Counterculture, the individual, and the right
If you take a look at old political discussion programs—William F. Buckley and the like—you will find that there is a recurrent theme where conservatives maintain that they will, once the left goes just a bit too far, become the new counterculture. Popular youngsters and pop stars will spout conservative talking points as self-evident facts, and liberal views will induce mucho cringe in the yoof. There is a dialectical element to this thought, the idea that when a phenomenon goes to an extreme it must turn into its opposite; perhaps that is a heuristic, but it is not an iron law. And so the great turn towards conservatism never transpires, though today you will still see conservative pundits on Twitter state: “We’ve reached the point where conservative values are cool. Woke is for losers.” Even the radical right, represented by men such as Jonathan Bowden, fell for this idea—the dream that the illicit force in society will be conservative, a conservative revolution.
The reason this never comes to pass is because right-wing views are not fun and youthful. Here are a few right-wing values: responsibility, honour, loyalty, fidelity, sacrifice, acceptance that death is inevitable, acceptance that pain is inevitable, chastity, frugality, and submission to authority—submission to God, or submission to the inexorable laws of nature. This is not a comprehensive list, but it is representative; as you will note, these values do not inspire a sensation that we are about to have illicit youthful fun. These values inspire awe and, perhaps, lead to joy—a more substantial emotion than “fun”—but, overall, the word that springs to mind is “gravity”. Right-wing values are grave values; ultimately, the gravest: the right’s position is religious, it is a preparation for death.
For young people—teenagers specifically, the essence of the counterculture—right-wing values are largely inaccessible; and this is how it should be. The idea that life inevitably ends in death and that suffering is almost certain is almost inconceivable for a healthy seventeen-year-old. The Amish recognise that it is unreasonable to expect their young to be Amish as teenagers; after they leave childhood, they are set free for a “rumspringa” where they are allowed to indulge in “English”—as the Amish refer to mainstream American society, somewhat anachronistically—behaviour for a set period, i.e. they can be as worldly as they wish. The same happens in the mainstream world, although we are mostly “English”, even in adult life, and hardly “Amish” at all; for most Western teenagers there is no sacred tradition to be anticipated with an indulgent exploratory period, adulthood is also an extended exploratory period.
The reason why “countercultural” values, actually the West’s hegemonic values, appeal to the young is that left-wing ideas—such as Marxism, wokeness, political correctness, and liberalism—are inorganic forms of coordination based on pure faith. The alternative to this artificial coordination is coordination rooted in a organic relation to reality—family, religion, and tradition; and these are not fun. Left-wing ideologies keep people in a pleasant illusion, the illusion that they are “good people” and that improvement is constant: for these ideologies every black man is the victim of a cruel racist police force; the drawbacks of homosexuality are non-existent; foreigners are all friendly, or simply misunderstood; technology always makes life better, and so on—and only nasty and evil people say otherwise.
If you contradict the current set of illusions—and this is how many people become conservatives, essentially conservative liberals in revolt against the latest iteration of progressive values—you are out, because the coordination is sustained by ideoology and so agreement must be total. It is a fragile coordination, based on popularity and politeness—to be well-liked is the goal, it is a middle-class vice and we live in a middle-class society. Those who refuse to follow the ideology’s progression are often those most sure that right-wing values will become a new counterculture, but this is only relatively so; they are still locked in ideological thought. They are conservative liberals, and they think that revolution is cool—the left is only sour because it has had the wrong type of revolution now; the “real rebels” will be back.
In reality, it is just that the left has moved on—degraded further—from the conservative liberal’s youthful rebellion; and yet the conservative liberal cries in the wilderness: “When I was young we had real feminism, and black kids and white kids loved the same bands!” What they thought was countercultural was actually the mainstream—on every state-funded broadcaster and in the schools—the “rebellion” is what the managerial state organises in order to degrade a person’s implicit ties to family and non-state institutions. The state, with a monopoly on violence, has power over family, friends, and church; it merely sells itself, the coldest of cold gods, as dissident rebellion. The so-called counterculture is the mainstream and always has been; it is only a counterculture in relation to the organic coordination within a society, a coordination that has been disprivileged for sometime.
Now, there are perverse teenagers who rebel through identification with right-wing values; they buy a bowtie, listen to Bach not pop, disdain sex before marriage, and read TS Eliot in the pub—in the jargon of economics, they counter-signal their mainstream countercultural peers; they assert their high status by a refusal to conform to popular rebellion. Yet such people should usually be thrown in a canal; for their right-wing act conceals an inability to talk to girls and an excessive pride—they are too proud to be a rebel like everyone else. A person must pass through their passions before they can become whole, but a man who pretends to be whole before his time has never had any folly; and this is in many ways worse than to be too foolish—it is to be wise before your time, though real wisdom only comes through experience; and the right-wing teenage rebel is too clever to have had a foolish experience.
They have adopted the mantle of virtue but not its substance, and this is more pernicious, in some ways, than straight out rebellion. There was once a British Conservative politician called William Hague—he even led the party—who was just this way; he even addressed a party conference as a teenager. Yet whenever I saw him I just saw an overgrown schoolboy and not a man, because people who pretend to be conservative teenagers are profoundly incomplete. They are not really wise; they are prigs.
The exception lies in movements like punk—very primal movements—that are never explicitly political but are to the right because they are violent and warlike; the punks were little barbarians—and the barbarian is vital, not decadent; he is seminal to civilisation. The punk knows a lot about loyalty, honour, and brotherhood; yet he rarely expresses it in a politicised form—to be consciously apolitical is characteristically a rightist value. Yet atavistic movements, such as punks or the Hell’s Angels, are too organic and death-orientated to influence the mass; these movements are never countercultural—they are too authentic and cannot be co-opted by the state and its countercultural ideology.
The first right-wing philosopher was also the first philosopher in the Western tradition: Heraclitus, aka “the weeping philosopher”. He began to philosophise when he left his city in despair; his fellow citizens had abandoned the gods, the proper sacrifices were not made—this is an old story. Heraclitus wandered in barren places, wept, and made gnomic statements about life: he observed that all life is war and that opposites must contend. He is also known as “the obscure” for this reason, for his occult exile and fragmentary thought: Heraclitus, as with right-wing values in general, represents those dark thoughts—the hintergedanken, as Germans say—that lurk behind your sunny disposition. The thoughts you know are true but would prefer not to excavate: the chief thought being that your life is finite, one day you will die—it is inevitable.
“So, Professor Heidegger, do you have a comment for our newspaper about the current political situation?” “You must excuse me, I have been in my hut dwelling on death’s ontology.” “Oh, yes, but how is your philosophy relevant for women today? And do you have something accessible for a bright teenager looking to attend university? A top ten introductory works on philosophy perhaps?” “…” The media is the apotheosis of the left because it is trivial and banal; it is fashionable, not stylish—fashion never keeps but style is classicism and is eternal. Stylish people say, “Green is the new black,” and so on, because black is the colour of wisdom; in the end, you have to go back to black. The journalist does not want to sit in a hut in the Black Forest like some German toad and, as with Heidegger, think about thought and its relation to finitude.
Hence right-wing values are elitist values: we talk about a man who gives up crime to “stay on the straight and narrow”—the straight and narrow path is not for everyone; it is difficult to attain. Mystics speak of their path as being a walk on a razor blade: the path to the godhead is a delicate balance on a bridge that cuts your feet to bloody shreds. “Like, total buzz kill, man.” For this reason, the mass will tend to prefer left-wing values—since these are the easy, broad path—and only a minority will choose the narrow path, the path to individuality. The Jews claim that the world is sustained by thirty-six virtuous men unknown to each other; given the power of small groups of individuals and the dissolution that surrounds us, I can well believe it.
The counterculture is an illusion: there was only ever the mob—the mob is stupid, cowardly, and cruel. In our case, the mob is corralled by the state and its propaganda organs to rebel against nature and the organic order—rebellion is conformity. As for the mob, one day they hate you and avoid you on the street, but if you win a victory they rush up to you and applaud you: “I always knew you could do it.” If you become too successful, they become envious and destroy you. The mob is a woman; and as with a woman it is changeable and only understands the whip.
Teenagers are, in particular, the most mob-like and the least individual type of human; and this is why, in part, they are corralled into countercultural rebellion. They are clever, cynical, and have newly lost the innocence of childhood. True maturity, as Nietzsche observed, is characterised by the seriousness of the child at play; however, many people—most, in fact—remain permanent adolescents.
What are adolescents like? “Put your coat on, it’s cold!” “But, Mom, my coat is uncool and Jenny will laugh at me.” “So you’re going out in mid-winter, with snow up to your knees, in a t-shirt.” “MOM. It is NOT cool. It’ll be fine.” The teenager is a social conformist; they would rather develop hypothermia than lose status in the group. While this plays a natural evolutionary role, many people persist in this behaviour indefinitely; they refuse to put on the appropriate clothes—even if it hurts them not to—because other people might think they are “weirdos”. Conversely, they put on clothes that harm them to fit in with everyone else. Have you heard about this popular trend of childhood gender dysphoria, by the way? No? Shame, you should really pay more attention to the experts…
CG Jung began his individuation process when he picked up a few stones and began, once again, to build a rock castle that he had worked on as a child; he literally followed Nietzsche and rediscovered the seriousness of his childhood play. We can imagine Jung as a ten-year-old; another boy, around twelve, calls out, “Baby Carl still plays with his rock castles like a little baby! Where’s your Mutte, Carl? Little baby Carl likes rocky-rocks…” Perhaps this was followed by a stone aimed at Jung’s castle, just to knock it down and emphasise the point. The serious child departs, the superficial act begins: the act of being a grown-up person, the act that is totally immature. Do you not understand that when people say “grow up” they mean that you should start to lie and become as empty as they are?
A good many people never become serious again; not serious like a child: they are more interested in social status, not their rock castle. Therefore, the idea that right-wing values could be countercultural in the sense that almost everyone blandly endorses Bob Marley or Bob Dylan is an impossibility: the right is not for everyone. Sentimental Twitter users who identify with the right often say: “We’re all gonna make it, fellas.” Wrong. The right-wing response is as follows: we are not all gonna make it, fellas—although, perhaps, if a few of us can make it then we all can. It is a paradox, but the only way to save everybody is for an elite to save themselves.
The Twitter user who says “we’re all gonna make it” probably refers to the idea that they will attain a mortgage, a wife, a child, and—perhaps—reduce immigration and taxation in their country. Yet these are also superficial mass goals: these are not necessarily the serious goals of a child at play, though they might be. What I mean is that if everyone has a purpose and destiny not dictated by the mass—an often corrupted mass—then what “making it” means is to fulfil that destiny. Heidegger might also reply: you are not going to make it, you will die; now meditate on the fact—the fact of your death—you will never experience.
Just as there are thousands of ways my computer can break and only one way for it to be put together so as it works, there are only a very few right ways to live, possibly only one right way—very occasionally we discover a new truth about how to live, but mostly this is not so. The mob and the so-called counterculture represents thousands and thousands of errors, thousands of variations on social entropy mediated by the state—the state in its current configuration is irresponsible, the state produces social entropy. In entropy, the molecules diffuse in a room and all end up at slightly different angles—so, in our society, everyone has slightly different tattoos—and thus the atomised mob is slightly different and yet monotonous in its difference. The real individual is uniform and yet distinct in their uniformity. The mob pretends seriousness, but feels perpetually empty because they have forgotten real seriousness; they only have an act.
Their innocence is lost because, in part, the cynical teenager sees a few contradictions and has a few disillusionments and cannot handle the shock and disappointment that comes with reality; and this is combined with sneers from slightly older children, as already described, and perhaps sneers from those more spiteful and envious adults—since many people take pleasure in the destruction of innocence.
And so the teenager drops naïve patriotism; they watch satirical Disney films where heroism is inverted and mocked; and they sneer at religion—obviously very childish, and it really is so. They feel sophisticated; they were fooled once, when they were children, but now they see how it really is. Amid the bleakness, they opt for the hopeful and supposedly rational grown-up ideology that is state-sponsored counterculture: scientism, environmentalism, sexual diversity, materialism, utility-thought, anti-racism, feminism, and ethnic diversity. It is a rational and sophisticated antidote to teenage disillusionment—technology advances and, even though I die, this is a comfort; at least it is better than the fairytales at church.
It is only in the second half of life—and not always then—as with Jung and his rock castle that a person is disillusioned again, this time they are disillusioned at the cleverness found in adult mass life: they realise that the logic and reasons that punctured their childhood are not as firm as first appearance suggested—indeed, they were really captured by mass life and teenage conformity.
They realise that what was promoted as a serious business was the real illusion: the adult world is beyond trivial, shallow, and dishonest—especially in its bland humanist form. It is at this moment that a few people realise that religion, heroism, and death are the real serious business; and that it is because these events are so serious that people retreat into the clever superficiality of the grown-up world in the first place. The busy materialist world mediated by the state—with its the clever countercultural sneers at heroes and saints—begins to seem trite, not even as logical and rational as it pretends: it was always a retreat, an escape, from the real business—the child’s business.
The frenetic work—whether for the free market or socialism—was always a distraction, an illusion to cover up the emptiness and an excuse for cowardice; an excuse for a failure to remain loyal to your instincts and intuitions—only a few men retain this loyalty throughout their life. Late in life, a small number of the mass will take a path—the path Jung called individuation—and embark on the real business, but the numbers who do so will be small; just as those men who live their entire life with integrity are few. In India, it was common for older Hindoos to retreat during life’s second stage; almost like elephants, they would go to the forest to live simply: here they did the real work, just as an elephant prepares to die. The real work will never be for everyone; for everyone else, there is the counterculture—although those who are called can renounce that at any time, if they have the courage.