The hardest thing for any man to achieve is worldliness: getting past his own anxieties, injuries, petty ingrained prejudices, vanity, sentimentality and seeing the world as it is, with a keen eye for what endures and hides under shifting forms.
The worldly man stands apart from popular crazes and fashions. He is neither reactionary nor progressive. Least of all is he an “activist” of any kind, being perfectly aware that changes come of their own accord and for reasons that their ardent promoters themselves cannot fathom.
He knows that trying to “change the world” is as much of a fool’s errand as trying to prevent it from changing. The world has its own reasons and it employs fools to achieve them.
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.
The post-’60s transformation of the Western left into a liberal avant-garde allied with the worst, most debasing tendencies of capital has had as its logical outcome the transformation of working class resistance against capitalism into working class resistance against liberalism. Today, whatever is of any intellectual interest emanates from this anti-liberal awakening.
Meantime, in a galaxy far, far away, “woke” liberal academia is stuck in a somnolent time warp, still dutifully engaged in deconstructive projects that are the intellectual equivalent of pulverizing piles of rubble into piles of finer rubble, bravely tilting at a phantom white patriarchy, demolishing canons kept alive only in the minds of those who want to abuse them and completely blind to the fact that its “transgressions” are affirmations of ruling-class self-exemption from reality.
The “culture war” is an argument between fools. The conservative fools want capitalism without capitalism, “free enterprise” and the Ancien Régime at the same time. Liberal fools want to abolish what capitalism has already abolished, the old paternal function, and replace it with something more arbitrary and totalitarian, the rule of “sensitivity.” The conservatives pine for the old master. Liberals would prefer a dominatrix. Between them they have succeeded in reducing political discourse to a choice between inanities. This is why the categories of political affiliation align so nicely with those of consumption, Apple versus Microsoft, Honda versus Ford, etc. Identity politics is not, as is often supposed, a strictly liberal phenomenon. It is the default of politics reduced to brand choice.