508. Peace (VIII)
If you listen to conservatives for even a little while, you will hear two values expressed: “excellence” and “beauty”. The late Roger Scruton was particularly guilty in this regard, though almost all conservatives indulge in some rhetoric about “beauty” and “excellence”; however, since they are conservative liberals, they cannot admit that the very system they defend exists to destroy beauty and excellence; and so they themselves never produce beauty or excellence. These conservatives understand only too well that democracy is about mediocracy: sure, you can flatter bored office workers with talks about beauty and excellence (£345 for a 2-day course, breakfast included); and yet you cannot create beauty and excellence yourself—you can sell a talk about a cathedral, but you cannot build one. Democracies, of course, do not build cathedrals—a cathedral suggests that the demos is not God.
Irving Kristol, the neoconservative, claimed that all this was okay because although liberal democracy is characterised by each person being in pursuit of their own self-interest some people realise that their self-interest is to pursue beauty and excellence—and liberal democracy facilitates that. This is not true. Beauty and excellence are instantiated in these qualities: life without compromise; impersonality; inhumanness; remorselessness; relentless discipline; intuitive irrational insight; and unsociability. Liberal democracy rejects all these values, actually considers them “evil” in many cases. If you look at the lives of the saints their actions hardly conform to “rational self-interest”—often they suffered in ways that were enormously against rational self-interest.
Hence liberal democracy is without transcendence, for a start people are educated against beauty and excellence early in their lives by the system—to act that way is evil. You should be nice to people, get ahead, and make money; for Kristol this is an ideal, and he claims it has always been the Jewish ideal and that Judaism inherently opposes the aristoi—Judaism rejects transcendence, excellence, and beauty.
The man who seeks religious transcendence requires certain anti-democratic elements to be in place—such as, perhaps, monasteries; and if he experiences a religious insight, he will feel compelled to convert his society to that religion; yet this is forbidden in liberal democracy, since religion is privatised and the people are God—as America’s Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion (DEI) program makes clear. The same can be said for art and science, since excellence and beauty must proceed remorselessly and without compromise—and yet democracy’s essence is compromise; so the person who pursues excellence and beauty, as opposed to talking about it in front of cathedrals, will be an outsider in liberal democracy. His existence is an insult to the mediocrity that surrounds him.
We see a faint intimation as to this situation in the recent Joe Rogan saga. Rogan had an extremely popular podcast on YouTube, but he compromised and signed with Spotify in order to acquire more money and an even bigger audience. However, the democratic Spotify was soon subject to mob pressure because Rogan’s statements about COVID-19 and his racial jokes upset the demos. Subsequently, he has been censored by Spotify and is now effectively muzzled and will die a death by a thousand cuts. What was Rogan’s mistake? Why is he not beautiful and excellent? He compromised—literally sold out, the great democratic temptation.
As in Rogan’s case, the pursuit of excellence can draw a following, but it can never be universally popular—and democracy will not allow anything that is not universally popular; hence Rogan had to be dragged down into the gutter. Rogan should not have compromised with Spotify; and, in fact, he was already comprised in a way—for example, he thinks Atlantis and machine-elf spiritual entities are real; and a man in search of excellence would say that, but Rogan always hedges because he is still infected with democracy—he still wants to be popular, yet machine-elves and Atlantis are weird and spook the mob. If you want transcendence, you cannot compromise—especially with the mob; the genius is on the outside.