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Wise guys

The image above is William Hague, then sixteen years old, as he addresses the Conservative Party conference in 1977. The archetype is known in Britain as “the Tory boy”, and it is instantiated in the US in Ben Shapiro and Nick Fuentes—and it probably has some global resonance too. My contention is that it is a negative archetype and my reason is simple: it represents pretended wisdom. The Tory boy is Mr. Sensible-Socks who knew the right(-wing) answer from the crib. Possibly, at thirteen, he glanced at Marx for a moment and entertained his ideas for a day—and then rejected them. The Tory boy is “wise beyond his years”—and yet somehow he never moves beyond being “wise beyond his years”.

When I look at Hague, Shapiro, and Fuentes I just see large schoolboys in short pants. Yes, they have families—Fuentes excepted—and fine careers, yet do they have wisdom? No, since wisdom requires experience and to have experience you must have had youthful folly—and these boys were too good to be foolish, so they can only be whited sepulchres; they say wise things, they have said wise things since they were eleven, and yet it is all unfelt and unlived. These are not real men, these are boys—give them an apple for teacher and a pat on the head.

Fuentes and Shapiro have a little rivalry, since they occupy the same media space and appeal to the same demographics. This has been presented, by themselves as much as by anyone, as a Jew-Gentile showdown—or a struggle between Catholicism and Judaism, or between materialism and spirituality. The reality is that the rivalry exists because they are both two boys in short pants—being so alike, being “wise before their time”, they are natural rivals.

There is a cliché most famously attributed to the French Prime Minister, Clemenceau, that runs: “Anyone who is not a socialist before he is twenty-five has no heart, anyone who is a socialist after thirty-five has no brains.” A cliché, yet basically true. Another way to put it: before thirty you should have hopes and illusions, if you have hopes and illusions after thirty you have not matured. You begin to be responsible around twelve, you are a little adult then—however, as the US Constitution acknowledges in its minimum age requirement for the presidency, you only begin to approach maturity at thirty-five. It is only then that you can be considered ready to have an opinion on government.

Young people are unrealistic because they are still learning about the world; in this process they entertain illusions about it, and as they grapple with this process they occasionally discover genuinely novel aspects to reality nobody noticed before—although this is far from usual, for the most part they are just deluded. Maturity is a process whereby you are disillusioned, often completed when you no longer trust what your peer groups says—young people are endlessly concerned about being liked—and instead trust what you have seen. Once you have seen three women respond identically to the same chat-up line, for example, you will never see women so romantically again—you realise they do not have individuality like men. Once seen, it cannot be unseen: teenage romantic illusions vanish. By thirty-five, you will have seen many things.

The tragedy for people trapped in school prefect mode forever is that if they attain their ambitions—Hague did when he led the Conservatives in the 1990s—they are stiff and ineffectual. They are the type to have a Churchill bust on their desk, and yet Churchill careened around various parties and mostly acted in a generally “mad” way. Love him or hate him, Churchill was a man with his own experiences and views—not some kiss-ass A+ think-tank cretin who never said anything wrong, ever. You cannot get wisdom from books, you cannot get experience from books: the Tory boy spouts the wisdom—“Hard-working middle-class families need tax cuts,” he said to his parents at eleven-and-a-half, and then returned to his eggy soldiers—and yet it is all pro forma.

At base, right-wing views are about responsible engagement with reality. Young people have little to be responsible about—no house or family, basically—and, further, are often lost in illusions; and more often than not these illusions are designed to impress their friends. What is less understood by the right is that you can deviate from reality in a right-wing way—as the Tory boys do. They merely escape the worst because right-wing ideas are generally closer to reality, although not always isomorphic with it.

Enoch Powell was obsessed with being a frontline soldier in WWII because he had romantic notions about dying for the King Emperor in battle—as informed by Nietzsche, Carlyle, and Schopenhauer. As with many men with ultra-high intelligence, Powell was deeply impractical: he was a bad shot, a dangerous driver, and not a natural horse-rider. However, he could pick up a new language in about two weeks—knew about seven or eight at the time.

Reality dictated that a man like that should be where he was in fact placed: military intelligence—especially since he had mastered German. To put him in the frontline would have seen Powell himself die or endanger his fellow soldiers. Powell’s right-wing ideas—garnished with a somewhat neurotic and sentimental obsession with an early death—led him to think in a way that concealed reality. For my purposes, Powell was not rightist in this case because his refined right-wing notions defied common sense and concealed reality. In this respect, as a swot, Powell showed dangerous Tory-boy sentiments—as does anyone who is a “policy wonk” or who becomes too abstract in their intellectual affectations, no matter how “hierarchical” or “spiritual”. Reality is right wing, anything that deviates from reality—such as schoolboys who pretend to be men because they have learned to say the correct thing—constitutes a deviation to be pruned.


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