Some Things Are Worth Fighting For

There is an artistic temperament, and most people with it are concentrated on one particular side of the Great American Divide.

I’ve written on this topic before, discussing how “conservatives” seem unsuited to be good artists and culture creators. Hyper-individualism, a “desire to be just left alone, man!” and a focus on economics as every human being’s raison d’être lead them to not be artistic in the least. Or maybe it’s that modern mainstream conservatism is attractive to the un-artistic and actively anti-artistic. I don’t know.

Yes, I understand the right-leaning are frozen out of the arts and entertainment world. But their refusal to offer real resistance led to this predicament in the first place.

In the interests of full disclosure, I need to let you know that while I may have identified as a conservative in the past, I have fundamentally rejected that label for at least three years now, if not longer–I may have applied it to myself at some point on this blog, but what I used to consider “conservative” and what actual conservatives consider “conservative” have proven to be very different things. So for those of you Smart Boys and Girls who would try to catch me in a “lie,” go screw.

An excellent piece passed my way by friend Alexandru Constantin by Paul Krause of the (sigh) Imaginative Conservative  called “The Culture of Conservatism” touches on a lot of these points, though in a much more eloquent way than I am capable of. I’m going to focus on the money quotes near the end, although the entire article is worth reading in full.

First, Krause starts with an important point: defining what culture is and is not matters:

What is culture? “Culture War” has reentered the vocabulary of many people as of late, yet there is little evidence that people who openly embrace the concept of culture or “culture war” know what they are speaking of. Most reflections on the culture wars focus on anti-cultural things, namely, purely political ideals and policies. That is not culture.

He’s right, of course, that politics is not culture. Culture informs and drives politics, not vice versa. Everybody seems to have understood this until fairly recently. 

Skipping ahead to the end, we see that Krause understands what really moves people to act and change the way the think:

So-called conservatives who reduce culture to mere political principles and ideology show themselves as culturally deracinated. Conservatism is anti-ideological precisely because it is premised on a defense of culture and not the whimsical and fanciful dream of class and social rearrangement. Those who claim conservatism is ideologically centered on principles like free speech, equality, or freedom know not what they’re speaking of. That defense of culture is based on a defense of the history, identity, and mythological symbolism of the people that constitute the core of the culture. Conservatism is rooted in an enchanted aesthetic concerning the past which turns the consciousness of the contemporary generation to gaze fondly on the past and see the present as something beautiful and therefore worth preserving and growing forward.

Here, Krause distinguishes from the “so-called conservatives” of his first sentence, those focused on political principles, from what I’m assuming he considers actual conservatives, who understand what culture IS and how it must be defended.

I differ with Krause on the idea that being “anti-ideological” is somehow a good thing, which this seems to imply. You need to be for something if you want to get anywhere. You have to have a coherent plan. Further, basing an entire movement on playing defense is destined to lose. Nobody wins a war by not taking enemy ground or breaking the enemy’s will. And if it’s a culture war so-called conservatives or conservatives in fact want to fight, they’d better be prepared to get their hands dirty.

However, the idea that the ideals of the past, and a people’s culture–and therefore the present–are worth fighting for and preserving is a good thing. I just wish it was coupled with a desire to get out there and take a few scalps, metaphorically speaking.

Those who mock the arts, the humanities, and “candlelight poetry reading” (as I’ve heard on “conservative” talk radio before) have not the slightest inkling of understanding the phenomenon of culture, how it rises and how it dies. No wonder these “conservatives” constantly lose the culture war.

I have no quibbles with Krause on this score. So many conservatives don’t seem to understand the maxim they love to repeat ad nauseum, that “politics is downstream from culture.” If this is the case, where are the conservative millionaires and billionaires funding conservative culture? Where are the conservative movie studios designed to counter Hollywood’s propaganda? Isn’t that what the mainstream American right always talks about doing, building alternative institutions? So where’s the money? Where’s the infrastructure? A large part of creating the alternative has to be top-down, and I know this rankles many conservative’s inherent distrust of (certain) authority, but too bad. You don’t win a war, cultural or otherwise, without some type of organization. And spare me the “The Revolutionary War!” talk. The American army was organized and had leaders, don’t kid yourselves. 

By reducing culture and civilization to a few political principles, like free speech or free enterprise, these self-declared conservatives throw away everything that is necessary for conservatism to flourish: our history, our heroes, and our living tradition known as the humanities. Conservatives have a 4,000-year history stretching back to the Trojan War, Greek settlers, Rome, Christendom, to the Normandy Beaches. American conservatives, whose very existence in this long and enchanted understanding of the world and history depended on the Athenian victory at Salamis to Charles Martel’s victory at Tours and to Christopher Columbus’ fateful voyage, have the richest and deepest conservatism precisely because it is not parochial but expansive and takes in so much history and tradition. American conservatism (and Anglo conservatism more generally) has the roots of Hebraism, Greece and Rome, and Christendom as the base of its garden. Filled with all those heroes, poets, and battles; labors, miracles, and triumphs; it would be shameful to let that richness dry up and blandly talk about how free speech, open debate, and rule of law is all that constitutes culture.

The success of the Left in the culture war shows that the Left understands culture better than most conservatives do. The Left understands culture is rooted in memory and symbolism and so, in order to change a culture, they must make the contemporary generation look upon the past not with fondness but with hatred and revulsion. Because aesthetics is central to culture, those who see the past—the historic and mystic chords of memory—as something beautiful will defend it, nurture it, and pass it on to the next generation. Those who see the past as something ugly, filled with crimes, filled with injustices, will seek to “change” and do away with it. More acutely, they will destroy the past through the destruction of memory and promoting a negative receptivity to history and heroes.

This is beautifully said. The American conservative movement likes to reduce everything to economics and law. These things don’t get people fired up to act the way, say, a moral argument does. This is another way in which the left understands how to motivate people, while the right does not. However, the key point Krause makes that I want to highlight is the idea of aesthetics. THIS IS THE KEY.

What is the aesthetic of the left? You might sneer and say “Hippies!” and “Pink-haired SJWs!” and you’d be right . . . but that’s not the entire story. Hollywood is an aesthetic of the left. The music industry is an aesthetic of the left. These are far more powerful than any think tank whitepaper extolling the benefits of corporate tax cuts. There is also the fact that moral arguments are more powerful than economic arguments, but let’s stick to the cultural and aesthetic component for the purposes of discussing Krause’s piece.

On a darker note, you know what other movements had really good aesthetics and were able to influence a whole lot of people, to the tune of millions, to join their cause? The Nazis and the Soviets. Now, by contrasting a communist like Vladimir Lenin with one like Bernie Sanders, you can see that the contemporary American left doesn’t always win the aesthetics and culture game . . . but then again neither do dorks like Richard Spencer and other neo-Nazi LARPers with a Third Reich fetish. 

The point is that an aesthetic, whether it’s a visual or an attitude, conveys much more on a deeper level than any well-reasoned intellectual argument. Rhetoric trumps dialectic. I wish this wasn’t true either, but that’s the way it goes.

People want to join the winning team, or the team that seems like its winning. People want to be a part of the group that looks like it’s having fun. And people like the cool kids. Real life is high school with money.

Conservatives who think that going to college campuses to advocate for free speech constitutes a culture war are so behind the game it is almost comical to hear them stylizing themselves as culture warriors. Politics is downstream from culture. That has always been the prevailing wisdom of conservative thinkers. Turning political ideology into culture shows how far one has drifted from culture. To put it simply, “free-markets and free-speech,” however good and noble these things may be, will neither conserve the enchanted chords of memory and historical receptivity that conservatism is predicated on, nor pass on the rich treasure chest of the humanities to the next generation. With those enchanted chords of memory severed, the positive receptivity of our history and heroes turned to hatred and revulsion, the culling of the humanities complete—there is no culture to enjoy or pass on. The task of the conservative is to revive culture; this will be no easy task, but then again, neither was Aeneas’ journey or Virgil’s composition of “our classic.”

Krause saves his best indictment of modern American conservatives for last. ToTaLlY dEsTrOyInG cAmPuS sOcIaLiSt SnOwFlAkEs does nothing to move the needle. Nothing. And you prove nothing by going to a campus and whipping up a fervor of angry students who think you’re a literal genocidal monster. This is a complete and utter waste of time that I can only cynically see as a ploy of individual conservatives trying to make a name for themselves, generate publicity, and sell extra copies of their forthcoming books. Yes, preaching to the choir doesn’t move the needle either, but neither does preaching to people who are never going to come over to your way of thinking anyway. You need to use your choir to get to the middle, the normies, the ordinary folks, who will see the wrongness and danger and extremism of the other side.

I understand the argument that, by seeing the campus crazies freaking out and burning their school down, the normies will turn against them. That’d be the case if the people who run and work in media didn’t overwhelmingly support the campus crazies. The intended message isn’t getting out. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t see college lectures changing the cultural landscape one bit.

I also get that one must get to the youth if there is to be change. Millennials are set to be the largest voting block very shortly, after all. But most of that particular generation is old enough to be set in its ways. What those who actually want to change hearts and minds need to do is think like the other side. You don’t go at the college-aged. You go younger. You joint the school board and the PTA. You become teachers and professors. You get the jobs where you can design the cirricculum. You have to–yes–indoctrinate

Everybody is indoctrinated, and everybody indoctrinates. Indoctrination in and of itself isn’t a dirty word or a bad thing. The question, as always, is whom is being indoctrinated, who is doing the indoctrinating, and what are they being indoctrinated into?

By refusing to ever use power, conservatives play right into their supposed enemies’ hands. After all, unilateral disarmament has never, in the history of the world, won any victories. And I say “supposed” enemies because at this point it’s not hard to see American conservatives as controlled opposition.

The Imaginative Conservative is an interesting site that seems to understand what culture is and how to participate in and influence it. The writers over there seem like an erudite bunch, far too professional and sophisticated for a guy like me, but it seems that, temperamental differences aside, we agree on many points, particularly when it comes to diagnosing the problem.

Now, what to do about it?

If you consider yourself a conservative, here are my recommendations, some reiterated from past blog posts:

  • Get over yourself. It isn’t about you. Put your hyper-individualism, your supposed hatred of any and all groups, and your desire to be left alone aside and support those who are in the trenches
  • Create. Arts are not for artsy fartsy nobodies without any talent at “useful” pursuits. Many artists put a lot of hard work, time, and dedication bending their will and intelligence towards their art. Maybe you have an artistic talent but have been repressing it for fear that your conservative friends will ostracize you. Let them.
  • Support. If you’re not a creator, then support those who are. Buy something. Throw a few bucks someone’s way. Spread the word. 
  • Don’t spread despair. Nobody likes a black-piller. Things might seem rough, but oh well. Listen: the other side (of any conflict, actually) thinks they’re losing. So what differentiates an actual winner from a loser? Morale. Keep morale up. If you have misgivings or are feeling down, discuss it privately. But don’t sew discord, despair, and disunity out in the open. Yes, this requires discipline.
  • Stop giving money to people who hate you. If you’re opposed to X movie studio or Y musician, why pay money to see their movies or download their music or attend a concert? Why even complain about them, thereby giving them attention and free publicity? Boycotts aren’t “anti-American!” or “anti-capitalist!” They’re the most powerful way to send a message the way our economic system is set up. Whether an organized boycott or a boycott of one, if you’re fundamentally opposed to some artist and their art, please kindly refrain from dropping your coin in the slot.

We got this!

I practice what I preach by producing culture of my own. My hat is in the ring. Support my work by buying my books or spreading the word to sci-fi and fantasy fans you know looking for stuff that doesn’t insult them and wants to entertain! I make my art for everybody.

Exciting sword-and-planet:

Trippy alternate reality sci-fi with heart:


    • Alexander

      Great post. We preservtionalist need to have our own Gramsci but better.
      The economic reductionism is a peculiar Anglosphere phenomenon. The Eurooean and Latin Americans don’t suffer from that vice.
      However thecweakwningbof free trade might bring back cultural

      The solution is to regress and clearly define culture tradition etc and present it as a far better alternative to what the left offers


      Liked by 2 people

      • Thanks, I’m glad you liked it. Very interesting that the non-Anglo world has managed to avoid the economic reductionalism thing. Good for you. Reducing happiness to a bigger number of GDP and as we protect our most needy—the super-rich and our mega corps—doesn’t a strong culture make.

        But what do I know? Off-shoring IS American freedom I guess.


      • Alexander

        Italy has just ordered a quarantine of 16 million. It’ll cause a very serious reevaluation about travel and commuting around the world
        I ‘ve never understood the need to live outside the city but commute there and back
        So there’ll be a lot of decentralization and localism. Work from home/remote will become the new norm for those jobs that can.

        @wrathofgnon is now required reading


        Liked by 1 person

  1. Alexander,

    I’m sure they will. But there’s going to be a massive reevaluation about how things are organized from manufacturing to goiing to school.

    The latest U.S. news is that many universities have opted for distance classes and remote work.

    Speaking about the future of work :
    Here’s the daily telegraph:

    Once again I’m a genius. I should charge big bucks as an insightful and accurate consultant 🙂


    Liked by 1 person

  2. “I differ with Krause on the idea that being “anti-ideological” is somehow a good thing, which this seems to imply. You need to be for something if you want to get anywhere. You have to have a coherent plan.”

    To understand what he means by presenting ideology as inherently bad, it’s necessary to first understand the philosophy of Russell Kirk, who is often called the Father of American Conservatism. The writers at The Imaginative Conservative are Kirkian conservatives.

    Kirk believed that ideology is an inherent evil, and defined conservatism as “the negation of ideology”. Here is a link to a fascinating piece of Kirk’s writing in which he fully defines what he means by “ideology”, why he believes that it is an evil, and what conservatism offers in its place:

    Click to access 149150chap1.pdf

    Also, here is a link to his “Ten Conservative Principles”, which give a good crash-course on how he defined conservatism and what he believed it entailed:

    Liked by 1 person

    • “The conservative endeavors to so limit and balance political power that when the tyrant inevitably wipes his ass with the Constitution, the conservative bends over and spreads his cheeks. If the conservative doesn’t, then he risks the tyrant’s allies callimg him racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic…”

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you sir. Some reading material for later!

      I know I have seen Kirk’s ten points before and came away unimpressed. It still seems to me that being against something—or for a negative—and always playing defense is not a recipe for actually gaining ground, much less protecting what you already have, but maybe I’ll change my mind.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Hardwicke

      Thanks for the links. I get what Kirk is getting at but he’s still incorrect.
      Ideology is a simplification of reality and a call to arms.
      And this such an obnoxious feature of certain branches Anglosphere conservatism

      Everyone has an ideology but it comes down to: will you do the Lord’s will or not?

      It’s tough to interpret God’s will but he’s given us lots of pointers. Like respect life, honour your parents (I.e a modest love of country and honour your parents) and above all honour God as the hub of existence and don’t fall for cheap limitations.


      Liked by 1 person

      • Xavier, like you I never saw an ideology as an intrinsically bad thing. Maybe the definition has shifted, but that piece from Kirk’s book links “ideology” with Napoleon and Marx. I don’t know enough to say whether that’s outdated, flawed, or both, but if one’s whole raison d’être is the negation of something, I don’t see how that position can ever really win. Christ wasn’t merry the negation of death, after all.


      • Alexander,

        Good point about the definitional shift. But again so what? Is it a legitimate shift? How and when did the definition shift? Who shifted and why? And so on

        See it’s this refusal to research, define and analyze ideology from certain branches of Anglosphere conservatism is just as obnoxious as certain branches in European conservatism that uncritically adopt ideology to bash the Left.

        Aping is just LARPING in the enemy’s favour.

        Let’s take a step back and reflect. That way we can better know it and deal with it appropriately.

        That’s great you get more work done at the office. Working from home or office isn’t a one size fits all solution. Most workers will find out which works best for them and organize accordingly


        Liked by 1 person

      • American-style conservatism just seems like a dead-end to me. It’s really lived up to the stereotype of being progressivism, just five years behind.

        Not to say the progressives shouldn’t be opposed. They should! But voting isn’t going to do it, and economic-based politics aren’t going to change minds. Progressivism is a religion and progressives are religious zealots. You don’t wage a moral war by appealing to economics. You need a counter-morality. Maybe this faith named after Jesus Christ could do the trick…


  3. Most creative culture is the product of a certain personality type – the creative genius.

    Creative geniuses – and all other creative types – are generally irresponsible, impractical, ‘low-functioning’ in everyday working life, and are prone to mental illness and addiction.

    When creative children display these traits, their sensible, responsible, hard-working Conservative families generally try to punish and reform their creative children into becoming ‘normal.’

    It doesn’t work. Anyone with a powerful Imagination is intrinsically detached from Reality. They’re preoccupied with what’s *Possible* instead of what’s *Real.* Accordingly, creative types don’t function well in the Real World. And there’s no way around this. The creativity feature is also a bug. The downsides of creativity can’t be ‘fixed’ – not without destroying the child’s gift and their True Self.

    These particular creative children learn to hate and fear their parents’ religious culture, and they secretly yearn for escape. After childhood, when they get the chance, they flee away…

    …And into the open arms of the Leftism mainstream, which is absolutely tolerant of any and all weirdness and dysfunction. Whereas the Christian conservative subculture punishes creative children, the progressive mainstream awards them with opportunities, self-esteem, and celebrity. Or so it promises. Most don’t make it – but leftism *does* promise it.

    Other children simply become drug addicts and/or commit suicide.

    Note the religious childhoods of many creative celebrities. Note the large numbers of creative celebrities from a Mormon background. Note the high quality of Mormon art. Have you ever listened to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir or The Piano Guys?

    Note that conservatives have more children. Note that conservatives are more apt to arrange music lessons for their children. Note that conservatives are more likely to instill a work ethic – and any ethic whatsoever – in *all* their children.

    What’s happening? Where are the creative geniuses going? Why is there a vacuum where – demographically speaking – there should be a culture-dominating powerhouse?

    The answer: creative children and adolescents are punished and alienated in conservative culture, so they leave. Simple as that.

    One of the best books that talks about this subject is The Genius Famine, by Bruce Charlton and Edward Dutton:

    Liked by 2 people

    • In all likelihood, Christians would only need 1-3 groups of Inklings in order to reverse the culture war.

      They’d need to be willing to be discreet and patient with things like extreme eccentricity, social awkwardness, and sexual weirdness.

      Additionally, all creative types will be heretics, simply because they can’t switch off their creativity when it comes to religious matters. So they’re likely to have pretty kooky ideas. Ie. Tolkien apparently believed that human creativity sculpted other ‘sub-universes’, such that humans unwittingly wield god-like powers on other planes.

      What would all this cost, in dollars? You’d need something like a few dozen apartments max (rent paid for), cooked meals, cleaning ladies, art supplies and art lessons, mentors/counselors to help them fight mental illness (esp. depression and alienation) and addiction (esp. drug, alcohol, and porn), and maybe some optional part-time jobs to prevent cabin fever. Also, all creative types should all be networked together for cross-pollination, regardless of creative medium.

      And someone has to locate creative types in the first place. They’re likely to be living alone somewhere in a pretty sorry state.

      Alternatively, you could try the Bat Signal method – shine a light into the sky and see if anyone worthy comes out of the woodwork. You’d also have to be willing to risk years of subsidy on oddballs and possible frauds. It took Tolkien an ungodly amount of time to finish Lord of the Rings.

      Possibly, non-religious creative types could be persuaded to come on board, depending on the true flavor of their spirit. There’s lots of burnt-out Christian apostates in New York and Los Angeles, careers having fizzled out or never got off the ground. Each and every one of them is a prodigal son, just waiting for a good redemption arc etc..

      Liked by 2 people

      • Maybe it could be some sort of trust fund or scholarship type of thing? Maybe something with crowdsourcing?

        Since this is essentially a social project, a Genius Project should (ideally) be organized and run by conservative women.

        You need match-making mothers for this kind of work, basically. That wouldn’t be hard. Any woman would kill for an honest-to-god social mission like this, seeing as women are starving to use their God-given social-genius in this atomized society. In fact, I think the divine destiny of western women is to reweave the shattered shards of their societies, and this’d be a good start.

        You’d need very patient, very hands-off wealthy men to provide funding and overall supervision. They’d provide the sense of urgency and purpose. They could even pay commission for any art, to give a bit of celebrity and self-esteem to artists with a lifelong thirst for such things.

        None of this would take much effort, honestly. But I’m just an idea guy. You know anyone with money?


      • All good ideas. Many would require right-leaning people of means to do what left-leaning people if means do, that is, actually fund the arts! Neo-patronage is the wave of the future.

        Alas, conservatives mock art and artists and culture because they have a rigid devotion to what they consider “normal” and don’t resize that things outside of this paradigm can still be true, beautiful, and good. Maybe because American-style conservatism appears to be an anti-ideology defined by what it opposes: “The left likes art and culture creation? Well then, we have to be AGAINST that to be a REAL conservative!”

        Liked by 1 person

    • So you make an excellent point here. Creative children are generally told by more conservative/traditional families to get their heads out of the clouds, do “real work,” and so on. This discounts the fact that art IS work. Art has a technique and skill to it but it also takes a certain viewpoint and affinity to produce, much like anything. It’s no different than there being a certain temperament for doctors or carpenters or anything else.

      And really, are middlemen and stockbrokers and bankers all that more useful and vital to a culture?

      Also: traditional “useful” careers are seeing their returns on investment plummet. That’s a bit of an aside, but my point is, are artistic endeavors really all that unstable compared to others anymore?

      “It doesn’t work. Anyone with a powerful Imagination is intrinsically detached from Reality. They’re preoccupied with what’s *Possible* instead of what’s *Real.* Accordingly, creative types don’t function well in the Real World. And there’s no way around this. The creativity feature is also a bug. The downsides of creativity can’t be ‘fixed’ – not without destroying the child’s gift and their True Self.

      These particular creative children learn to hate and fear their parents’ religious culture, and they secretly yearn for escape. After childhood, when they get the chance, they flee away…

      …And into the open arms of the Leftism mainstream, which is absolutely tolerant of any and all weirdness and dysfunction. Whereas the Christian conservative subculture punishes creative children, the progressive mainstream awards them with opportunities, self-esteem, and celebrity. Or so it promises. Most don’t make it – but leftism *does* promise it.”

      So true. All of it. I wonder if this is an American thing or if we see it everywhere. Art is a huge part of culture AND religion and should be nurtured and directed towards the good, beautiful, and true. Alas.

      What a great comment. And thanks for the link to that book.


    • We have a word for a “creative” child, and that word is “autist.” This April, celebrate World Autism Month by smacking the tablets out of the hands of “creative” children and teaching them to pray the Rosary.

      Liked by 1 person

    • “Most creative culture is the product of a certain personality type – the creative genius.”

      Hungarian-American psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wrote a book entitled “Creativity: The Psychology of Discovery and Invention”, and wrote the following about the 10 dimensions of complexity that creative individuals have:

      “1. Have a great deal of physical energy (but are also often quiet and at rest)

      2. Tend to be smart, yet also naïve at the same time

      3. Combine playfulness & discipline, or responsibility & irresponsibility

      4. Alternate between imagination & fantasy, and rooted sense of reality

      5. Harbor opposite tendencies of extroversion and introversion at the same time

      6. Tend to be humble and proud at the same time

      7.Escape rigid gender role stereotyping

      8. Are rebellious & independent, yet traditional and conservative at the same time

      9. Are passionate and objective about their work

      10. Are exposed to suffering and pain, yet also to a great deal of enjoyment”

      Liked by 1 person

  4. One more point is that Conservative Christians could compete with the Leftist Mainstream by simply being better to artists.

    The offer is: “we will be nicer to you than our competition.”

    The music industry and Hollywood uses musicians and actors and so on like so much disposable sex-toy trash, forces them to sell their body, dignity and soul, runs them like slaves, broadcasts their dirty secrets across the planet, and -when artists are hollowed out and non-productive – they get tossed on the heap.

    It shouldn’t be that hard to make a friendlier offer. Presumably, Christians can’t offer the whole pleasure palace of sex and celebrity, but they could position themselves as a mellower, gentler, low-key alternative. Maybe the world of artistry and the world of churches would have to be kept rather separate. Churches are too organized, too uncool, too kitschy for the types you’re looking for.

    Maybe some sort of monastic retreat-type of thing – a peaceful village or Hogwarts-style mansion or tower where artists could go just to be purely creative. No pastors or priests or photographers allowed. The art might not be explicitly Christian, but it could be quite Good in the divine sense.

    The pop mainstream is out of steam. There’s a giant gaping whole in the middle of Western culture. Everyone’s listening to 60s,70s, 80s nostalgia classic-rock music stations. New music is crap. The thirst is real. We could use a good creative renaissance right about now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • All good ideas. All good points…especially by being better artists.

      Lots of “conservative” entertainment ends up being preachy cringe. I find that Christian-themed stuff fares much better than politically conservative-themed stuff. Maybe because Christianity is actually an ideology with beliefs and conservatism as commonly understood and defined in the United States is not.

      Alternative institutions are needed. Unfortunately I think these require big money and yes, organization and some sort of top-down authority. These are things conservatives and libertarians hate so you see why such alternatives never seem to get off the ground.

      Maybe the answer is not making these alternatives based on conservative principles (whatever those are, anyway) but on religious ones.


    • “Maybe some sort of monastic retreat-type of thing – a peaceful village or Hogwarts-style mansion or tower where artists could go just to be purely creative.”

      A lot of creatively-inclined people are introverted, shy, or agoraphobic, and would be stressed out by commune-style living. I could see something like that working for a movie studio (due to the collaborative nature of film-making), but writers, painters, etc, would probably benefit most from a work-from-home model.

      “The pop mainstream is out of steam. There’s a giant gaping whole in the middle of Western culture. Everyone’s listening to 60s,70s, 80s nostalgia classic-rock music stations. New music is crap.”

      It’s not due to a lack of talented musicians, though. If you search independent artists on YouTube, SoundCloud, or Bandcamp, you can find some genuinely good music. The problem is that the mainstream music industry has its own ideas of what music should be popular and enforces this in sophisticated top-down ways that make old-timey payola look quaint, shutting out talented musicians and good music in the process.

      The YouTube channel Thoughty2 made a fascinating video detailing the sophisticated ways that the music industry essentially brainwashes the public into liking its music.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for your gracious replies. Like you, I’m not too sure why american conservative culture doesn’t have wings, and explicit preachy Christian stuff has the same overall cringe.

    On the other hand, when you strip out the superficial trappings of conservatism and Christianity and locate the deep cores, the situation is much different.

    For example, some of the roots of conservatism are a desire for law and order, love of family, a desire to be connected to one’s heritage, to defend and assert boundaries, and a desire to have powerful personal sovereignty (the ability to make momentous decisions on one’s own).

    Once you get down to those roots, it’s much easier to write appealing stories. For example, Batman is a warrior-aristocrat from a wealthy first-generation American family with an army of praetorian-policemen at his back, imposing law and order by blood and fire on the criminal element in his society. And he does it in defiance of the ‘official’ ruling class. The only thing more conservative would be giving him a bunch of sons to train and daughters to marry off in strategic alliances.

    I daresay many, many Leftists like Batman. They can partake of the deep roots of conservatism, even if they’re repulsed by the superficial everyday conservatism.

    My current theory is that traditional symbolism is dying. A symbol is a superficial signpost to something deeper – something metaphysical, buried deeper than our dull, boring, everyday consciousness can reach.

    Once upon a time, the symbols nourished us. They drew water up from roots deep in… Heaven, I think.

    But because of changes in our consciousness – our civilization has entombed itself inside a tiny, loud, digital cocoon, among other things – and because of demonic warfare on the plane of concepts and symbols, we no longer draw much nourishment from symbolism.

    For example, the word “God” has been quietly poisoned on a conceptual level. Within the minds of average people, that word now contains evil, authoritarian, vicious connotations – or it is entirely dead, artificial, abstract, as if you were describing an interesting clock. If you introduce God within a fiction novel, these connotations will prevent you from reaching the reader in the way you wish – they may close the book on the spot, subconsciously repulsed.

    So the word “God,” instead of producing feelings of sunshine and potential and open futures – as it should – produces a closed-off, deadening, menacing feeling. Not everyone, of course, just those people who’ve unwittingly suffered warfare against their inner-concepts. And that’s a lot of people.

    For some reason, the word “Creator,” though it refers to the same entity, has not suffered the same damage. If you introduce The Creator as a numinous heavenly father shining above the characters in your story, you will induce positive sensations even in nominally-atheistic readers.

    Some Hollywood screenwriters already know this: the movie “Noah,” directed by Darren Aronofsky – one the few recent films which uses the Deity as a friendly off-screen supporting character, only uses “The Creator” in dialogue, and never, ever “God.” Interestingly, the aboriginal Ojibwe in my country also exclusively use this term. It has absolutely no negative connotations and no historical baggage. For some reason, “Angel” has been left untouched as well, though neutered.

    If you call Jesus “the Salvator,” or “The Strange Master,” or “Domini Christi,” or “Yeshu Josephson,” or “Nazarene Edenvine,” no-one will flinch away in the same way they would from his traditional monikers.

    Liked by 2 people

    • If I’m right, what does all this mean? It means that traditional religious symbolism has been covertly disconnected from their metaphysical roots. The roots are heavenly sunshine and optimism and redemption, but the usual Christian symbols and words fails to connect people to those roots. There’s just been so much Bible-thumping in history – it’s been twenty centuries now – and people just tune out.

      But it seems to me that spiritual warfare on the plane of concepts and symbols must resemble warfare on the physical plane. Modern physical warfare is fought on the principles of things like Mass, Maneuver, Surprise, Unity of Command etc. etc. or the Art of War of Sun Tzu etc. etc.

      In other words, what if you were able to use completely new, invented names for the Christian religious story – and a new mythology – but you kept the same metaphysical roots? Ie. Heaven, Earth, Eternal Life, Immortal Loving Father, Repentance, Redemption, Resurrection, Eucatastrophe, Love, Hope, Kindness, the Heavenly Family, Salvation, Theosis, Immortality, etc. etc.

      Why, then you would have communicated the deepest roots of Christianity to the reader, and you would have circumvented all the demonic defenses on the conceptual/symbolic level. This would be the spiritual equivalent of the Germans going around the Maginot Line in WW2. It’s like striking the enemy hard where they’re undefended.

      This has already been done many times. Harry Potter walking into the Forbidden Forest to meet Voldemort, Thor walking out to meet the Destroyer, Sydney Carton going to the guillotine, and many, many more — these are all new symbols that draw on a single powerful metaphysical root. That is, Christ walking willingly to his death. And the climactic villain vs. hero dialogue-scenes across all our films, TV shows, and novels have something to do with Satan vs. Christ in the desert, I think.

      And it goes the other way, too. Demons take Good concepts and symbols and subtly re-connect them to Evil metaphysical depths, as if they were leaving one end of a rope-bridge in place, but taking the other end and placing it somewhere else. 1968 Leftist symbolism was often connected to half-way Good metaphysical depths. 2020 Leftist symbolism is connected to Hell.

      This is why – when you attack Leftists in any serious way, they pretend to be 1968 (Peace, Love, and Freedom) rather than 2020 (Fetuses in Dumpsters). It’s spiritual motte-and-bailey.

      Anyway, everyone in our civilization is starving for the deep things, the deep nourishment which – in reality – comes from the Christ-vine. However, the symbolism which used to help them find that vine, or the branches thereof, no longer works. Ergo, new symbols and concepts should be created to help them bridge the gap. This is the task of creativity. This is covert Christian spiritual warfare at the highest level – giving the Gospel at a level so powerful and so deep and so surprising and so creative that it bypasses all the usual defenses.

      It is as if artists should simply go as deep and transcendent as they can, and the Gospel will have its say whether anyone realizes it or not. But the old superficial bridges, the old words and the old symbolism, they might have to be forsaken. Maybe the failure of contemporary Christian conservative art is because contemporary Christian conservatives are too attached to superficial symbolism.

      They’re simply not creative enough.

      I do apologize for the wall of text. The pressure’s been building inside me for a long time. Thanks for letting me preach at you.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I sometimes wonder if it’s not a sense of religious certainty we need, so much as a sense of religious possibility. People cannot be pushed through closed doors.

        Liked by 1 person

      • No need to apologize for the walls of text. This is good stuff!

        “This is covert Christian spiritual warfare at the highest level – giving the Gospel at a level so powerful and so deep and so surprising and so creative that it bypasses all the usual defenses.”

        I’m going overt in my current trilogy, because that’s the central point of the story, but this point is one I have also been thinking about for years. You see it in so many stories, and not just Tolkien and C.S. Lewis (both of whom did admirable jobs—LotR is a very Christian story after all).

        Much to think about.

        And yes, the other side inverts these concepts as well to reach the opposite, evil end. You see this in movies all the time. It seems like it’s the only story most of them know how to tell.

        Re: overt vs. covert generally, covert worked better when the American population was still biblically literate, and literate in general. Now, you have to hit people over the head, including Christians who are sick of having to hide their faith in the shadows and never see it reflected in the culture. There may very well come a time when the covert approach works again, but I personally don’t think that time is now.


    • “My current theory is that traditional symbolism is dying.”

      Damn. Never thought of it that way. And you’re examples are spot on. The Death Cult has successfully twisted the very word “God” in the minds of so many. Truly disgusting.


      • Owen and Alexander,

        It’s fundamental to read Gramsci. Ideally in the original Italian or a very good Eglish translation. I disqualify anything published by Verso Press (aka the British communist party’s publishing company.) I’ve never trusted any of their translations and still don’t.

        To me Gramsci successfully decoupled traditional symbolism from its metaphysical roots to replace it with outright lies.. Much like a spider liquefies a solid body so it can suck the juices.

        The solution is to regress very hard but also to entice. There a few art books published by Sophia ppress that ca give pointers. In fact we need to revive and patronize iconography both east and west, stain glassed windows and illuminated manuscripts for starters. Then move towards literature, musica and finish back to theology.

        Easy? Of course not. But remember Death where is your sting?

        Seriously confiding in our Lord really gives you a sense of peace as well as the prudence optimism to go forward


        Liked by 1 person

      • Entice! Great word! I like to think of that as “meeting people where they are.” People want sex and violence in stories? You can give it to them…with positive pro-civilizational messages.

        I’d love to read Gramsci in Italian, but alas the time is not yet now…


  6. “Hmm…the closed doors of their own willingness to admit the possibility that there may very well be a God, you mean?”

    I wonder if many people have a shortage of existential imagination, not a shortage of moral willingness. If their passively-acquired God-concept does not feel like a window opening on blue skies, what exactly is their degree of moral culpability? They’re not innocent, of course, and they should take life seriously enough to throw open some inner-windows every now and again, but a totally empty, abstract God-concept is a serious impediment to religious faith. This is true even for people who attend church. Creeds, theology, strong opinions, and tough talk aren’t enough.

    Possibly, the future of religion involves more imagination. To powerfully and vividly imagine the Creator – even without revelations, visions, or evidence – might actually invite a bolt of lightning from Heaven. What starts out as imagination blazes to life as a true epiphany.

    The Bible can only have life for us through the use of the imagination. It’s interesting that Jesus preferred to tell strange, enigmatic stories rather than preach systematic theology. Why did he do that?

    One of the most peculiar experiences of the creative artist is the sense that they are discovering their art, not inventing it. At first, a writer toodles along with his own meagre ideas, plodding slowly and cautiously through the words.

    But then lightning strikes! Suddenly he is rushing along with superhuman energy. Strange, wonderful ideas pour in, as if from somewhere else, and heretofore hidden possibilities and potentials of the story are revealed. Self-consciousness evaporates. There is only the fascination. There is only the bizarre sense of ecstatic discovery, as if he’d fallen through the floor into Fairyland.

    This creative high is what creative geniuses get addicted to. This might be the deep reason that artists are prone to addiction. The ability to get addicted to creativity cannot be had without also being prone to self-destructive addictions. Similarly, highly-sensitive people are easily wounded, but this curse comes with the gift of seeing far more of the detail of life. These gifts cannot be had without the curses. Did you know that Napoleon wrote some mopey emo romantic fiction when he was a teenager? Beethoven’s apartment resembled that of a heavy drug user.

    Anyway, the morning after, the writer goes back and reads the previous day’s words. Sometimes it’s terrible stuff, there’s mistakes here and there etc. But if he got that writer’s high the day before, the words now seem excellent, tremendous even, but utterly alien, sometimes even unrecognizable. “Did I write this? I can’t have written this – it’s too good! It’s beyond me!”

    Maybe there’s something deeper going on here – something metaphysical. Maybe the sense of discovery is not a lie. Maybe the same thing can happen when imagination is applied to religious meditation. Within the consciousness, what is merely imagined suddenly acquires possibility, immensity, and warmth.

    At times like these, true spiritual knowledge might be received. Not propositional knowledge but spiritual knowledge, containing the sorts of perceptions for which human words do not yet exist. But I guess that’s what metaphors are for.

    Anyway, religion seems like a flat, dead, stupid thing to people who’ve never had a spiritual experience. And perhaps God and the Angels won’t risk giving a powerful religious experience to many people in our society. What Heaven feeds the True Self can be parasitically consumed by the False Self. Divine Supply is easily converted into Narcissistic Supply, and our society is absolutely infested with narcissism. This is where the huge numbers of celebrity gurus come from.

    In the end, maybe imagination is one way we can reach up like Adam toward God reaching down, and in so doing we can be entrusted with real spiritual nourishment.

    I don’t know, maybe it’s all BS. I don’t know, I just get these ideas.


    • “…[A] totally empty, abstract God-concept is a serious impediment to religious faith.”

      So the founding fathers, basically, and their “clockmaker who started everything than went away” philosophy.

      “One of the most peculiar experiences of the creative artist is the sense that they are discovering their art, not inventing it.”

      Can confirm. The whole way you describe this is beautiful.

      “Anyway, religion seems like a flat, dead, stupid thing to people who’ve never had a spiritual experience. And perhaps God and the Angels won’t risk giving a powerful religious experience to many people in our society.”

      Maybe this, but man, your discussion is great. Imagination is what separates us from the beasts. God IS imagination. I’m no theologian, but I have heard compelling explanations that the Word/Logos is God’s will/imagination made reality. So experience is God’s imagination.

      I’m bungling that, I know, but it resonated with me.


  7. It is always engaging and pleasant to see a reader who has been touched by a writer’s work. I would just say, having read through this, I am entirely in agreement with you concerning “ideology” but sometimes when you write for a publication on a contractual basis you don’t ruin a good thing by taking an opposite view of a man in the pantheon.

    Furthermore, I am entirely in agreement with you that it is quite sad that so much of Conservatism Inc blindly rejects the arts and culture — even those publications say, like National Review which claim to have dedicated culture sections, which only ever amount to some crass article written by a self-conceited hipster-“conservative” about why Stephen Colbert is the real racist or the like. If conservatives contributed to platforming artists and writers of a conservative disposition, they could affect far more change than with their endless ramblings on the topics I lambasted. I’ve met, over my years, a fair number of artistically inclined conservatives and traditionalists who have no outlets and therefore quit their passion and become cogs in the economic machine or eventually sell out since only liberal outfits give room to arts and culture (say, like The Atlantic, Nation, or New Yorker which help to perpetuate the false perception only liberals care about the arts). Now I’m thankful for TIC in allowing me that platform, VoegelinView as well where I serve as an associate editor, and a number of Catholic publications that tend to publish my essays, but it is also somewhat frustrating that I can submit to Con Inc publications an essay on the arts and literature and get rejection after rejection until forking it over to a Catholic publication and a week later get an acceptance. (The problem is, at this point, I’m just preaching to the choir.) The essay which your friend provided and you graciously and fairly reflected on here happened to be one such example although I probably vented my grievances more forcefully after repetitive rejections before editing it for my column at TIC.

    I might have to get your book The Last Ancestor — looks like something I’d be interested in.

    Paul Krause

    Liked by 1 person

    • Paul,

      Thank you so much for your comment. I see your point about the practical realities of writing professionally for political/cultural publications and appreciate the insight and correction. TIC is one of the better and more interesting websites out there; I think I made that clear in my post and I’m not just saying this because you commented! And I don’t expect you to comment on this, but I can’t stand the basic ConservaBro stuff like NR, The Federalist, etc.

      First Things and The American Conservative are also good, though I still don’t like the label “conservative.” I think it’s an anchor.

      Culture is a tough one because any of us who consider ourselves on the right, or at least not on the left, have to get over the knee-jerk response to the arts being a waste of time and just DO IT. This will by necessity include some conflict, which is yet another reason why the Buckley-ite reactionary mentality of just being against whatever “the left” is doubt without having any actual ideas is death to creativity.

      But like you said, we’re preaching to the choir here. Still, it’s a good discussion and I do think the dam is breaking in this regard, thanks in part to the internet and new publications like TIC.

      And you might very well like my book. There’s a whole literary movement called Pulp Revolution trying to take sci-fi and fantasy back from being the sole domain of hardcore progressives who freeze out any dissenting opinions. Definitely worth checking out.

      Liked by 1 person

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