the ideological debate” for ourselves, with no real over-arching strategy or ideological dogma. Then we can try to introduce the lot of them to some anarchist principles.”

    Right.

  30. Well, strictly in terms of the left, I was originally under the impression that we had to mostly focus in on really drawing those same leftists that I’ve talked about, the really iconoclastic rebellious rare personalities of the Thoureauian/Orwell etc. type that have really stayed far far away from the polarizing, individuality-sapping Left-Right spectrum and ideology and stayed independent, but I’m really starting to like the “movement” of sorts that people like Thaddeus Russell are starting to create (although you were most likely already aware, in the ridiculously short time his book has been out he’s became a sort of minor celebrity among right-libertarian types), so I have more faith about the principled leftist types like him than before, those who still take alot of convential leftist ideology as their own. Eh, looking at it now its all about the motives (power vs. dispersion of power) and the point of view (Thad’s intellectual disposition makes it sort of impossible for him to cling onto the cushy- academic-job standard leftist people whose bad actions we’re trying so hard to expose to the people). Hell, from his one example we could bring together alot of different worthwhile points of view. People strongly concerned with the existential threat of various environmental issues, for example.And especially people like Dylan Ratigan, and alot in the independent liberal Bill Hicks-y type camp who already attack the Democratic-Republican duopoly on principle could be told to “explore the possibilities! Why not totally break away from everything you’ve ever known if they’re so slimy and corrupt” They’ll slowly shift around I imagine. (and discover an entirely new intellectual tradition of radical politics like what Welf Herfurth described in his talk on the “wilderness”, where everyone seems to want to try and work together for the common good without ideological prejudices getting that much in the way, while yer at it :P ) And for the independent liberal/progressive Nader/Goodman side, its going to be suprisingly easy I’d imagine. Direct, face-to-face, populist rapport: “Do you want the killing to stop or not, brother? Ya gotta put aside your prejudices to work together for a better society for all of us here, or else things’ll get much worse!” That’ll put the independent progressives even more strongly in the “dissident” camp for sure.

  31. An interesting debate related to this discussion is beginning to develop in response to my latest post at AltRight:

    http://www.alternativeright.com/main/blogs/untimely-observations/a-polemical-engagement-with-the-left/

    The question there is how do Christians and anti-Christians peacefully co-exist on the alternative right. It’s an important question not just to the altright but to our own program as well because, let’s face it, Xtian thinking doesn’t really have much appeal to elites, but most common people in the US (of any race or ethnicity or political affiliation) have at the very least a residual cultural attachment to Xtianity in addition to the many who are committed believers. Rj is absolutely correct that anti-NWO Christians would be an essential constituency for pan-secessionism. Because pan-secessionism is also out of necessity a multi-racial, multi-ethnic (though anti-PC and anti-TH) movement, we also have to consider than Xtianity is arguably even more popular among people who are not ethnic Europeans in North America. So we certainly cannot be a movement that is openly and public anti-Christian, regardless of our individual beliefs.

  32. Regarding the Left, I think the key issue for us is to develop the capability of winning over to our camp those leftists who are likely to accept the core arguments I raised in my “Why the Radical Left Should Consider Secession” essay.

    I think it’s interesting that my critics on the Left almost always ignore such arguments or those aspects of my writings that reflect such arguments and instead want to focus on abstract philosophical differences, somewhat arcane economic questions, some of my more un-PC colleagues and associates, etc. The fact that they do this indicates to me at least that they are not really interested in developing practical solutions to the problems they say they want to address, but instead are motivated by a religious-like commitment to some kind of other-worldly abstract egalitarian-universalist-utopianism. On race, for instance, it’s not just about helping ethnic minority populations develop communities with stable and prosperous economies, individual freedom, cultural self-determination, absence of state repression, and so forth. It’s more about some kind of kingdom of heaven on earth where everyone lives happily ever after in a state of blissful brotherly love.

    On the other hand, we have to consider that state-worshiping liberal ideologues and hard left PC totalitarians are probably a minority among people who think of themselves as “liberal” or “progressive” in some vague way. For instance, think of everyone you know personally who votes for the Democratic Party or who would define themselves as “liberal” if you asked them if they are liberal or conservative. For many such people, being “liberal” means being against the religious right, or against neocon wars, or generally being for the little guy against the fatcats, or being pro-choice, or wanting to legalize pot, or even some less specific or articulated reason. Generally, I have found that such people are far more reasonable or open-minded concerning complex and controversial questions than the PC ideologues.

    A powerful weapon we have at our disposal is our opposition to the nanny state. I encounter people all the time who are generally “liberal” but are disgusted with stuff like bans on smoking in bars and puritanical policies regarding drug prohibition or alcohol regulation, don’t have the anti-gun hysteria of liberal ideologues, and generally have more nuanced views on all the PC issues involving race, gender, gay rights, etc. For instance, they might favor gay marriage, but would think criminal prosecution of comedians for telling gay jokes is an outrage worthy of the old Soviet Union. They would certainly think of themselves as “anti-racist” but consider groups like OPP to be lunatics. They would certainly favor equal rights and “equal opportunity” for women, but think Iceland’s ban on strip clubs is worthy of Saudi Arabia. Forcefully attacking such excesses on the Left will ultimately draw a lot of these people to our message.

    The branch of the Left that favors a kind of libertine-individualism of the kind Jared leans towards would be one of our ideal constituencies, along with moderate progressives who are generally “liberal” on most things but would be horrified by the agenda of the TH Left is they understood it more clearly. Also, we have to consider all of the different population groups the Left claims to represent. Since when do they speak for all non-white people, all women, all gay people, all immigrants, all workers, all poor people, etc.? These are actually some of the populations most under attack by TH. Plus, there are a lot of marginal populations that the Left ignores or is openly hostile to, which is one reason why I’ve strongly emphasized the lumpenproletariat. I believe many such people will be drawn to the arguments of the kind I outline in the “Why the Radical Left Should Consider Secession” article. They’re not paranoid leftist ideologues who see Nazis and fascists under every bed like our most vocal critics do, nor have their critical faculties been destroyed by ideological derangement. I know many people from all of the aforementioned population groups who are familiar with my views, have seen ATS and other projects I’m associated with, and either express sympathy or interest or simply think I’m interesting if a little bizarre and extreme.

    The way I see the revolutionary scenario playing out decades from now is one where a multicultural ruling class ruled by international plutocrats and managed by a bureaucratic class of educated, affluent liberals is faced with an insurgency coming from the lower classes. By that time, class divisions in the US will resemble those of the 3rd World. TH will be the self-legitimating ideology of the future ruling class to an even greater degree than now, and it will have even fewer qualms about showing its fangs. You will see people being thrown in prison regularly for holding un-PC opinions and the continued criminalization of behaviors once considered normal or as routine pastimes with “law enforcement” becoming ever more criminal and thuggish in its behavior. A real “Clockwork Orange” type of scenario which we already have to a large degree anyway.

    The biggest question is how do we continue to draw more and more people to our camp in such a scenario. Advocating for the material interests of the lower and sinking middle classes is a big part of it, of course. But I don’t think a vulgar economism or crass materialism is enough. We need an approach that addresses some of the issues that Troy’s recent compilation was also trying to address: http://www.primordialtraditions.com/prime/Publications/TheRadicalTradition.aspx

  33. The question there is how do Christians and anti-Christians peacefully co-exist on the alternative right.

    Because they all hate blacks?

  34. That reminds me of an episode of some “trash TV” show (like Jerry Springer on Montel Williams, I forget the specific one) I saw back in the early 90s sometime. There were two Afro-centric kids (late teens, early 20s) on the stage with two white supremacist kids roughly the same age. The Afro-centrics had on the stereotypical red robes and headdresses, while one of the Nazis was wearing a black Gestapo uniform and the other one had a beret with the Iron Cross on it. They argued back and forth all through the program about how “all blacks should die” or “all whites should die” until one of the whites said something negative about Jews and an Afro-centric guy perks up and says, “Hey, you sound like you might have a little bit of intelligence” and proceeded with some “What he said!” kinds of comments.

  35. Yes, I agree this is the approach that will need to be used on the ground level.

    This is where the concept of pan-secessionism comes in. I’ve always presumed that different kinds of secessionist movements would reflect the prevailing norms of their own localities. A Texas independence movement is by nature going to be conservative in much of its approach while a California independence movement is going to have more of a green-liberal-New Age flavor. Urban movements or going to be multiethnic and more leftward leaning while rural movements will be whiter and more rightward.

    Where the concept of anarcho-pluralism is helpful is out of the need to emphasize that we don’t need to stop merely at a states’ rights paleo-libertarianism. Rather, different kinds of communities, even those with radically different values, can co-exist within relatively close geographical proximity.

  36. “The question there is how do Christians and anti-Christians peacefully co-exist on the alternative right.”

    One idea is that the Altright can use the Non-conformist movement to make the two tolerable of one another. Maybe a series on John Hellman’s Communitarian 3rd Way where he talked about how the nonconformists sort of realized Nietzsche was right about the death of god and so they had to find new radical ways to revitalize the spirit of Christianity. Marc talked about how the will to power was a tool to strengthen Christianity. I guess a call to understanding the death of god, the ubermensch to cross rivers, and preserving the Christian spirit would be the thing. They can also put out stuff about how Nietzscheans like Spengler and Junger greatly admired St. Ignatius of Loyola. They can publish stuff about how Monk Damscene Christensen described St. Anthony the Great as an ubermensch who overcame mankind, etc.

    But I don’t think you can convince an anti-christian Nietzschean that Nietzsche simply criticized the Judaified Christianity of a certain era to say that a radical survivalist Christianity working towards the preservation of it’s own spirit is different from the kind of secularization Nietzsche despised.

  37. It’s possible, for instance, that some localities, even within the same former U.S. state like Florida, might be Hoppean an-cap free cities, while others will be kibbutzim, while others will be dominated by an anarcho-syndicalist labor federation.

    Leading figures in various secessionist movements of a rightist nature have told me personally or said elsewhere they expect for predominately liberal regions to continue to be liberal, even become more liberal, following the collapse of the empire. Dr. Michael Hill of LOS once said, for instance, that California or the northeast would likely still have gun control or legalized abortion, however much he opposes those two things. With anarcho-pluralism, there could be independent conservative cities or counties within the dominantly liberal north or west coast, while there could be liberal enclaves (Austin, for example) in mostly conservative Texas.

    When dealing with ideological or population groups with intense mutual hostility, it’s also important to use the “good riddance” argument. To evangelicals in middle America we can say, “No more liberal Supreme Court” and to cosmopolitan urbanites we can say “No more federal government with right-wing Republican influences.”

  38. I don’t consider the core issues we discuss here to be either left/right issues, or even issues pertaining to the constrained vs unconstrained visions or egalitarianism vs non-egalitarianism. The only reason I ever even started writing about that stuff was in response the question of totalitarian humanism.

    I had already developed the core ideas for anarcho-pluralism and pan-secessionism, and had done so from a mostly left-libertarian/left-anarchist perspective, before I began exploring the TH issue. My core political views have been the same for over twenty years. Where the TH thing came in was when I saw the need to respond to the attacks I was getting from the Left and to examine the reasons for those attacks. It’s easy to understand why someone like Faust opposes my outlook. He probably wants a Nazi state that severely represses other races. It’s easy to understand why Zionist/Neocon bootlicking “movement conservatives” oppose my outlook. They worship the power of the empire and want to keep it (as well as being motivated by their religious beliefs about American exceptionalism and the US-Israel relationship). But the motivations behind the attacks from the Left are less well understood, and are frankly grossly disproportionate to what facts and common sense would warrant. But it can be understood within the context of the totalitarian humanism thesis and the view of the leftoids as essentially a movement of religious fanatics.

  39. Keith,

    A brilliant reply to what is at least a fair attempt at a portrayal of your views on society, state, politics, and human nature. The fact that Lyons is out of his depth and well overmatched is obvious to anyone who can look at this objectively is beside the point. The real test of Lyons will be in his abillity to be persuaded to your much more cogently argued positions. He often runs into the same problem many leftists do, that is to fall into traps that they set for themselves. Against all evidence to the contrary he futily attempts to link authoritarianism to de-centralized power. This is a silly argument as smaller groups are de-facto more natural and organic and are based on real as opposed to artificial group identity. It is obviously more natural for an individual to relate to another based on ethnic, racial, familial, and cultural kinship than on manufactured state relationships through victimhood.and loyalty to government institutions.

  40. @MacNucc11

    I’m glad you appreciate Lyons sincerity as much as I did, but I disagree with you that Lyons has a problem with decentralized power per se. I think he’d agree with me that it’s not so much decentralization that’s the problem as the sloppy equation of decentralization with “success”, as if breaking up power were the whole point of radical politics.

    The aim of the leftist project is to achieve a more just world, and anarcho-pluralism is not sufficient for this goal. I can’t imagine Keith disagreeing with me on that; the problem is that so far we haven’t seen any effective rebuttals to the Left that hold them to account for their own failures so that anarcho-pluralism’s focused project and the larger Left’s expansive project can be judged on an equal basis. This is something I’ve been trying to do, but it’s a really difficult exercise in bridge-building and translation, especially when you try to maintain a radical uncertainty and minimum honesty about these absolutes.

    Where I disagree with Lyons is that just because anarcho-pluralism / pan-secessionism is insufficient for the Left doesn’t mean it is opposed (Keith’s use of “the Left” to often mean “the establishment” isn’t helpful here, but I understand why he frames things this way, and in his defense there’s plenty to read that clarifies the matter). In fact, I argue that in a decentralized world we will be able to fight privilege much more effectively. **But we will still have work to do once the empire is toppled.**

    What the Left is lacking at present is a practical, actionable view of the world. It wasn’t always like that, and we need to get back to, if not a constrained vision, at least a constrained politics (I expand on this with respect to the libertarian left here). Until the Left can shed the sort of “critical theory”-ish fixation on bashing sources of identity and power that do not draw on its premises and narrative myth, I agree with Keith that it will too often side with the state and empire, if not consciously then at least effectively.

    I actually do not believe Lyons will be very persuaded by Keith’s rebuttal, as generous as it is, because as Keith well knows Lyons wants something fundamentally different out of his politics than he. Keith can talk about his own views till the cows come home, but that’s completely different than persuading somebody with qualitatively different beliefs to adopt your pragmatic strategy. But I also think it’s silly for Lyons to attribute evil to Keith in such a SPLC style and blow his philosophy into a boogeyman. Pan-secessionism is certainly dangerous, but it’s not fascism and it’s certainly a better road to hoe than the smug establishmentarianism of politically correct watchdog organizations. You’d think the Left of all people would understand that ALL politics that matters not only IS dangerous but ***SHOULD*** be.

    To summarize, there are good reasons leftists of good will don’t jump on our bandwagon. The best way to change this is to acknowledge honest differences in aims, and that’s sort of been what I’ve attempted over the past year or so. My goal isn’t to get leftists to sign on to our project so much as to get them to critically reexamine what they’re on about.

  41. I wholeheartedly agree that we need to bridge these gaps in understanding to have success. We on the right, and I understand and agree that this is a flawed term, are in an interesting position and time. Our claims of what will and can work may soon get their hearing on the world stage as they are starting to on a small scale. It is all going to proverbially hit the fan, and being I believe more atuned to the history of the world, we have a better idea how and along what lines things will fracture and re-form.

    Lyons and others like him can only find themselves in the position of defending failure while we on the other hand have to advocate for something that has not really existed in any of our lifetimes. Neither of these positions is all that favorable. Unfortunately for us the money is on the side of defending failure as this is what money and central banking have created. The statists have all their chips on the state and continue to roll the dice hoping to get lucky somehow. Their explaniations of failure I am fond of saying are to blame the victim, the rest of humanity, and claim that we did not sufficiently buy into their grand vision for us.

    You also make an exceptonal point on what they desire as opposed to what we desire. To us their calculus is inherently flawed as they would willingly sacrifice millions, and have, to insure that no one suffer homophobia, sexism, racism, or any other form of what we might simply refer to as freedom of association.

    We cannot insure that injustices will be eliminated, in fact much to the contrary, we can only be certain that injustice will always exist. We can however as Keith noted, provide numerous groups that any individual may associate with freely. Each individual will have to find the group that they feel fits them best. I feel this is certainly preferable to the leviathan state shoehorning us into a one size fits all and casualties be damned. Yes de-centralization may not be pretty but then neither is centralization with its numersous aparatchiks empowerd to murder on a whim.

    As you have noted we must hold them to account on their many failures while offering working alternatives. I believe that this is starting to happen already. We must help them to see that it is not justice to impose the will of the state on any group and must at times advocate for what are often considered unsavory groups. We must be able to talk about communists, fascists, nationalists, nazis, klansmen, separatists, with calm dispassion.

    We must bring the discussion away from hysteria and emotion while at the same time not shrinking from labels and name calling, or being baited into the doing likewise. As we both have noted Lyons at least refrained from the pathetic descent into name calling and attemts to refute Ketih with arguments. I see this as a sign that perhaps there is a change taking place and on some level we and others are getting our message across.

    I also agree that Lyons is not convinced but let us at least hope that necessity will be the mother of invention.

  42. Well, this conversation has gone on for quite a bit. I have been thinking over some of these issues over the past day or two, especially some of the points that RJ raised.
    The first thing that needs reiterating, I think, is that while egalitarianism in the absurd sense of everyone having the same skills, abilities, attributes etc. is not compatible with libertarianism, there is a sense in which equality is, in my mind, an essential part of libertarianism. Keith referred to the Classical Liberal concept of equal rights, I think that the libertarian and anarchist ideal goes farther than that, rather than equality before the law, it is “not merely equality before legislators, judges, and police, but, far more crucially, equality with legislators, judges, and police.” as Roderick Long puts it in “Equality: The Unknown Ideal” http://mises.org/daily/804 Though I posted that link earlier, I would recommend everyone read that if they have not before as it elucidates the concept of libertarian equality better than anything I have come across in a short and easy to understand way. I think that furthermore, most libertarian complaints against the exercise of state so-called authority are at least implicitly based (whether consciously or not) on the concept of “equality of authority.” RJ’s video, “Cops are Criminals” is an example of this.
    The additional points RJ brought up about the Alex Jones conspiracy types and their hatred for the elite (owls) are also reasons why I think, as I mentioned before, that elitism is a dead end when it comes to truly liberatory politics. I mean if you really believe that most of humanity are nothing more than servile sheep than why not have most of them eliminated (as Jones and his followers believe the elite want to do) eventually when technology can replace them and in the meantime use them as slave labour.
    That leads me right into my next point, which is that having read Lyons very brief counter response, I actually think he came up with a valid point which is that if most people can only be sheep than maybe only it only will simply put new wolves in power to replace the old ones. I am not saying that decentralization is a bad idea, it may give everyone their own little enclave to do what they want, but I would not consider it progress of any sort. In such a case, one’s politics become the same as pretty much everyone else, just another attempt to gain power for oneself and/or one’s faction. Granted, it would be nice to see many libertarians actually have the strength to do even that. As much as this goes against everything I believe in, I’d rather see those in the Free State Project become a real gang (as they have been accused in the local press of being) on par with the mob or motorcycle gangs as opposed to the stupid wimpy bullshit pacifistic civil disobedience stunts that they currently do. Like I said that goes against every libertarian principle, but it does seem more realistic if one excepts the dog eat dog world as unalterable.
    Another option would be to try and completely forget about politics and try to live as apolitically as possible, which is something I have tried, but actually find it is hard to do as politics effects so many aspects of life. Perhaps it would be easier if I were a billionaire and lived on my own private island, but the odds against that every occurring are pretty large.

  43. Just thought of something, there’s little reason why any but the most paranoid of NWOer types would oppose us. They use sheep/wolf terminology in their discourse all the time. And all but the most Christianity-obsessed personalities among them would just consider Nietzsche like most do, as an interesting figure worthy of looking into possibly. The more intellectual among them may even appreciate him, or the rest of them might as a symbol of individualism. Just mentioning it in the form of “an elite among the common people in opposition to the New World Order globalist agenda” should be enough for alot of people, in terms of the anti-NWO crowd (which I always thought would be the easiest and most important to reach, due to their determination and influence on the internet). I genuinely think your anti-democracy and anti-mobocratic tendencies that you have hidden in some of your other essays are going to be the things that turn them off and even make them pretty paranoid in the long run, if they aren’t interested when they hear “international banking cartel” and “US empire”.

  44. We on the right, and I understand and agree that this is a flawed term, are in an interesting position and time. Our claims of what will and can work may soon get their hearing on the world stage as they are starting to on a small scale. It is all going to proverbially hit the fan, and being I believe more atuned to the history of the world, we have a better idea how and along what lines things will fracture and re-form.

    To the extent that the right is counter-ideological, I agree with you. It’s a shame there aren’t more non-institutional, anti-centralization, Kirkpatrick Sale or Derrick Jensen types on the Left that care to work towards a conception of “the good” geared towards a smaller, more actionable scale where individuals matter and authentic group identities that aren’t totalitarian can be formed.

    To us their calculus is inherently flawed as they would willingly sacrifice millions, and have, to insure that no one suffer homophobia, sexism, racism, or any other form of what we might simply refer to as freedom of association.

    As blown out of proportion I think that statement is in reality, I understand where it comes from and have a hard time disputing the spirit. Sowell’s “constrained vision” approach to this really appeals to me, but I don’t think it therefore means that Leftists have to stop being humanists or caring about people in an abstract sense. What we must do – in order not to appease the Right but to meet our own goals in the same spirit of rigorous concern we claim to care about the human condition – is take a sharp look at how we’re going about this.

    Again, I think there’s a strain of the Right that is expressly anti-ideology, that just doesn’t construct their agenda in terms of sweeping absolutes, and that’s probably the greatest strength of y’all. All I ask for the Left is that we start at home, not that we give up on sweeping absolutes but that we not start there. A more authentic and effective egalitarianism would be a slow, real change in how humans live that spreads organically, not a top-down imposed U.N. program that envisions a Star Trek future as the only place progress can possibly be allowed to head.

    We cannot insure that injustices will be eliminated, in fact much to the contrary, we can only be certain that injustice will always exist.

    I propose radical uncertainty about the whole kittenkaboodle. “Justice” isn’t so much the operative motivating aim so much as getting rid of privilege. It’s fuzzy, but it better captures what we’re after. I’d love to see a Left that could let go of “I’m not free until everybody is free” IF it could also be persuaded to not be so selective about what counts as oppression. A more thoughtful approach that doesn’t try to impose a template on mankind but nevertheless sees how my ability to enjoy a good life is tied up in others’ would be wonderful. It would require “activists” to engage with the humans around them constructively instead of dividing them up into “victim” and “oppressor” classes and simply choosing a side.

    es while offering working alternatives. I believe that this is starting to happen already. We must help them to see that it is not justice to impose the will of the state on any group and must at times advocate for what are often considered unsavory groups.

    Well, the degree to which we must “advocate” might be something I question, but otherwise I agree. But there are tools already in the leftist intellectual tradition (heh) to do this – no need to convert people wholesale to an alien “radical traditionalism”.

    As we both have noted Lyons at least refrained from the pathetic descent into name calling and attemts to refute Ketih with arguments. I see this as a sign that perhaps there is a change taking place and on some level we and others are getting our message across.

    Yeah, that’s not what I see Lyons doing at all. Lyons doesn’t care what we think (or at least what Keith thinks). He’s writing for his side, not as an attempt to reach out to ours. I’d love to see him engage, but I doubt it happens. We are still inconsequential, an oddity for his crowd to study and theorize about.

    I’ve got a shitton on my plate but I’d like to write up something that might interest Lyons and stake out a middle ground between Keith’s “the Left sucks” and Lyons “Preston is dangerous” positions.

  45. I’ve only dipped my toe into a reading of this third installment of Mr. Preston’s reply, but reading the beginning I was reminded of a thoroughly intriguing article on sociopathy-as-alternate-evolutionary-strategy, and while I’m probably closer to the exact *opposite* of a fan of ‘evolutionary psychology’ (at it’s best it tends toward the unscientific, at it’s worst it is a repository for the last remnant hold-overs from psychology’s dark eugenic past), the theory the author develops throughout the paper is least one of the most stimulating conjectures I’ve encountered regarding the enigma of the sociopath in society (the sociopath-in-society is a well described quantity, while theories of sociopathy w/ substantial explanitive power are surprisingly lacking in the literature).

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/37013390/sociobiology%C2%AD-of-sociopathy

    Cheers!

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