Category Archives: Modernity


The dismantling of Western masculinity has been ongoing since at least the “Enlightenment,” but was initially hidden from view by the modern heroicization of industry and industrial labor and the association of masculinity with the figures of the industrialist and the militant worker. What in recent decades appears in the West as the triumph of an emasculatory feminism is really the collapse of this modern fantasy of entrepreneurial and proletarian prowess. The oversized figure of the former “captain of industry” is now reduced to the proportions of the typical, larvally arrested Silicon Valley CEO. Old John Henry is a screen-fixated drone confined to a cubicle. The truth of modernity turns out to be the transformation of machine-worshiping and machine-reliant man into a machine, or worse, a machine appendage, with all that implies about the redundancy of gender. The myth of gender “equality” issues from this functional abolition of the gender distinction. “Equality” is predicated on sameness; it imposes sameness. But this imposition is only possible when the markers of difference, in this case sexual difference, lose their functional/social value. This liquidation of gender is masked by the myth, the ideology, of female “empowerment.” But what modernity empowers is not women but an unsexed hybrid. The “empowered” career woman is no longer a woman but a phallicized freak, a forced mutation. Likewise, the modern, accommodating, pliable, “sensitive” male is no longer a male but an equally synthetic product, a complementary modern abomination. Today, surgical transgenderism brings into the open the price of the Faustian bargain between man and machine. It becomes evident that the modern “liberation” from the cruel exigencies of nature was achieved by the wholesale artificialization of the human, the self-disfiguring transformation of both sexes into Frankensteinian oddities.


Through worship of the gods, men once acknowledged the fundamental inhumanity of the cosmos.

When the ideologues stormed the temples, the gods, the ambassadors of the unseen, were already departed . The gods did not die. Something in men died. The light went out of their eyes. And stupid grins disfigured their faces.


The toxic effect modernity has had on the human organism goes largely unremarked as we focus instead on the more easily visible devastation around us. Thus, while it is readily and broadly acknowledged that modern development has poisoned the planet, the fantasy persists that it has made us, its human beneficiaries, into better, more enlightened, more tolerant, more moral beings.

We fail to see that the mutagenic effects of modernity have not spared us. Blinded by the progressive idea that our progressive notions are improvements over those of our supposedly primitive forebears, we hallucinate that our stuntedness, our degeneration, makes us tower above them.

Thus, although progressive thought openly revels in its unnaturalness, in its violation of traditional norms, in its disruption of gender, in its promotion of every form of intellectual and aesthetic aberration and deformity, it evades detection as being of a piece with the larger anthropogenic destruction of nature. We fail to notice that modern technological magic has inflicted its most deleterious effects on those closest to it, its inventors and practitioners.

In science fiction, which projects onto the future what is already in the past, mutation tends to be equated with physical disfigurement. Modernity’s most damaging effects, however, are spiritual. And of these, the least visible is the loss of the ability to judge spiritual disfigurement, to see our own degradation for what it is.

Venus Envy

One doesn’t have to puzzle too hard to understand why contemporary Western elites hate Western culture. It’s because they know that they are constitutionally incapable of producing anything that would match or even come close to the grandeur of the gifts that hardier, manlier, braver, sterner elites dispensed. The animus against the Western canon doesn’t come from below, from the “excluded” and “marginalized,” in whose name it is attacked. It comes from the privileged po-faced shrews (and their sissy allies) who want to moralize the masterpieces of a civilization, its canonical paragons, into oblivion–in order to make room, a safe space, for the reverent reception of their own shriveled droppings. The result is what goes under the rubric of postmodernism, an ideology that explicitly celebrates failure and lameness.

The barbarians cannot arrive soon enough.

Marxist Conservatism

One ought to recognize in the Marxist critique of capitalism a covert loyalty to an antecapitalist community. Marx was too sophisticated, too urbane to throw in his lot with those he dismissed as utopian socialists, yet, as his early writings show, his animus against capitalism derived, like theirs, from a reaction against capitalism’s desecration–desacralization–of traditional, patriarchal norms. He was, at heart a romantic reactionary, but forced by intellectual vanity to give his anticapitalism an avant-garde “progressive” cover, a project facilitated by the mental suppleness he absorbed from Hegelian dialectics.

If this covert nostalgia for the predeluvian past at the heart of Marxism is acknowledged, then the tendency of communist revolutions to bring to power archly paternal figures like the Man of Steel and the Great Helmsman can be appreciated as preservative of an ancient notion of regality. In effect, communism was able to give an absolutism threatened by the encroaching democratic corruption a new lease on life, thus safeguarding in distorted but still recognizable form the authority of the Great Father. Insofar as masculinity and what today is disparaged as “authoritarianism” are essentially the same thing, communism can be credited with having found a way to reinvent heroic virility as a modern virtue. This is why the monuments and edifices that remain from the Stalinist era, despite efforts to dismiss them as bombastic anachronisms or icons of “totalitarianism,” are paragons of aesthetic probity compared to the hysterically performative structures to which the postmodern cult of lameness has accustomed us.

Communism ultimately failed because, like modernism in general, it could not sustain the contradiction of attempting a modern, secular, humanist revival of a world that modernity, secularism, and humanism had destroyed. Nonetheless, the passing of modernism has left a void because modernism, for all its paradoxes, was the last heroic gesture that a senescent Western civilization was capable of before it completely surrendered to flaccidity.

Midas Touch

Art has always served power but in the premodern period, power, though associated with wealth was not its product. Contemporary power is corporate. It is the power of dead capital, which means that we are subjects not of the Sun King or the Pope but of the nameless, seemingly contingent forces that rule the global economy. This is a power that art is hard-pressed to exalt. The real story of modern art, once one gets past the self-heroicizing bluster of the avant-garde, is the story of the difficulties that had to be surmounted (the craft that had to be forgotten, the qualms that had to be allayed) before art could be sufficiently debased to serve capital.

For art to serve capital, it had to develop the means to give vacuity the appearance of effervescence. And beyond that, it had to develop means to glorify a wholesale inversion of values. Adapting to an ugly age, art learned to glorify ugliness. Adapting to a materialist age from which the sacred had been banished, it learned to glorify superficiality. Adapting to an age of diminished men, it learned to glorify stunted tastes and feelings. Adapting to an age in which the worship of technology had nullified virility, it learned to glorify effeminacy, lameness, and confusion. Adapting to an age “emancipated” from patriarchy, it learned to glorify perpetual adolescence, impotent rebellion, and formlessness. At every step, these adaptations had to overcome the resistance of artists, intellects, standards of taste and probity that retained some filiation with nobility. Finally, with the advent of postmodernism, a succession of triumphs over every lingering trace of decency was consolidated under a rubric that apotheosisized perversion and made an explicit principle out of the elevation of the marginal.

With each step forward into debasement, the diminution of quality has been accompanied by an expansion of quantity until, today, the term art is applied to the slightest affectation. We are now drowning in the excreta of swarms of “performative” mountebanks. Everything today is tainted by “art.” It is as if we are afflicted by the modern equivalent of the Midas touch–now revealed to be the curse of the total commodification of the world and the transformation of everything in it into a hectoring signifier of exchange value.

The deeper meaning of this wholesale artification of the late modern world is that it is driven by the need to aestheticize spiritual, cultural, and artistic degeneration, making the evil consequences of capital’s dominion appear deliberate, provocative, transgressive.

This is the fundamental mystication that underlies all modern “countercultural” ideologies. Thus, capital’s desecration of sex and sexuality is given the cover of a rebellion against “heteronormative” and patriarchal strictures. The destruction of tradition and the banalization of every aspect of existence are given avant-garde lustre. And, finally, every possible degeneration of taste, manners, and character is affirmed as “progressive,” so that the fatuous notion of progress becomes a synonym for civilizational putrefaction.


One can grant that formalism once served a purpose as a bourgeois antidote to the bourgeois moralism that threatened to envelop art from the moment it was “emancipated” from aristocratic patronage and became a signifier of bourgeois elevation. The limitation of formalism has always been that it could never be more than a secular stopgap against the profanation of art. In this, it is of a piece with Kant’s overall attempt to rationalize tradition, without his comprehending the violation that such a rationalization would inflict on the rationalized principles, whose authority is either absolute (and inhuman) or else nonexistent. All of formalism’s notorious blindspots, starting with Kant’s ridiculous notion of disinterested judgement issue from this misguided effort.

The economic stakes involved in the game of art should by now be sufficiently evident to not require more than a mention. Yet formalist discourse withholds even a mention. It completely forecloses any hint that the work of art circulates as a commodity. The aesthetic object (which only becomes an aesthetic object after formalist discourse has succeeded in dislocating it from any context other than that of its connection with other such dislocated objects) undergoes an isolation that forces its meaning to depend on a wordless communion with a subject who is conceived as equally removed from any symbolic network. Once this operation is accomplished, all manner of ineffable qualities can be found in the object corresponding exactly to the investment that went into ripping it out of its context. In other words, what the formalist worships in pure form is his own capability to abduct the object from every relationship other than with himself. Pure form is the mediating term of narcissism.

That the formal qualities of an object structure its meaning is not to be disputed but form has meaning within an intersubjective (social, cultural) context. The discourse of beauty never takes us far here because beauty only indicates the effectiveness of the Gestalt, the lure. This lure only has a purpose within a structure that structures a subject to be caught by it. The object is the embodiment of a pact, which as Lacan never ceases to insist, is what every symbol is first and foremost. Ranciere’s hallowed statue of Athena is erected and placed in a temple to reinforce the group identity of the Athenian citizenry–which is why the looting and destruction of temples and public monuments is one of the priorities of conquering armies to this day.

Panofsky defined art as consisting of objects that “demand” to be considered aesthetically. But if objects demand anything, it is because they are apprehended as speech, which always calls for a response. This is what formalism does not want to know, in so far as it wants to preserve the aesthetic object in its alienation as the mirror image of the self, a self already conceived as an object, an ego–so that the aesthetic experience can then take place as an encounter between objects. For it is only as a relationship between objects, both mortified to the point of inertness, that one can postulate the disinterest of disinterested contemplation.

What we encounter in formalism is in fact typical of modern anti-modern ideologies, which recoil from the banality of modernity but are compelled to oppose this banality in modern terms (i.e. on rational, secular grounds) because they dare not affirm tradition.


One could trace the beginning of Western decline to the moment when the West becomes enamored of the notion of progress and of a conception of history that is linear. Such a conception indicates a removal from the reality that matters, a loss of contact with eternity, which is timeless and circular and knows nothing of progress. Thus, from the moment the West assumes that it possesses a history that elevates it above other progress-deprived civilizations, it is already profaned and degenerating, and the vaunted history of its progress is actually the history of its senility.

They have eyes but do not see

The reproduced photograph somehow always reaches us as a cliché: it bears within the very economy of its circulation a fading of its effect. This weakness of photographic realism does not have anything to do with the aesthetic revulsion that Barthes in “Shock Photos” claimed to experience when viewing atrocity photographs tainted by the overzealous rhetorical intervention of their moralizing authors. Barthes’ precious aestheticism displaced onto photographers a fault that actually resides in the very nature of the photographic image. For the published photograph, even on first viewing, always intimates the uncanny feeling that it belongs to a type we have seen before, but it intimates this not because of any specific aesthetic deficiency on its part but because of its very reproducibility. From the moment of its publication, indeed, from the moment of its inception, the photograph joins an effluvium of banality.

As Walter Benjamin had already grasped in 1936, photography destroys distance but also devalues what it brings closer to its avid consumers. The stripping of the world, its pornographic exposure to the public gaze grants effortless access to the farthest recesses of the earth and even makes visible features that the unaided human eye could never apprehend (such as the gait of a galloping horse). But this unhiding of the world, this forcible unveiling–which is part of the larger scientific project of quantifying the visible–also reduces the object of its attention to a flattened and ultimately insipid representation. Photography becomes a fetish that magnifies the domain of the visible at the expense of what exceeds the visible. It functions, alongside other technological marvels, as a means to profane and miniaturize the world, formerly a source of awe, now diminished to what fits inside an iPhone screen.

What never occurred to Barthes is that the very nature of photography implicates it in atrocity. Had he really wanted to find shock in a photograph he could have found it in the way every photograph, no matter its intention, contributes to the profanation of the world, to the loss of its transcendent dimension.

The true deficiency of photographic realism, like that of modern realism in general, is that it is impotent against the chronic unreality of the modern world that this realism seeks to counteract because this peculiar condition derives not from lack of forensic records of modern life and its atrocities but rather from the modern world’s disconnection from the sacred. The modern world, reduced to a strictly material world ruled by money and infested by the human worms that money breeds, is a world in which nothing is sacred and therefore nothing is of any significance. Realism’s attempts to give a true “objective” picture of this world only adds to its squalor by dimming whatever remains of the memory of a different world inhabited by a different and nobler humanity.

The photograph, a marvel of representation, enters the world precisely at the moment that the world becomes unworthy of representation. The result is that photography proceeds to desecrate whatever still retains the slightest connection to the sacred, winkling it out of the obscure places in which it had survived and making a meal of it for the consumers of modern “spirituality.”


The monochrome testifies to a recognition of  painting as an action, i.e. as coverage, as work, as performance. It is a repudiation of painting’s pictorial relevance after the medium cedes representational primacy to photography. The monochrome proletarianizes painting by making the production of a painted canvas all but indistinguishable from the craft production of a painted wall. And yet, with repetition, the meaning of this gesture, so radical in its implications,  is inverted, and the monochrome becomes instead the sign of an extreme aestheticism. In this, I think one glimpses how modernism failed: it was meant to be a transitional aesthetic, a bridge to a future in which art would no longer be distinguished from the productive activity of the emancipated worker, but this future never came, and with repetition modernism’s radical gestures became mannerisms. And its products,  profane receptacles for the ill-gotten gains of oligarchs.


We look to form to succor us from chaos. The palliative form need not possess anything more than the vaguest trace of organization. It can be the statue of Athena or the jazz tune Roquentin hears at the end of Nausea. Or, it can simply be the representation of formlessness itself for that representation is already a victory over the abject, a removal from it. The more immediate the threat of disintegration, the closer the aesthetic object will approximate the very thing it defends against. This is why in the modern period art is driven to simulate its own absence—as the last recourse against the disappearance of the last trace of meaning in a profaned world where the total dominion of quantity threatens the catastrophic desublimation of all objects.


For at least a century, beauty’s most felicitous relationship has been with merchandising, not art. Today, one is more likely to come across something beautiful in a mall or in front of a screen than in a gallery or museum. Consumer economies run on eye candy and are remarkably good at manufacturing it. The best creative talent is enlisted in the making and marketing of sexy consumables. The fine arts make do with the spoiled children of the rich.

This was already evident when Duchamp proposed an upturned urinal as an entry in the 1917 Society of Independent Artists exhibition. The truly shocking thing about Fountain was not the nomination of a urinal to the status of art but the much-slower-to-sink-in actuality that a mass-produced urinal might be as beautiful as a Brancusi.

In other words, with hindsight, Duchamp’s gesture appears realistic rather than nihilistic. It acknowledged that industry had robbed art of its privileged relationship with the aesthetic. If art was to remain fixated on beauty, it was obliged to express this fixation by the practice of framing as art what was already readily available as commodity, via what came to be known as appropriation.

How could the idea of fine art survive Duchamp’s gesture? There was simply too much cultural and financial capital invested in the idea of art to permit it a graceful exit.  What’s more, by emancipating art from overt social function, modern art endowed the art object with the potential to achieve close to limitless speculative value. This is what the avant-garde ultimately contributed to modernity: a new type of commodity, at once empty and unique and, by virtue of that combination, the most desirable commodity of all.

Identity Fetish

Modernity is anonymizing, atomizing, patricidal. It involves a vast uprooting from land and community, an unmooring from all the coordinates that used to sustain a sense of orientation and self-worth. The modern fetishization of identity is an attempt to replace by self-nomination what used to be assigned by fate, caste and tradition. It is a poor replacement, as evidenced by the violence with which these synthetic identities need to be continuously asserted.

While it is fashionable to equate contemporary identitarianism with a renewal of tribalism, the analogy does not bear examination. In the tribal unit, identity is bestowed by the tribe and marked by rituals that firmly establish the subjugation of the individual to the larger entity. In contrast, self-declared, voluntary identities are narcissistic declarations of exemption from both reality and social obligation. Nothing could be more removed from the spirit of tribalism and its reverence for tradition and ancestral authority than the glorification of childish identities cobbled together from self-aggrandizing phantasms.

Rather than a “regression” to tribalism, identitarianism symptomizes in the form of mass psychosis the advance of the social disintegration inaugurated by modernity.


Every modern “advance,” every “emancipation,” contributes to a retreat into infantilism. Once everything formerly accepted as fated and immutable is recategorized as purely conventional, the very possibility of nobility is extinguished because the foundation of nobility, Nietzsche’s amor fati, is made meaningless. Instead of developing the rigor to face and embrace fate, one indulges in ceaseless experimentation, deferring forever the assumption of a serious attitude toward life. Whenever difficulty or discomfort present themselves, the ready availability of an alternative choice subverts any inclination to fortitude. With every obstacle, one simply veers to avoid it, until evasion becomes habitual. Thus, all the supposedly empowering advances bestowed by secularism and technology turn out to have a profoundly disempowering, diminishing effect on character and, indeed, on the human organism as a whole. We see the destructive results on multiple fronts: in the extreme reduction of attention span and concentration dubbed Attention Deficit Disorder (in actuality, a condition so pervasive that it constitutes the current cognitive norm) no less than in the mania for gender “reassignment.” What these and numerous related modern disorders attest to is the failure of the modern subject to leave behind the plasticity of childhood and its seemingly infinite but unrealized potential. Understandably, this universal affirmation of the inner child goes hand in hand with the radical negation, the nullification, of the paternal function. In a world, in which nobody is required to grow up, fatherhood in both its actual and symbolic form is redundant. The modern world is, in its essence, the world without a father.

Modern Worms

When contemporary ninnies complain of toxic masculinity, they are not entirely off the mark, even if they remain oblivious of the implications.

Masculinity becomes toxic when the complexity and attendant fragility of a society grow to the point where the male libidinal drive becomes too disruptive to accommodate. Such tightly regimented, dense, automated, networked societies require subjects that must increasingly approximate to genderless automatons.

Freud had already observed in Civilization and Its Discontents that the level of interdependence and collaboration that social life demands would be impossible without the repression of aggression. This was always true, but modernity pushes the instrumentalization of the human organism to the point where the modern subject must be completely stripped of any inclination that might ever so slightly misalign it with the Borg-like corporate hive that encloses it. Inevitably, this translates into an aversion toward every manifestation of refractory masculinity.

The early modern worshipers of the machine did not foresee this. To Marinetti, the machine promised hypermasculinzation, an amplification of the most primitive virility. What it delivered instead was a wholesale gelding of Western man, his transformation into a species of hermaphroditic worm. And it is these invertebrates who today declare that masculinity is toxic, for to them the sight of a man can only convey an intolerable rebuke.


Walter Benjamin’s reflections on the impact of automation on the art object are pertinent to a consideration of what happens to the sexual object and its displacements in the modern era. I think one can speak of both an industrialization of sexual relations and a sexualization of industry.

The “industrialization” of sexual relations is well-illustrated by the stream of drawings, paintings, and objects produced in the early part of the 20th century by Francis Picabia and Marcel Duchamp that depict coitus as the coupling and grinding of machine parts.

The same images, of course, also depict the sexualization of industrial processes. But where this sexualization of industry achieves real significance is in the erotic allure that attaches to the commodity, the endowment of everything from cars to computers with a sexual aura.

Modernity coincides with a widespread hypersexualization of objects and bodies. This is a new thing. We are not talking about what to the ancients would have constituted beauty. Something else is introduced, which Marx called commodity fetishism, whose full meaning needs to include the sexual connotation.

What comes into view as peculiar to modernity is the simultaneous sexualization of production and consumption. On the consumption side, the commodity induces something like a sexual mania in the consumer. Modern consumption acquires a distinctly onanistic character, at once addictive and unsatisfying since like masturbation, compulsive consumption can only function as what Freud characterized as an “otiose” substitute for heterosexual intercourse.

The upshot is that consumer society is in essence a society of wankers.

Antimodern Moderns

The moderns I admire are those whose signal contribution to modernism consisted in devising means to portray the squalor of modernity. I have in mind T.S. Eliot, J.K. Huysmans, L.F. Celine, James Ensor, George Grosz, Otto Dix, Nathaniel West.


It is a disgusting modern conceit that assumes as a matter of course that we know better than our premodern ancestors, whose reverence for “myth” in our eyes renders them naifs.

The truth is that we are the intellectually impoverished ones, unable to apprehend anything beyond what is accessible to our senses. And yet, we regard this blindering, this hobbling of intelligence as proof of our superiority over the ancients, whose vigor, acuity, and strength of character far exceeded our own.


The “aesthetic” consequences of an idea offer good indications of its validity.

What is latent in an idea, covered up by appeals to sentiment or resentment, is exposed by its realization. An idea whose products are malformed, poisonous, ugly is revealed as a noxious one, irrespective of the high-minded arguments in its favor. Conversely, noble ideas are recognized by their ennobling effects. Most modern ideas that promise “emancipation” or “empowerment” have yielded freakish results. No further evidence should be needed to condemn them.

If you want to get the true measure of a civilization or a period within a civilization, examine its artifacts. It is what a civilization leaves behind when it can no longer speak except through its residue that justifies or condemns it.


An authentic traditionalist has to be willing to accept that tradition is in modern terms indefensible. The modern mind is a stunted apparatus that can only acknowledge and comprehend what is measurable. The eternal verities transmitted by tradition will not fit into the confines of this apparatus and would only be nullified by any attempt to force them into it.

In the same way that tradition is rationally indefensible, modernity and its abominations are rationally irrefutable since today reason has at its disposal only the vocabulary of utilitarianism. It is, for instance, pointless to look to genetics to disprove the pernicious doctrine of the social construction of “identity” because that doctrine is itself but one expression of the instrumental outlook upon which modern science is founded. After all, it is science itself that provides the surgical and pharmacological means to alter gender and, beyond that, the means to artificialize the human organism at the cellular level. These means today are glorified as “empowering,” as demonstrating our overcoming of the harsh cultural boundaries that hedged in our benighted ancestors. But what they actually indicate is the toxicity of modern science, whose effect is to render us ever more artificial and, therefore, ever more fragile. Thus, what we misconstrue as empowerment is actually the enlargement of our susceptibility to extinction.

Faith in tradition seeks no modern validation because it is fully cognizant of modernity’s evanescence. The freak menagerie assembled by modernity is not a harbinger of the future but an indication that modernity has no future. What will refute modernity will be its own perishing. Indeed, is modernity anything but a perishing?

Freak Show

Part of what constitutes our decadence, or maybe is the very essence of our decadence, is our cowardice in the face of ugliness, our willingness to compromise with it.

We know the difference between ugliness and beauty or we would not mount arguments against the unfairness of the distinction. But we are compromised: we cannot uphold beauty because we cannot uphold unfairness.

Now this would seem to be an inevitable consequence of what we call democracy given that beauty stands out because it is uncommon and that its appreciation must therefore slight the common. The antagonism between democracy and beauty is confirmed by the fact that the bulk of the beautiful things that have been handed down to us and that we take care to preserve were produced under decidedly inegalitarian and authoritarian conditions.

More fundamental to our predicament is that fairness is absent from nature, which is innocent of any notion of universal rights, and that our modern idolatry of fairness is, therefore, an expression of a radical alienation from nature.

Beauty and naturalness are intimately connected to the degree that beauty could be said to represent nothing else than perfect naturalness and the necessity that we perceive in naturalness. Conversely, ugliness and unnaturalness are synonymous. It follows that the affirmation of beauty is possible only alongside an affirmation of the order of nature.

Therein lies the root of the modern antagonism toward beauty. For modernity recruited its promoters and adherents by promising an emancipation from the constraints of nature. All our investment in the empirical sciences has been driven by that promise–which science has more than fulfilled but at the price of rendering us, its late beneficiaries, into wholly unnatural creatures.

The horrific mutants and aliens that populate sci fi are us. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was a vision of what post the ascension of the bourgeoisie, Western man was becoming.

Modernity is in its very essence the triumph of unnaturalness and ugliness. It is the age of the freak.

And this is why beauty has fled from us, and why we are powerless to resist the ever-more-hideous abominations that science and technology foist on us, be they misgendered and transgendered beings, architectural obscenities, or abysmal manners.

Today, ugliness has rights. And beauty is a detestable privilege.

And yet, we have not successfully eradicated all beauty. It lingers as our bad conscience, as a repressed awareness of our degradation. And to that extent, it lingers as our death drive, for deep down we loathe our ugliness and seek our own extinction, the means to whose realization science has also mercifully bestowed upon us.


Racism seems to have a lot to do with the need of modern European nation states to justify colonialism on moral grounds. This is a justification that premodern peoples, innocent of the peculiar notion of human rights, did not require. In the premodern world, conquest and subjugation were outcomes ordained by the gods.

It was humanism, and particularly secular humanism, that laid the basis for racism. The bestowal of rights on humans as a species forbids one group from subjugating another. In practice, this meant that technologically advanced European nations could only take advantage of their military superiority and acquire colonies on the presumption that the peoples they subjugated were not quite human and therefore not entitled to the same rights as Europeans, at least not until these putative primitives were properly civilized.

Today’s sanctimonious, antiracist “identity” politics remains locked in the same humanist frame, only with the terms inverted. Now the subhuman stigma is attached to “whites” in general and white males in particular. Thus, in its late form, humanism develops into a suicidal ideology. Perhaps this is the only way that its pernicious influence can be overcome.

Notre Dame

The fire that devoured Notre Dame is said to have destroyed a “cultural icon” and an “architectural marvel.” But Notre Dame and its sister medieval cathedrals were not built to be any of those things. They were expressions of the enraptured, visionary faith of the Middle Ages, which anyone born after the Enlightenment can barely comprehend. What the fire destroyed had already long ago been deprived of its spiritual potency.

The French banker promises it will be rebuilt. But if rebuilt, it will be rebuilt by faithless men, and will stand as nothing more than a monument to the technology of simulation. It might look identical to the original, but it will have been revived as kitsch.


The spiritual poverty of our times is reflected in the hideous things on which the wealthiest and most powerful lavish their wealth.

Past civilizations brought forth canonical forms rooted in what was sacred to each civilization.

Today, in a culture dominated exclusively by material concerns, the only cultural imperative is novelty, which translates into a cult of high-priced freakishness. The result in architecture, fashion, manners, and art is the endless supplantation of one ugly trend by another.