This article appears in Vol III Issue I: Republics
In the endless debates over which form of government is best suited to maximize life, liberty, and happiness, there is one crucial axis missing from tests of authoritarianism versus freedom, left versus right. That axis is time. If the passage of time degrades all things, that must certainly include the strength and fidelity of a people.
Membership to any church has now dipped below half of Americans, reaching a low of 47 percent in 2020, according to a Gallup poll. From 1940 through 2000, the figure flitted around the 70 percent mark, but has plummeted since then. Arguably, religiosity alone isn’t necessarily indicative of a nation’s moral stature. But, when weighed with extreme partisan division, deterioration of mental and physical health, and the death of the American Dream, we see a nation gutted of its vital spirit.
Looking back at the founders’ thoughts on the republic they had just formed, though they had taken care to avoid explicit religious references in the Constitution, they made clear the absolute necessity of a strong national religiosity.
As then-President John Adams said to the Massachusetts Militia on October 11th, 1798:
“We have no Government armed with Power capable of contending with human Passions unbridled by morality and Religion. Avarice, Ambition, Revenge…would break the strongest Cords of our Constitution as a Whale goes through a Net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
In 1787, the 81-year-old Benjamin Franklin also began his address at the Constitutional Convention by asking that each day’s session begin with prayers.
“The longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this Truth—that God governs in the Affairs of Men…I also believe without his concurring Aid, we shall succeed in this political Building no better than the Builders of Babel.”
The founders were no strangers to history, drawing heavily upon Roman history, legalism, and philosophy to form the foundation of this republic. They knew that, if unchecked and unmaintained, the entropy of time would eventually overcome a nation, no matter how well-formed its government may be.
That ancient religion has taken a backseat to postmodern wokism requires no extensive treatise to prove. It is so thoroughly embedded into the seat of American consciousness that it won’t easily be extricated even by a few terms of envisaged God Emperor heroes of the right.
So much of conservative thinking is anchored by operating in the leftist postmodern frame. When Peter Boghossian criticized the right for a lack of “positive vision,” conservatives jumped to defend their position. Boghossian aimed at conservatives’ “preoccupation” with kids at drag shows, funding for Ukraine, and wokeness, saying that these “invoke anger-based voting” and provide no “optimistic vision for the future.”
It reveals that many of us still earnestly believe that the perfect whitepaper or the perfect speech will unite the country and inspire a feel-good hallmark resolution to our crisis. It builds on the idea that the American population (and that of the contemporary West) is persuadable with a really fine argument.
The American public is not a graduate school lecture hall. It is not a symposium of critical thinkers. It is not even (at least not any longer) a religious blue-collar core of industrial workers supporting a vibrant manufacturing sector. It is so far flung from Adams’ “moral and religious” people, it severely begs the question: if the people have changed, does it necessitate the change of the form of government?
If you ask Curtis Yarvin, the answer is a soft monarchy structured like a corporation. If you ask the integralists, they’ll say we need a merger of state and religion. If you ask libertarians, they’ll say to limit government: okay, let’s bring our fists to the gun fight.
Regardless of the alternatives to a republican form of government, there is something deeply unsatisfying about these new conceptions of how to govern. Perhaps it is that they amount to the sordid admission that the American experiment has ultimately failed. Maybe it’s that they admit that in our current state, we are not fit for self-governance.
If changing the form of regime is not desirable, then what are we to do? It is tempting to aspire toward some sort of reseeding of traditional religion en masse. This is extremely unlikely and puts the cart before the horse. The sophisticated systems of world religions are not palatable to a population now predisposed to instant gratification and the endless heatsinks of attention that are our all-enveloping black screens. Do not throw pearls before swine. This is not a statement of contempt, but rather one of compassion. Spare the masses the Sisyphean burden of revivifying the West.
The oft-cited proverb to isolate our current zeitgeist in the grand cycle is: “Hard times create strong men. Strong men create good times. Good times create weak men. And, weak men create hard times.” If we are, debatably so, in the hard times—or at least entering into this phase—how are the “strong men” created?
We need the conscious creation of an aristocratic vanguard of vitality. It must be led by those rare individuals who shoot guns and read books. Those who can wax philosophical but knock back some beers with the boys. Those who can dissect postmodernism with the precision of James Lindsay, but know when social camouflage may demand keeping your power level hidden.
When the people are in such a state as they are now, the last thing they will follow are the paper gods of generations past. They will follow the tastemakers, the big mouths, the flashy ones, the absolute units. I understand that this can be construed as idolatry and heresy. That may be, but we need to get our hands dirty for the work of re-founding America.
To draw from Substack anon P.C.M. Christ:
The Right’s former purpose of preservation has been destroyed as the Left has now become institutional. Yes, we can rebuild. Yes, we must start again. But it must be proactive. It must be a renaissance of thought, rather than a return. It cannot be the rote learning and regurgitation of ancient wisdom and twentieth century political theory. We no longer have the luxury of pointing toward history or even science to support our ideas. All of these, their reputation and meaning, have been deformed, even in our own minds. Even the moral structures of old have become our prisons.
We got a taste of this energy from Trump, of course. Next, from Andrew Tate, as nefarious as he might prove to be. We see it in Bronze Age Pervert. We even saw it in early Jordan Peterson, who has lost some steam since the beginning of his integration into institutional conservatism. (For what it’s worth, he’s still likely a net positive).
If you could wet your finger and feel the cultural jetstream, it would reveal the gushing energy of iconoclasm. That leftism is now the institution, and its agents are so desperately trying to conserve their foothold, should point out this next necessary evolution for the right. Rather than just by prose, the path forward may be better communicated via the visual aesthetic of the powerful sculptor Fen de Villiers, whose heroic, angular forms cut right through postmodern miasma. As he writes in his own words:
“The solution to all of this is to breed our own avant-garde and start creating truly spirited and vital expressions. This will act as an aesthetic blowtorch, burning through to fresh fertile ground. The fire is there; it just needs oxygen.”
And as powerful as figureheads can be, the real work of re-moralizing the West will happen horizontally, among peers, rather than from on high—at least at first. Find a guru (choose them wisely) and become a guru. Lead a band of brothers to glory, in both seemingly trivial and profound moments. This isn’t the wispy grassroots bottom-up attitude of the collectivist progressives. This is the primal building block. As writer Jack Donovan said in The Way of Men:
“Human societies start with the gang, and then grow into nations with sports and a climate of political, artistic, and ideological competition. Eventually—as we see today—average men end up with economic competition and a handful of masturbatory outlets for their caged manhood. When a civilization fails, gangs of young men are there to scavenge its ruins, mark new perimeters, and restart the world.”
Above all, in your heart of hearts, keep yourself oriented to the ancient God—no one has to know.
Only Patrons can comment on articles.