Michael Anton has written a piece for the Claremont Review of Books on what apparently is the latest representation of the alt-right: Are the Kids Al(t)right? It is a review of a book that he had previously never heard of (and the same goes for me): Bronze Age Mindset (BAM) by a person calling himself “Bronze Age Pervert” (BAP).
He was given the book by Curtis Yarvin, who brought the book to Anton who was hosting a small dinner at his home. Anton does not mention in the piece that Yarvin is better known as Mencius Moldbug. Probably everyone knows that except for me – I had to look him up.
Self-published in June 2018, BAM quickly cracked the top 150 on Amazon—not, mind you, in some category within Amazon but on the site as a whole. This for a book with no publisher and no publicist, whose author is not even known.
Add this to the very long list of current trends and in-the-know cultural mores of which I am oblivious, I guess.
BAP takes a flamethrower to one contemporary piety after another, left and right alike (but mostly left).
Anton is drawn to the book because it is one of the only books about the alt-right written by someone claiming to be on the alt-right. Anton notes that many issues raised by BAP are just those that one would expect from an alt-right book:
…sweeping generalizations about women, homosexuals, and, to a lesser extent, national and ethnic groups. Still others question or attack conventional wisdom on science, health, nutrition, and other topics, often referencing some obscure figure whom contemporary authorities dismiss as a crank. In perhaps the book’s most risible passages, BAP wonders aloud whether history has been falsified, persons and events invented from whole cloth, centuries added to our chronology, entire chapters to classic texts.
From this sweeping list, it is easy to understand how almost anyone who questions anything political, social, historical, or cultural would be labeled alt-right – or, as Anton puts it:
I know what the term means to the Left and to the mainstream media (apologies for the redundancy): “anyone to my right whom I can profitably smear as a Nazi.”
Yet Anton isn’t put off so quickly. For example, he gives BAP the benefit of the doubt on scientific concepts that Anton doesn’t understand because BAP is quite right on the concepts that Anton does understand.
So, what’s with this “Bronze Age” stuff?
BAP defines his title only once, calling the “Bronze Age mindset” “the secret desire...to be worshiped as a god!” … BAP does claim that men were stronger, faster, tougher, more manly—just better—in the old days.
Perhaps a side trip: The Bronze Age is identified roughly beginning around 3300 BCE and coming to an end around 1200 – 600 BCE, depending on which part of the world one is considering. It is supplanted by a period that has come to be known as the Axial Age:
During this period, according to [German philosopher Karl] Jaspers' concept, new ways of thinking appeared in Persia, India, China and the Greco-Roman world in religion and philosophy, in a striking parallel development, without any obvious direct cultural contact between all of the participating Eurasian cultures.
It is a remarkable period – both for its content and its coincidence in all corners of Europe and Asia. Jaspers writes of Confucius and Lao-Tse in China, and the development of all schools of Chinese philosophy; India produced the Upanishads and Buddha; Iran gave us Zarathustra; in Palestine, the major prophets including Isaiah and Jeremiah; from Greece, Homer and the philosophers – Parmenides, Heraclitus and Plato.
Everything implied by these names developed during these few centuries almost simultaneously in China, India and the West.
In other words, the development of everything that much of the world has come to understand about ethics, morals, the purpose of a human life well lived – all came in this period after the Bronze Age. And as C.S. Lewis has demonstrated, all pointing to a very similar view of ethical behavior and the purpose of human life. In other words, it was a time when much of humanity was in search of God.
But BAP wants us to look before this time for the solution to the current human condition – to a time of brute force, when men’s relationships were decided by brute force.
Where does this leave ethics in BAP’s offering?
“‘Ethics,’” BAP says in an aside, “is for cows”—sneer quotes his. That is not to say he rejects “teleology”—the idea that natural beings have intrinsic ends—per se. For BAP, life is “intelligent” but neither “designed” nor “evolved.” It aims at something, but not moral perfection or excellence.
Bronze Age ethics, apparently. But what this has to do with cows, I have no idea. In any case and for my purposes the details of BAP’s views are not really important, so I will move to Anton’s summary:
Rather than anticipate and litigate each individual charge, we can save time by bumping up a level, since all of BAP’s offenses fall under one broad heading, about which there can be no question he is sincere. BAP is, as noted, relentlessly hierarchical and this emphatically extends to human beings: the highest theme of Bronze Age Mindset is a sustained diatribe against the idea of human equality.
Anton notes that this idea of human equality, in many senses, is obviously false. But as BAP is writing an exhortation and not a philosophical argument, BAP need not concern himself with the more difficult questions – according to Anton:
The key political questions arising from this natural inequality are, first, how justly to apportion scarce goods among unequal claims to merit but equal claims to common citizenship; and, second, who gets to rule?
These are key questions, but ones that I will not get into here – beyond suggesting that the point about common citizenship is important (as opposed to equal claims by anyone who happens by), and the idea of ruling should be localized and decentralized if one is to respect individuals as human beings.
I don’t want to get into it here because this post is already getting pretty long, and I would rather talk about a movie. The Avengers: Endgame. We are told in this movie the following:
· The universe would have been destroyed if not for woman
· The most technologically advanced society in the world – and perhaps in the universe – is to be found in sub-Saharan Africa
· The most powerful superhero – one able to carry a ship from thousands of light-years in space back to earth in a matter of hours and able to fly through the most powerful alien ship in the universe like a missile, thus destroying it – is a woman (one who went from having long blonde hair to now sporting a masculine hairstyle)
· The next Captain America is black
· Thor is gay
· As Thor has abandoned his throne, the new King of Asgard – the remnants of which are by now in Norway – is a young black woman.
· With Vision and Iron Man dead, Captain America (the white one) old, and Thor gay, the superhero future is left pretty much to woman and people of color.
I am guessing that BAP and those who follow him were not big fans of this movie. And Anton knows why:
Which brings us back to the kids. The reason this book is important is because it speaks directly to a youthful dissatisfaction (especially among white males) with equality as propagandized and imposed in our day: a hectoring, vindictive, resentful, levelling, hypocritical equality that punishes excellence and publicly denies all difference while at the same time elevating and enriching a decadent, incompetent, and corrupt elite.
I would say that Anton nailed it.
And I have more bad news for my fellow conservatives: the talented kids who’ve found this book aren’t listening to us.
Why should they? Given their blatant hypocrisy in all matter, conservatives have proven useless in offering meaning to life or even offering examples of life well-lived – with church leaders and so-called conservative politicians parading war and supporting every social justice cause, with politicians constantly lying, with business leaders demonstrating a love for “crony” much more than any love for “capitalism” and free markets.
Conservatives have given us William F. Buckley, the Koch brothers, Bill Kristol, and George Will; Christianity has given us John Hagee and Pope Francis; in business we find Elon Musk and the pottage in charge of the likes of Google, Facebook and Twitter. The “kids” are given a choice: support the lies on the left or support the lies on the right. Who with even half a brain wants anything to do with that?
So, instead, they go searching…and find BAP. There are many points about the disease raised by BAP with which I agree, just as there are many points about the disease raised by socialists and others on the left with which I agree. The issue isn’t in identifying the disease – which has been done pretty well by many on all sides – the issue is in properly identifying the cure. The cure will not be found in a return to the Bronze Age as BAP proposes, nor will it be found in the destruction of everything that brought dignity to the human being as many on the left advocate.
I have found no better cure than a dialogue around liberty based on Natural Law – something far more comprehensive and meaningful than the thinness of pure libertarianism. Absent this and the gulf will only catastrophically continue to widen.