Optimism; or, the New Enthusiasm
March 31, 2019
It is striking that in this year of our Lord, 2016, we should hear the President of the United States, Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama, go up before his press corp to taunt Russia at such a Geo-politically fraught moment. This is blatant warmongering, and can serve no other purpose than to antagonize Russia. For a President as hell-bent on peace as we would expect Obama to be, the fact that he is now so brazen in his escalation of tensions is truly astonishing. More than astonishing even, I say striking. It is striking that a political persona as optimistic as Barack Obama would ever resort to such tactics.
One striking thing leads to another and I soon find myself struck by the eerie and unaccountable for darkness that has suddenly enshrouded the Democratic party (not to mention the media), a party formerly so well known for its bright and shining optimism, a party that was, until only just recently, proudly proclaiming that America was “already great”.
During Obama’s reign the Middle East has achieved a level of instability unprecedented in recent memory. How much Obama himself is to blame is matter open for debate, as certainly the foreign policies of previous Presidents have exerted more influence over the situation than he has so far been able to affect by his yet incomplete exertions. Deciding this question either way is not the matter with which we are here presently concerned, rather I propose only a leisurely stroll down memory lane in order to comment on a particular instance which I, in my way, find most striking and worthy of your present consideration.
You may recall, that little over 5 years ago, a thing transpired which we then termed ‘The Arab Spring,’ that we were a little ahead of ourselves in so conceptualizing it is a fact apparent to anyone who takes a moment to survey the aftermath of the event by opening up, or rather, logging on to any newspaper. What I mean to say is that the situation is fucked. A terrorist State unlike any we have previously dealt with has attempted to declare itself sovereign over parts of Iraq and Syria. Russia and the United States battle with each other for international influence on a stage built from bodies. Angry refugees storm the shores of Europe and require little persuasion to take up arms against the West, who they (rightly) see as the cause for the majority of their people’s misery. The poster-child of the Arab Spring, Egypt, is still under provisional Military rule. And, rather than massing a revolution to establish the Moral State necessitated by our Reason, Libya has established Anarchy and Violence in the place of Law. (And I should not have to remind the reader that it was the current administration who aided and abetted this transition.)
To call this current state of affairs an improvement over anything would be a proposition ridiculous in the extreme. But, please recall, there was a time when the changes that brought all this about seemed most favorable to our media, for they are, I believe, a worse pack of raging Optimists than you will be able to find anywhere else on Earth. What do I mean by this? You must surely be asking yourself, for isn’t it most usually asserted of our media that they are base, that they all a bunch of cynics profiting from the humiliation and suffering of others? This may be true, but I say also that they are Optimists, Ideologically so. They may be motivated in most practical regards by ratings and readership, but their belief is invested in the IDEOLOGY OF OPTIMISM.
The concept of an Arab Spring is a poetic metaphor inartfully drawn, which attempts to convey to the imagination of the listener a blossoming of secular institutions. The Arab Spring, would be pervaded by the charming song of the Nightingale, (gay?) lovers would embrace beneath the beaming moon and around them a fairy world of parliamentary democracy and international law would spring forth in the deepening evening of Islamo-Fascism. Islamic Terrorism, furthermore, would be completely ended by such an event, as this hoped for transformation would naturally erase the root cause of the entire phenomenon, which is to be taken as merely a symptom of deeper structural issues.
Revolutions should never inspire such a fit of Optimism as the Arab Spring engendered among Western Media onlookers. We should endeavor instead to be Neptunian in our outlook, and like Goethe, we should always place Order over Justice. We should always look with suspicion upon a revolution wherever we find it, for rarely are such things found to do anyone much good in the long-term, and if one or two have ended happily, surely they are exceptions, and are instances rarely to be met with in the History of Man.
A Revolution is only an opportunity to affect change, and there are opportunities of both a big and little variety. Little opportunities favor only little changes, and when one is not trying to change much, there is little reason for the contest over what the change should be to be too acrimonious. A Revolution, however, is the biggest opportunity of all. Power is up for grabs, Constitutions may be rewritten, only the losing faction(s) will be subject to punishment for their tactics and actions during the period of upheaval. There is a lot at stake, and for that reason, the contest will be decided using whatever violence the participating parties are capable of.
To value Revolution as a good in and of itself is to privilege a certain narrative above whatever may c0me. This is the narrative of transcendental tensions resolving themselves in a catharsis of history, namely a Political Revolution. The continual production of this narrative has become the sole goal of our current culture. This narrative is, ostensibly, one of Optimism, it is a narrative of reconciliation of disconnected classes and groups of people through violence, through the overthrow of a prospering Master Caste which is ethnically or economically fortified against any affront to its power by the Masses.
It should always be remembered that History does not possess a narrative all its own, least of all one that we may discern as easily as many suppose to. Our Narratives are models, they are all our own, Man constructs them in his Freedom, and utilizes them to Conceptualize what he has no choice but to encounter. It is only in this regard that man is Free. He is free to form his own conceptions of things, his own models and archetypes, his own stories. It does not change the World around him, the World still impresses itself on him with the Force of Physical Necessity. Yet he remains Free to Cognize as he will all the same. It is therefore for this reason that he is best served by Conceiving things in a manner that comes to terms with the irresistible nature of reality. By doing so he is best able to overcome obstacles and deal with whatever circumstances befall him.
Optimism pervades our political media, as mentioned above, it’s not unfair to call it their predominating Ideology. It is an Optimism about History, an optimism that Ideals rule out in the end, because History itself is structured by Ideals of the mind for Harmony and the Synthetic Resolution of bitter antinomies. Certainly this sort of Optimism has defined the political outlook of figures like Obama, he professes it endlessly in his speeches. It is this Optimism which has won him the approbation of much of the Press. It is the source of his Prestige, the reason he won the Nobel Peace Prize, but we see plainly how easily Circumstance may render Optimism pernicious. It was the Optimism of our leaders that caused them to block peace talks in Syria, their Optimism that History will prevail, that the Story has an ending, an ending determined by our Ideal.
Conservatism is sometimes dismissed by Revolutionary Rightists as an ideology of inaction, of institutionalizing the change of the previous generation by upholding it as Tradition. Though this is not unfair, I am reminded of the words of Goethe, that “All that intelligence and hard work created in times past, intelligence and hard work have now to conserve.” Everything is always dying, the idea that something as delicate, as precarious, as Civilization is somehow sturdy enough to survive 10 years let alone 10,000 is absurd, as it cannot be denied, that for some members it always appears to coming to its ultimate ruination. It is not that those who claim this are all wrong, or all liars, they are all, for the most part, usually correct, that their small corner of Society is collapsing and on the point of finally ending once and for all. Not just the threat, but the actual presence of decay surrounds us as some noble generation, or some once-proud race is always on the verge of total extinction.
Conservatism is nothing more than a process of endlessly salvaging something useful and forgotten from the past in hopes that it may yet have some use for Humanity. Optimism is best tempered by the recognition that it must yield to necessity. Rather than attempting to realize a Moral End, politics must keep its view forever limited to the present, to the preservation of peace, to the working out of small compromises, to the task the mitigation of competing conceptions, of which mankind has an unlimited supply.
The responsibility of a State is not to the World first but to its citizens, and the responsibility of the Individual is first to himself. That it must be either or, between the Individual and Society is a nonsensical Political proposition, as it is Circumstance and Necessity that hold dominion over the Realm of the Political, and every situation requires a careful consideration of to whom we owe the first responsibility, which is sometimes, in all Reasonableness, ourselves. To live by a maxim opposed to this is to give all you have to charity and put yourself out on the street doing it.
To delusively pursue your belief in a pleasant fiction regarding the unfolding of history is naught but the rankest Optimism, to stew up a war in a far-off land because you hope to drudge up enough material for a happy ending to your story is the most twisted villainy imaginable. In this world of destruction we shouldn’t risk everything on an outcome Experience tells us is unlikely, and Philosophy teaches us, may altogether be nothing more than a soothing dream.