Despite the evident failure of leftist social theory, so-called ‘establishment’ conservatives have failed to re-shape popular culture. One explanation is that ‘establicons’ blithely accept the moral authority of the ideas upon which their opponents’ ideology is founded
That a profound malaise has struck conservative thought throughout the contemporary West, particularly across the Anglosphere, is an axiom of the political zeitgeist. Strong circumstantial evidence of this is the peculiar situation in which political outsiders – sometimes obvious non-conservatives such as Wilders in the Netherlands or Trump in the United States – successfully express anxieties that would ordinarily define the fears and aspirations of the electoral centre-right, but which are systematically censored from the political debate by the candidates of more ‘respectable’ parties in the so-called ‘moderate’ centre.
Recent attempts to revitalise opposition to the ‘progressive’ behemoth have obtained mixed results: Despite receiving almost 13 per cent of the popular vote at the last general elections, UKIP won one seat while losing another, and thus failed to increase its strength in the House of Commons beyond a single MP. Even as the third largest electoral force in British politics, the party’s recent and decisive defeat in the Oldham West and Royton by-election dampened any enthusiastic predictions of an imminent shift in the party-political culture of Albion. Meanwhile, faux-conservatives in Canada have been vanquished by the son of an iconic ’60s progressive statesman, New Zealand’s conservative government has assimilated leftist policies for the sake of perceived electoral ‘relevance’, less than impressive candidates for the US Republican presidential elections have been consistently overshadowed by an outsider whose political future remains hotly debated, and Australia’s maverick Senator Cory Bernardi, despite being widely popular among core constituencies of the popular centre-right, remains largely isolated form his governing party’s power centre (for now).
Conversely, the recent elections in Poland have seen the literal eviction of all explicitly leftist parties from its houses of parliament, ushering in a new era in which ex- and post-communists have been wholly ejected from the country’s executive and lawmaking branches for the first time in history. The President and Premier (Andrzej Duda and Beata Szydło respectively) have wasted no time in preparing sweeping reforms, appointments and changes to the administrative sector, security apparatus and the nation’s Constitutional Tribunal, perhaps paving a way to a national renovation similar to that of its southern neighbour, Hungary. With the earlier victory and consolidation of Budapest’s conservative government under Viktor Orbán, this represents an interesting trend towards a nationally assertive right at least in Central Europe, where a genuine third way seems to be gaining popular traction against the cultural imperialism of Brussels and the political imperialism of a revanchist Moscow.
Given the different social background to each of these electoral phenomena, immediate comparisons can only be superficial, necessarily reductionist and may therefore lead a policy analyst to error when attempting to devise a unified theory of how best to confront the political left at the ballot box. No such unified theory exists because local politics are always a function of the local people, their specific history and particular culture. However, glimmers of reactionary success anywhere across the turbulent social landscape of the West can illustrate that, to borrow from the parlance of the revolutionary agitators of decades past: another world – is indeed – possible.
These reflections follow the predictable – and indeed predicted – events in Paris of 13 November 2015. Cultural elites from across the Continent through to London, New York and Canberra, those who set the tone for ‘polite’ discourse on topics such as immigration and citizenship need to be incessantly reminded that what occurred in France was entirely avoidable; had they only heeded the warnings of those they were instead busy denouncing as unworthy of political acknowledgment, as embarrassing affronts to the enlightened sensibilities of a post-Cold War universalist, end-of-history ‘consensus’, and routinely defamed as ‘nativists’, ‘extremists’, ‘bigots’, and the like.
And yet, despite the obvious and evident failure of leftist social theory, so-called ‘mainstream’ or ‘establishment’ conservatives on the whole are incapable of shaping what one might expect to be a popular culture in desperate search for an alternative to the status quo.
One explanation for this – but undoubtedly the most important – is that these ‘establicons’ seem to accept the moral authority of the principles and ideas upon which their ostensible opponents’ ideology is founded. This acceptance creates mental reflexes that are indistinguishable from linear Whiggish historical determinism, and which necessarily leads to putatively ‘conservative’ positions that are, on closer inspection, merely a rearticulation of fundamentally leftist concepts or ideals. Occasionally one can see the liberal pathogen infect the thought-lines of purported critics of the establishment, even those who identify with the academic right itself. When these are encountered, it is important to illustrate how they fail to offer a viable counter to the encroaching steamroller of ‘progress’.
In “Turning the West into a Wasteland” (Daily Telegraph, 1 October 2015) Dr. Kevin Donnelly of the Australian Catholic University acknowledges the oppressive hegemony of left-liberalism in Australia’s cultural and political discourse. However, he makes the fatal mistake of relying on Somali anti-Islam activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali in support of his appeal to defend the intellectual legacy of the West. Ali’s advice is to “inculcate into the minds and hearts of young people an ideology or ideas of life, love, peace and tolerance.” In a fatal blow to his own argument, Donnelly concludes that “these are the very attributes that define Western civilisation, which is why it must be defended.” (emphasis added)
Of course Donnelly is dead wrong. Ali’s “ideology or ideas” are precisely what have enervated Western political culture in the face of a robust and self-confident albeit primitivist opponent beyond our borders, and a disingenuous champion of deracinated radical egalitarianism within. While the West’s vulnerability is correctly blamed on cultural relativism, Donnelly does not seem to appreciate that appeals to “love, peace and tolerance” all too often translate into doctrinaire non-discrimination in policy and law, wholesale acceptance of the Other in cultural discourse (indeed, the more Other, the more she is accepted) and provides the sentimentalist impulse towards the very relativism which is identified as the root of the problem: from ‘all love is equal’ to ‘refugees welcome’.
Let us recall that Angela Merkel’s risible contribution to the global hand-wringing post Paris 13/11 was to reemphasise “compassion”, “charity”, “the joy of the community” and of course “tolerance” as a response to the terrorist attacks. These are the attributes of an ideology that has paralysed the West into impotence before a medieval aggressor, not the defining qualities of a particular civilisation that appears to be under constant attack from without and within. Effeminate abstracta are the reason for the reflexive patheticism that characterises public responses to entirely avoidable catastrophes, from the New York World Trade Centre and London tube attacks, the Bali and Madrid Bombings, and onwards: public weeping, mind-numbingly vacuous sloganising, and the sub-juvenile belief that “flowers and candles will protect us” from Islamist AK47s and exploding vests.
More importantly – and returning to the malaise in modern rightist thought – it also blinds conservatives by sentimentalising tragedy and therefore making genuine reaction to its underlying cause largely impossible: pace the liberal status-signalling grief-stricken mob, we are not Charlie Hebdo. It is more than a little ironic that a militantly secular republic has been targeted by a religion whose vendetta against the People of the Cross dates back to the seventh century. It is perhaps a kind of perverse poetic justice that Islamists see what Western liberal secularists refuse to for their hatred of Throne and Altar: that enlightenment values would not exist were it not for the Christian cultural bedrock from which they sprung.
Nevertheless, to the conservative who sees Europe as inseparable from its Christian history, we are not Paris circa 2015 either. An overdose of “love, peace and tolerance” renders the defenders and advocates of Western civilisation incapable of discerning with what and whom they should declare their solidarity in times of crisis. Conservatives of any description embarrass themselves when they stand shoulder to shoulder with an ideology that has not only paved the way towards its own self-destruction, but has demonstrated no “love, peace and tolerance” towards Christians or cultural traditionalist themselves.
Thus cultural Marxists and local Jihadi sympathisers alike have effectively weaponised our weaknessesby turning what the generation of ‘68 erroneously believes is our civilisational ‘essence’ against us. It is counterproductive to pretend that these weaknesses represent the fundamentals of who and what we are, as Ali, Donnelly and countless others in the mainstream parties of the self-described centre-right routinely do. Stressing the ‘softer’ aspects of Western society in the face of those who reject their underlying liberal assumptions or refuse to ‘play nice’ becomes a kind of thought retarding auto-immune deficiency. Decontextualized calls to mercy without a sense of cultural fortitude or national identity eventually beget the politics of surrender. It leads to what is sometimes described as pathological altruism, a selective moral outrage, willing blindness and the inability to take one’s own side in a conflict of competing group interests, all under the impulse of compassion über alles. Why else is it that the names Trayvon Martin and Aylan Kurdi are globally recognisable but not Jonathan Foster or any of the ‘Rotherham 1400’?
What Donnelly appeals to is therefore part of the oppressive liberal hegemony that he otherwise rightly decries and denounces. This is the political theology of the Australian uterati, from Penny Wong to Peta Credlin; its presence within ‘conservative’ ranks has proven to be an utter disaster and it ought to be wholly rejected in favour of another model, more appropriate for the times. Conservatives who have systematically suffered defeat in the Culture Wars should have learned by now: you can’t nice you way out of the present mess. How often do they need to be crash tackled in the field before they recognise that we’re no longer playing cricket, and haven’t been for a number of decades?
This essay appears in the July-August edition of Quadrant.
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It is a self-evident fact that the era of ‘soft power’ is over, unless we are bargaining with people who share the same virtues as we. Otherwise, we cannot afford an infantalised political culture, one focused on ‘social justice’ instead of (actual) justice at home, foreign policy by tweeted emoticon, a belief that diversity is more important than not living in a police state, a political elite obsessed with exporting ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’ thus reducing North Africa and the Middle East to a Breugelesque nightmare, or a naïve internationalism that has imported it onto the capitals of Europe and her settler nations abroad. This leftist stupidity simply cannot be survived, and the sentimentalist cult on which it is based is at its very heart.
What we need is less “love, peace and tolerance” and more responsible governance, sobriety of thought and a re-acknowledgment of concepts that were obvious to our forefathers but which our present political betters, in their ‘enlightened’ pretentions, feel can be ignored without consequence. And here we come to a compounded error of relying on intangible abstracts as definitive “attributes” of the West: conceiving civilisation in these terms creates a mental framework that is not readily capable – or indeed rejects outright – any particularist definitions of community. This too is identical to the progressive worldview and only reinforces the social pathologies that logically arise from it: the denial of reality and the cult-like doubling-down of cultural commissars to ensure ideological conformity in the public square.
Thus Lawrence Auster’s first law of minority-majority relations has it that “the worse any designated minority or alien group behaves in a liberal society, the bigger become the lies of Political Correctness in covering up for that group.” Similarly, Takuan Seiyo identifies the “quadruple blindfold” of how liberal society manages minority-majority relations, the last of which states that “cuddly feelings” about the hostile group “or implanted feelings of guilt relative to it” trump any observable evidence of its incompatibility with the host’s cultural norms or standards. Political correctness, cuddly feelings, guilt, love, peace and tolerance: the poison cocktail our present leaders imbibe, from left to so-called ‘right’.
The West can no longer tolerate wishful thinking turned into social policy; the risk of public attachments to the childish fantasies of yesteryear are unacceptably high and the future of Western politics requires an underlying attitude more virile and self-confident if it is to survive. That this new model will likely resemble an older paradigm should be no cause for shock or surprise. As Michael Tung emphasises in the 2015 Symposium of the Sydney Traditionalist Forum:
“This is because the State and the political sphere are inherently masculine. To deviate from this is to feminise politics and detach the State from its higher, supra-individual aims […] it is precisely since the Hearth of Vesta has encroached upon the altars and debating chambers that these institutions have taken such a turn for the worse.”
Reflecting on the ethos of the Australian and New Zealand military tradition, Tung identifies particularly fraternal camaraderie as the essential foundation upon which “the decisions and sacrifices that only men can make, and are expected to” can flourish:
“The Australian and Kiwi tradition of ‘mateship,’ encapsulating stoic ideals of solidarity, peer equality, and irreverent respect – consecrated by the Männerbund of ANZAC – springs from the same taproot as the Spartan Ὅμοιοι.”
Note well that the “equality” and “solidarity” referred to here is experienced in a framework of a particular culture and community. Contrary to Donnelly, Ali et al, lofty notions are not “attributes that define Western civilisation” because culture and nationhood is no epiphenomena. Instead, it is the product of a particular people with an intimately shared history, going back many generations within a broadly defined geographic region (and in the case of the Anglosphere, extended by colonial settlement or conquest). The ethos described by Tung is antithetical to the politics of “peace, love and tolerance” and the indiscriminate openness, acquiescence and passivity that it naturally engenders in the face of hostile competitors for geographic or political space.
Likewise, any focus on “ideology or ideas” will not only lead towards the dangerous emotionality of the liberal status quo, it also makes advocacy for the particularist definition of a people practically impossible. Compare this to Poland’s Mariusz Błaszczak, who recently declared that his newly elected government’s decisions will be uncompromisingly steered by considerations of national security. In relation to the incessant demands of Eurocrat elites, namely that the flood of ‘refugees’ from ‘Syria’ must be spread across all EU member states in the spirit of ‘solidarity’, he asks rhetorically: “is distributing the infected a solution to an epidemic?” In a similar tone, Orbán warns that the present crisis “could change the face of Europe’s civilisation.”
Though this may strike a distant onlooker as somewhat indelicate by present sensibilities, it is those sensibilities that are the problem and not what is being said by these Central Europeans. Given the gravity and proximity of the crisis, Orbán’s and Błaszczak’s words are entirely understandable and apt. Far from being heartless, their attitude actually manifests an “equality” and “solidarity” that is couched in notions of community and public service – their community, their public. Assuming that democratic mandates and national interest means anything in the context of conservative electoral victories, no other policy could be more politically legitimate for an elected parliamentarian facing unprecedented demographic (and therefore cultural-political) catastrophe on his continent. It is only a pity that our own national leaders, Abbott or Turnbull alike, haven’t taken a stand similar to the Visegrad Gorup’s.
Instead, in their attempts to build a society on the politics of “love, peace and tolerance”, the utopian ideologues of yesteryear are clearing the path for the growth of eventual totalitarianism at home. France, as well as the rest of the continent in the near to nearer future, is in the process of painfully learning one important lesson that will likely characterise the internal political development of multicultural states over the next century: one can live in a secure community with high levels of interpersonal trust, or one can have laissez faire ‘diversity’. Presently, our moral and political betters have chosen the false security of an eventual police state whose coercive apparatus is necessary to keep the babbling colossus forcefully together. There is a term for this, anarcho-tyranny: tyranny from above to keep the anarchy below from spilling over into the streets.
If the reader believes that Australia will somehow be an exception to this degenerative ratchet, he should ask himself why Section 18C is still on the books, and why police and prosecutorial powers seem always to expand, never contract. There will come a time when blind ideological commitments to Orwellian mantras or fatuous conceits such as ‘subscription identity’ (a.k.a. ‘magic dirt theory’) will almost certainly be remembered as the political equivalent of phrenology and flat-earthism. Why? Because if identity is reduced to a list of ephemeral criteria it becomes wholly intangible, and in the context of a modernist culture of banality and permissivism, ultimately meaningless. Inculcating into the minds of young men an ideology of “love, peace and tolerance” will hardly inspire the virtues necessary to defend the hearth and all the secondary luxuries so dear to the apostles of secular liberalism. Instead, it will serve only to reinforce the culture of self-effacement.
Is it any wonder therefore that talking-heads of what Paul Gottfried refers to as the “alternative left” rarely if ever speak about anything concrete and therefore real? Modern mainstream conservatism has thus become anonymous by way of its appeals to abstract universals which are – at their core – indistinguishable from the political theology of its declared opponents. Sadly, these are all self-inflicted wounds; mainstream conservatives petrified of offending their opponents can blame no one but themselves for the hopelessness of current attempts at political reaction against the bitter fruit of progressives’ cultural and political hegemony.
Romantic Utopians of the twentieth century were once drawn to the magnetic promise of secular salvation that the ideological left offered its acolytes and subscribers. But today it is the universalist, anonymous and uninspiring mainstream of the nominal ‘right’ itself that has assumed the mantle of abstract, materialist and sentimentalist utopianism. By having nothing tangible or rooted in historical experience to offer the hearts and minds of Western Men, there is no reason to doubt that it too will go the same way as the morally bankrupt Cold War Left. The question is, what will replace it: The so-called ‘Kalifat’? A Rainbow Soviet? Or something else? Whatever it might be, it does not appear that the present conservative establishment has the competence or courage to provide a genuine alternative to the dominant worldview. Unless it starts thinking for itself – and on its own terms – it will remain but another obstacle that sincere defenders of the West will need to traverse and overcome.
Edwin Dyga last wrote about the future of Conservative politics in Australia in the October issue of Quadrant, 2014. A footnoted version of this article is available at Quadrant Online.
 For a recent elucidation of political developments in Poland: see Ryszard Legutko, “Letter from Warsaw” Quadrant Vol. 60 issue 1-2 (No. 523) (January February 2016) pp. 70-72.
 Kevin Donnelly, “Turning the West into a Wasteland” Daily Telegraph (1 October 2015) p. 25.
 “Merkel: Antwort auf Terror müssen Nächstenliebe und Toleranz sein” [“Merkel: response to terror must be charity and tolerance”] Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten (online) (14 November 2015 @ 13:19 DST) <deutsche-wirtschafts-nachrichten.de> (accessed 23 December 2015) at ¶ 6 of block quote therein.
 Nicola Oakley, “How do you explain the Paris terror attacks to a child? This father found the most beautiful way” Daily Mirror (online) (17 November 2015 @ 11:37, updated 17:18) <mirror.co.uk> (accessed 23 December 2015) passim.
 Lawrence Auster, “Clarifying the First Law” View from the Right (blog) (14 November 2007) <www.amnation.com/vfr> (accessed 23 December 2015) passim.
 Takuan Seiyo, “Oppression Instead of Admission: Part II” Gates of Vienna (blog) (23 January 2015) <gatesofvienna.net> (accessed 23 December 2015) at § 1 under second sub-heading.
 Michael Tung, “Ride That Tiger; or The Party’s an Ass” SydneyTrads – Weblog of the Sydney Traditionalist Forum (17 October 2015) <sydneytrads.com> (accessed 23 December 2015) at ¶ 10.
 K.G., “Ostra reakcja Błaszczaka na słowa Schulza: Jest oderwany od rzeczywistości” [“Błaszczak’s blunt reaction to (President of the EU Parliament, Martin) Schulz: he is divorced from reality”] Onet Wiadomości (online) (17 November 2015 @ 8:24 CEST) <wiadomosci.onet.pl> (accessed 23 December 2015) at ¶ 6.
 “Migration threatens European civilisation, says Hungary PM” The Telegraph (online) (2 June 2015 @ 3:51 BST) <telegraph.co.uk> (accessed 23 December 2015) at ¶ 2.
For a rightist critique of the Abbott Government, see this writer’s “Reflections Over a Political Wasteland” The European Conservative No. 13 (Winter/Spring, 2016).
 For a justification of this term in the European and US contexts, see generally: Paul Edward Gottfried, The Strange Death of Marxism: The European Left in the New Millennium (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2005); also by the author, Conservatism in America: Making Sense of the American Right (New York: Palgrave, 2007) Chapter 6 passim.