Monday, February 26, 2024

Diary of a Madman


Real liberation required a total break from the legacy of Western values.  In fact, it could come to demand the repudiation of values altogether – what Nietzsche called the “transvaluation of all values.”

An entirely new culture was needed – one that was vigorous, fearless, and free from the values of the past.

The road from Bayreuth, it might be said, ultimately led to Woodstock.

The Age of Nihilism: Christendom from the Great War to the Culture Wars, by John Strickland

This book by Strickland is the fourth in a four-part series in which he examines the trajectory of Western Christianity and Christendom, this from the view of an Eastern Orthodox priest and professor.  I have noted before, while I do not agree with all of his comments and conclusion, I do appreciate his perspective and also his dedication to this project.

In this volume he begins with Nietzsche.  Actually, he introduces Nietzsche by beginning with Wagner.  Nietzsche’s introduction to a social life, such as it was, came when he entered the orbit of Wagner.  He became a regular in Wagner’s drawing room; the center of discussion was music – Wagner’s music.   It sounds very Randian; it will get more so.

Eventually Nietzsche would see in Wagner a narcissist, an egoist blinded by contempt for anyone who failed to take up the Wagnerian cultural cause.  Still, his music would inspire Nietzsche.  One of Wagner’s characters, Siegfried, would declare war on morality, overthrowing everything traditional.  He would surpass God in that he would act without moral constraint.  These lyrical themes were combined with Wagner’s brilliant and exciting music, truly captivating and intoxicating an audience.

For Nietzsche, this overthrowing of tradition meant not just Christianity, but also secular humanism.  The moving away from traditional Christianity was nothing new in the West; its elites had long ago done this.  but they would hold to traditional Christian values and culture – for as long as the latter could survive without the former.  Nietzsche was there to drive this point home.

Wagner would live the life that Nietzsche would come to write about.  Regarding the traditional culture of the West, Wagner turned out to be a believer in nothing.  A serial adulterer, he would leave his first wife.  He carried on affairs with married woman, with at least one bearing his child.  Nietzsche found all of this carrying on unseemly, yet through Wagner’s music he could see the hypocrisy of bourgeois society.

Orgies, adultery, free love: these themes were present throughout Wagner’s work.  Nietzsche would find inspiration here for Zarathustra – his prophet of a new morality, which was no morality at all, but the destruction of Christian morality.  Nihilism: nothing; human life was meaningless, nothing is absolute.

Transcendence was long ago lost to the West, replaced by the ideologies of liberalism, socialism, and nationalism – all counterfeits of traditional Christianity.  A fertile ground for advancing to the state of nothing.

Nietzsche would eventually break with Wagner.  Wagner’s final opera seemed to reverse or at least qualify the nihilistic qualities he had always claimed to hold and that were present in his work.  The hero in this work renounces power; he also realizes the suffering caused by unchastity.  Even the Eucharistic communion played a prominent role.

Nietzsche would write of this break:

“The moment I make a discovery of this sort, a man’s achievements count for absolutely nothing with me.”

From this moment, Nietzsche would be his own man.  He would note that modern philosophy is anti-Christian, although it would try to function as if there was a transcendent reality.  Yet, the rise of atheism resulted, necessarily, in the loss of moral absolutes.  “God is dead.”  There was no longer a point of reference for good and evil.

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Where the Road to Utopia Leads


[Lenin’s] response, formalized soon after [his return from exile] was that the Bolsheviks would support the Provisional Government “as a noose supports a dying criminal.”

The Age of Utopia: Christendom from the Renaissance to the Russian Revolution, by John Strickland

NB: As you read this, consider inserting today’s west, especially the United States, in the story – replacing what the Russian communists would do with what is happening today in America.  I know it is a bit of a tired comparison, but it comes out well in this story – the attempt at creating utopia via creation of a new man.

After two years of war, the Russian government was brought to its knees.  Setback after setback was ascribed to the Russian army, with a speech in the Duma concluding with the rhetorical question: “Is this stupidity, or is this treason?”

On February 28, 1917, Tsar Nicolas II would abdicate the throne.  A Provisional Government was established, but it had no credibility; Russia must continue fighting in the war!  This is not what the people wanted to hear.  In any case, soon enough other parties would claw for power.

In April, Lenin would return.  By October, with the help of Trotsky and Stalin, he would arrange the arrest of those in government.  All power had passed into the hands of the soviets – the councils.  In reality, power passed to Lenin and his supporters.  When objections to this were raised, Trotsky would shout them down – you have played your role, get out, you worthless individuals.

Utopia was promised, with the complete dismissal, even attempted erasure, of Christianity.  The Russian Revolution brought this long sweep of history to its climax:

It was the outcome of an age in which indignation, once regulated by humility and subjected to sacrificial love, became completely untethered to any greater virtues.

Per Marx, Christianity was an instrument of oppression.  As long as religion existed in society, it was a sign that class oppression existed.  For this reason, the Orthodox were seen as enemies just as the bourgeoisie were seen as enemies.

Numerous martyrdoms are recounted by Strickland.  Thousands of clergy and an uncountable number of laity were put to death.  One story stands out, that of Grand Duchess Elizabeth.  Born in Germany, she was the daughter of a Lutheran prince.  She would marry into the Russian royal family, and though it was not required, she converted to Orthodoxy. 

In 1905, her husband was killed in the uprisings of that year.  Yet, she visited the killer in jail, imploring him to repent.  Elizabeth would thereafter give away much of her wealth and build a monastery in which she would spend the rest of her life, where she would spend her time in prayer and care for the poor. 

1n 1918, the Communists came for her.  Besides her royal ties and German ancestry, her compassion for the poor was seen as a challenge to the communists’ goals.  Sent east, past the Ural Mountains, she, along with others, was cast down an abandoned mineshaft.  When many survived the fall, a hand grenade was dropped to the bottom, ending all cries.

Supposedly fought for the benefit of the common man, these Soviet leaders didn’t care at all about individual common men.  They spoke in the abstract of the proletariat, but would walk past them without note, or would lump them together with the bourgeoisie if they happened to disagree with Lenin in the slightest.

Friday, February 2, 2024

An Enemy of Liberty


Finally, after almost four months of genocidal behavior by the state of Israel and genocidal cheerleading by Walter Block, there is a response from someone meaningful in Block’s intellectual orbit and not just from a random libertarian affiliate of Block’s or a random bug like me:

An Open Letter to Walter E. Block, by Hans-Hermann Hoppe

Block, to his credit, has published countless articles that pass muster by libertarian standards and there are likely many more to come…

Block has done this, no doubt.  He will remind anyone who will listen about how much he has published.  He will often write of someone with whom he has a disagreement, “we agree on perhaps 95% of all topics,” when writing of economics or the application of the non-aggression principle.

This is true for me as well: I agree with Block on all of the simple things: minimum wage, rent control, etc.  It is the important things – those things that contribute to a peaceful life that approaches and maintains liberty – where I find him an enemy of humanity and peace.  And his call for genocide is certainly one of these things.

Hoppe makes a rational, point-by-point, critique of Block’s claim that the Jews – as a group – had the right consistent with the non-aggression principle and Lockean property notions to displace Palestinians from their homes and land in 1948.  It is a topic that I covered six years ago, here.

Block’s argument hinges on, among other things, DNA and cultural continuity – neither passing muster from a libertarian viewpoint, and either opening the door for a war all against all – as we all have DNA and cultural characteristics from both past victims and past perpetrators.

On the DNA point, Hoppe makes an interesting comment:

(Interestingly, it appears that the closest genetic similarity to ancient Jews could be found among indigenous Christian Palestinians.)

Coincidentally, just a few days ago, Ron Unz wrote on exactly this point, within an article that covers extensively the DNA story of those who today are identified as Jews:

The tremendous historical irony that the current Palestinians—now suffering horrifying massacres in Gaza—are almost certainly the closest lineal descendants of the Biblical Israelites was highlighted by Sand and had been similarly emphasized by Beaty in his 1951 book.

As to the cultural continuity, I won’t – nor am I qualified to – go into much detail about the various meaningful changes in Hebrew / Jewish cultural practices through history.  It is clear that the Hebrew religious traditions at the time of Moses and Joshua and David were quite different than the traditions of Second Temple Judaism which are also quite different than the traditions that developed in the centuries after Christ.  (I touch on this second change here.)

Returning to Hoppe, he then moves on to the editorial co-written by Block about four months ago, which I had written on when I became aware of it. 

…it is this screed of his, then, that reveals Block as an unhinged, bloodthirsty monster, rather than a libertarian committed to the non-aggression-principle…

Yes, that’s how I felt about it at the time.  The evidence since then has only proven out what any thinking person knew was to come.