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The Shock of History

2,411 words

Corrected October 30, 2011

A propos:
Dominique Venner.
Le choc de l’Histoire. Religion, mémoire, identité.
Versailles: Via Romana, 2011.

“The future belongs to those with the longest memory.” — Nietzsche

Conservative thinking, Karl Mannheim notes, is essentially historical thinking – in that it orients to the concrete, to ‘what is’ and ‘what has been’, instead of to ‘what ought to be’ or ‘what can be’. ‘Properly understood’, historical thinking reveals the ‘Providential’ design evident in the course and test of time – it is the story of the divine operating in the generations of men.


Some anti-liberals are wont thus to situate their ‘conservative’ project within the frame of Europe’s historical destiny and the higher design informing it.

The most renowned of such historical thinkers (representing what Carolina Armenteros calls the ‘the French idea of history’) was the father of European anti-liberalism, Joseph de Maistre – though he is not our subject.  Rather, it is the foremost contemporary avatar of anti-liberal historical thought: Dominique Venner.

The 75-year-old, French-speaking European of Celt and German descent, father of five, Venner is a historical scholar, a writer of popular histories and of various works on firearms and hunting, as well as the editor of two successful, artfully illustrated historical journals.

Whatever his genre, Venner bears the legionnaire standard of Europe’s multi-millennial heritage – the heritage, he claims, that took form with the blind poet, who is the father of us all — the heritage whose Homeric spirit knows to honor the brave, bare-foot soldiers of the Confederacy and the social banditry of Jesse James — and, most insistently, the heritage that expects a future commensurate with Europe’s incomparable past.

Venner is not your average academic historian; indeed, he’s not an academic at all. His life has been lived out on the last of France’s imperial battlefields; in Parisian street politics, in the outlawed OAS, in prison, and in laying the conceptual foundations of the European New Right; and finally, since his early thirties, in the various libraries, archives, and communal memories he’s searched to produce the 50 books he’s written on the key historical upheavals of the last century or so.

Unsurprisingly, his historical sense is ‘over-determined’ – and not solely by an intelligence steeped in the life of the mind, but no less by disciplines acquired in those schools of initiands known only to the political soldier.

His latest book, Le Choc de l’Histoire, is not a work of history per se, but a series of meditations, in the form of a book-long interview (conducted by the historian Pauline Lecomte) on the historical situation presently facing Europeans. These meditations approach their subject in parallel but opposite ways: 1) one approach surveys the contours of Europe’s longue durée — those centuries of growth that made the great oak so venerable – and, following the Annales School, reveals her ‘secret permanences’; and, 2) a very different but complementary approach that silhouettes the heroic individuals and individual events (Achilles and the Iliad foremost) exemplifying the Homeric spirit of European man – disclosing possibilities offering him an alternative to extinction.

Venner’s thesis is that: Europeans, after having been militarily, politically, and morally crushed by events largely of their own making, have been lost in sleep (‘in dormition’) for the last half-century and are now – however slowly — beginning to experience a ‘shock of history’ that promises to wake them, as they are forced to defend an identity of which they had previously been almost unconscious.

Like cascading catastrophes (the accelerating decomposition of America’s world empire, Europe’s Islamic colonization, the chaos-creating nihilism of global capitalism, etc.), the shock of history today is becoming more violent and destructive, making it harder for Europeans to stay lulled in the deep, oblivious sleep that follows a grievous wound to the soul itself – the deep curative sleep prescribed by their horrendous civil wars (1914–1918 and 1939–1945), by the ensuing impositions of the Soviet/American occupation and of the occupation’s collaborationist regimes, and, finally, today, by a demographic tsunami promising to sweep away their kind.

The Sleep

The Second European Civil War of 1939–1945, however it is interpreted, resulted in a cataclysmic defeat not just for Hitler’s Germany, but for Europe, much of which, quite literally, was reduced to mounds of smoldering rumble. Then, at Yalta, adding insult to injury, the two extra-European super-powers partitioned the Continent, deprived her states of sovereignty, and proceeded to Americanize or Sovietize the ‘systems’ organizing and managing the new postwar European order.

As Europe’s lands and institutions were assumed by alien interests, her ancient roots severed, and her destiny forgotten, Europeans fell into dormition, losing consciousness of who they were as a people and a civilization – believing, as they were encouraged, that they were simply one people among the world’s many peoples – nothing special – except in their evil.

Worse, for their unpardonable sins – for what Europeans did to Jews in the war, to Blacks in the slave trade, to non-White peoples in general over the course of the last 500 years – for all the terrible sins Europeans have committed, they are henceforth denied the ‘right’ to be a ‘people’. In the Messianic spirit of Communism and Americanism, the Orwellian occupiers and collaborators have since refused them a common origin (roots), a shared history, a tradition, a destiny. This reduces them to a faceless economic-administrative collectivity, which is expected, in the end, to negate the organic basis of its own existence.

The postwar assault on European identity entailed, however, more than a zombifying campaign of guilt-inducement – though this campaign was massive in scale. Europe after Jahre Null was re-organized according to extra-European models and then overwhelmed with imported forms of mass consumerism and entertainment. At the same time and with perhaps greater severity, she was subject to an unprecedented ‘brain-washing’ (in schools, media, the so-called arts, public institutions, and private corporations) — as all Europe’s family of nations, not just the defeated Germans, were collectively made to bear a crushing guilt — under the pretext of the Shoah or the legacy of colonialism/imperialism/slavery – their sins requiring the most extreme penance. Thus tainted, her memory and identity are now verboten.

Venner’s Europe is not, of course, the Soviet-like, New Class-inspired EU, just as she is not the geographic entity labeled ‘Europe’. Rather than a market, a political/administrative structure, a geographic category — rather even than a race (though in a certain sense it is all about race in the end) — Europe for him is a multi-millennial community of closely-related national families made up of Germans, Celts, Slavs, and others, having the same ancient (Indo-European, Borean, Cro-Magnon) roots of blood and spirit: that is, having the same Thirty-thousand Years of European History and Identity.

This makes his Europe a community with a common civilizational heritage that stretches back to the depths of prehistoric time. The tradition and identity of this heritage has, historically, informed Europe’s representations and values in ways distinguishing/identifying her and her peoples from other civilizations and peoples.

Tradition for Venner is not, though, the metaphysical abstraction of the perennialists or the historical repository of the Burkeans: it is not something outside history nor is it something forged once and for all in the night of time.

Tradition for him is that which does not pass. It is the perpetual spirit that makes Europeans who they are and lends meaning to their existence, as they change and grow yet remain always the same. It is the source thus of the ‘secret permanences’ upon which their history is worked out.

Tradition may originate in Prehistory, but Venner claims it is preeminently contemporary – just as every origin is a novel outburst of being. Tradition serves as a people’s inner compass. It directs them to what and whom they are. It renders what was formed and inspired in the past into a continually informed present. It is always new and youthful, something very much before rather than behind them. It embodies the longest memory, integral to their identity, and it anticipates a future true to its archaic origin. Life lived in reference to tradition, Venner insists, is life lived in accordance with the ideal it embodies – the ideal of ‘who we are’. The ideal may change or evolve over time, but it is always true to who we are, as we experience the being and becoming of our existence.

In one sense, Venner’s Europe is the opposite of the America that has distorted Europe’s fate for the last half-century. But he is no knee-jerk anti-American (though the French, in my view, have good cause to be anti-US). He’s also written several books on the US War of Secession, in which much of America’s Cavalier heritage is admired. Knowing something of the opposed tendencies shaping American ‘national’ life, he’s well aware of the moral abyss separating, say, Jesse James from Jay Gould – and what makes one an exemplar of the European spirit and the other its opposite.

Modeled on the Old Testament, not the Old World, Venner claims America’s New World (both as a prolongation and rejection of Europe) was born of New England Calvinism and secularized in John O’Sullivan’s ‘Manifest Destiny’.

Emboldened by the vast, virgin land of their wilderness enterprise and the absence of traditional authority, America’s Seventeenth-century Anglo-Puritan settlers set out, in the spirit of their radical-democratic Low Church crusade, to disown the colony’s Anglo-European parents – which meant disowning the idea (old as Herodotus) that Europe is ‘the home of liberty and true government’.

Believing herself God’s favorite, this New Zion aspired – as a Promised Land of liberty, equality, fraternity – to jettison Europe’s aesthetic and aristocratic standards for the sake of its religiously-inspired materialism. Hence, the bustling, wealth-accumulating, tradition-opposing character of the American project, which offends every former conception of the Cosmos.

New England, to be sure, is not the whole of America, for the South, among another sections, has a quite different narrative, but it was the Yankee version of the ‘American epic’ that became dominant, and it is thus the Yankee version that everywhere wars on Americans of European descent.

Citing Huntington’s Who Are We?, Venner says US elites (‘cosmocrats’, he calls them) pursue a transnational/universalist vision (privileging global markets and human rights) that opposes every ‘nativist’ sense of nation and culture – a transnational/universalist vision the cosmocrats hope to impose on the whole world. For like Russian Bolsheviks and ‘the Bolsheviks of the Seventeenth century’, these money-worshipping liberal elites hate the Old World and seek a new man, Homo oeconomicus – unencumbered by roots, nature, or culture – and motivated solely by a quantitative sense of purpose.

As a union whose ‘connections’ are horizontal, contractual, self-serving, and self-centered, America’s cosmocratic system comes, as such, to oppose all resistant forms of historic or organic identity — for the sake of a totalitarian agenda intent on running roughshod over everything that might obstruct the scorch-earth economic logic of its Protestant Ethic and Capitalist Spirit. (In this sense, Europe’s resurgence implies America’s demise).

The Shock

What will awaken Europeans from their sleep? Venner says it will be the shock of history – the shock evoking the tradition that made them (and makes them) who they are.

Such shocks have long shaped their history. Think of the Greeks in their Persian Wars; of Charles Martel’s outnumbered knights against the Caliphate’s vanguard; or of the Christian forces under Starhemberg and Sobieski before the gates of Vienna. Whenever Europe approaches Hölderlin’s ‘midnight of the world’, such shocks, it seems, serve historically to mobilize the redeeming memory and will to power inscribed in her tradition.

More than a half-century after the trauma of 1945 – and the ensuing Americanization, financialization, and third-worldization of continental life – Europeans are once again experiencing another great life-changing, history-altering shock promising to shake them from their dormition.

The present economic crisis and its attending catastrophes (especially in discrediting the collaborators managing the EU and further de-legitimatizing the continent’s various national political systems), combined with the unrelenting, disconcerting Islamization of European life (integral to US strategic interests) are – together — forcing Europeans to re-evaluate a system that destroys the national economy, eliminates borders, ravages the culture, makes community impossible, and programs their extinction as a people. The illusions of prosperity and progress, along with the system’s fun, sex, and money (justifying the prevailing de-Europeanization) are becoming increasingly difficult to entertain. Glimmers of a changing consciousness have, indeed, already been glimpsed on the horizon.

The various nationalist-populist parties stirring everywhere – parties which are preparing the counter-hegemony that one day will replace Europe’s present American-centric leadership – represent one conspicuous sign of this awakening. A mounting number of identitarian, Christian, secular, and political forces resisting Islam’s, America’s, and the EU’s totalitarian impositions at the local level are another sign.

Europeans, as a consequence, are increasingly posing the question: ‘Who are we?’, as they become conscious – especially in the face of the dietary, vestimentary, familial, sexual, religious, and other differences separating them from Muslims – of what is distinct to their civilization and their people, and why such distinctions are worth defending. Historical revivals, Venner notes, are slow in the making, but once awakened there is usually no going back. This is the point, Venner believes, that Europe is approaching today.

The Unexpected

History is the realm of the unexpected. Venner does not subscribe to notions of historical determinism or necessity. In contrast to Marxists and economic determinists, anti-Semites and Spenglerians, he believes there are no monocausal explanations in history, and unlike liberals such as Fukuyama, he believes there’s no escape from (no ‘end’ to) history.

The future of history is always unknown. Who would have thought in 1980 that Soviet Russia, which seemed to be overtaking the United States in the ‘70s, would collapse within a decade? Historical fatalities are the fatalities of men’s minds, not those of history.

History, moreover, is the confluence of the given, the circumstantial, and the willful. This makes it always open and hence potentially always a realm of the unexpected. And the unexpected (that instance when great possibilities are momentarily posed) is mastered, Venner counsels, only in terms of who we are, which means in terms of the tradition and identity defining our project and informing our encounter with the world.

Hence, the significance now of husbanding our roots, our memory, our tradition, for from them will come our will to power and any possibility of transcendence. It’s not for nothing, Dominique Venner concludes, that we are the sons and daughters of Homer, Ulysses, and Penelope.



  1. Posted November 3, 2011 at 4:32 am | Permalink

    An excellent review.

    An English translation of the above book is due to be published by mid-2012.

    Looking forward to be able to read this myself.

    • T.E.L.
      Posted November 6, 2011 at 7:35 am | Permalink

      I remember sitting in the park in hot July weather Zagreb with Dr. Sunic and talking with him back in 2007. While we were talking about broader NR movement he mentioned Dr. Michael O’Meara and significance of his work. At that time he did mention what was Dr. O’Meara doing (as an intellectual and PhD) as his job and first thing what I have thought about Dr. O’Meara was : ” humble hermit thinker like personality”. Often ”humble hermit thinkers” pen is more powerful than sword can be. Now years on Dr.O’Meara and Dr. Greg Johnson are the most interesting authors and thinkers in North America. My own, perhaps greatest influence over the years is Dominique Venner and I am happy always to read his articles masterfully translated by Dr. O’Meara and dr. Johnson.
      Thank you both sincerely for your work and translations.
      T.E. L

      • Michael O'Meara
        Posted November 6, 2011 at 5:43 pm | Permalink


        Thank you for the kind thought.

        I would prefer, though, to characterize myself at this stage in my life as a ‘recluse’.

        Unalterable circumstances dictate this stance.

        In my youth I was a firebrand.

        When I happened to arrive at Berkeley in 1965, I was thrown into a whirl of political frenzy – though my preference even then was for bookish contemplation.

        Having grown up in the 1950s, though, I knew this era our faux-conservatives champion was a vacuous, materialist one – a betrayal of who we were – and that Cold War America was no beacon. The world needed not reforming or remaking, as the irritating middle-class white students and their Jewish buddies on campus thought, but rather it needed a primordial revolution — back to who we were in the numerous heroic ages of our identity: back to the early religious, ethnic, and class convictions of being Irish Republican, Bolshevik-Leninist, Syndicalist, White Nationalist, Revolutionary Europeanist, etc., etc.

        I participated in nearly every demonstration and riot in or around the Berkeley campus in the period 1965-69 (there were many); later I joined a Leninist sect, was a ‘youth organizer’ for a while, and then, after a stint in the army, I implanted myself as a blue-collar trade unionist. If I had remained a Catholic I would have become a Jesuit, instead I became a militant (Lenin’s ‘professional revolutionist’) in service to the artisan-like God of the white working class (and for me it was preeminently white).

        Identity, I learned early on, is the meaning we find in our lives. And we can’t live our lives without meaning. Because my identity has always clashed with the prevailing ethos, I’ve been a rebel all my life.

        At this present point in my existence, however, I have to work a low-wage job which barely pays the rent and allows me only a few hours per day/week to devote to what I started doing late in life – writing. Time permits me nothing else. When we go to the barricades or to mass engagements, then the time for writing – for me – will end. But this is what I have to offer at this point in my life – little as it may be.

      • T.E.L.
        Posted November 6, 2011 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

        Thank you kindly for what you wrote Dr. O’Meara. I am an ethnic German (from my late fathers side) and Dalmatian/Occitan (from my mothers side) from Croatia with an Irish citizenship and passport.



      • Trainspotter
        Posted November 27, 2011 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

        T.E.L. “Now years on Dr.O’Meara and Dr. Greg Johnson are the most interesting authors and thinkers in North America.”

        They are indeed, and both happen to exist in most interesting times.

        The white nation, broadly speaking, begins to stir. Something is disturbing him, some mean thought intrudes upon his sleep, and he turns. He tries to go back to the comfort of his dreams, but there it is again! In this fitful and yet essentially sedate state, we find him at present. Could a real awakening be at hand?

        I hear of such stirrings in Europe, and pray that they be the beginnings of an unstoppable wave as opposed to a passing ripple. Sea changes come neither easily or often, but we may just be on the cusp of one.

        America, on the other hand, is a rather different story. She is known as being religious, but her only god is money. Her only value is success. For those that don’t achieve this much vaunted success, America has only scorn. Calling people “losers” has been our national pastime.

        But now our gold digging America has a slight problem: even “normal” people are going under financially. Even the industrious, the sober, the upper middle class elect, find that their dreams of granite countertops have been forsaken by a jealous and unforgiving god.

        Without money, what does the poor girl have left? A bunch of aging and atrocious strip malls? Walmart? What exactly?

        Talk about putting all of one’s eggs in a single basket. That basket is coming apart at the seams, and the American people have absolutely no idea what to do about it. Perhaps because they are no longer a people at all, so alienated are they from any meaningful tradition or culture. Proposition nations have nothing to fall back upon, which makes them quite vulnerable to a hard shove.

        The point, and I actually do have an approximation of a point, is that something is in the air here as well. Not the awakening of an ancient instinct as we hear about in Europe, but simply a giving up, a letting go. An acknowledgement of the hollow, if you will, however slight.

        Heck, even Auster (yes, I know, I know) has crossed a rubicon of sorts:
        “Another blog entry working out my new point of view, which is that I no longer believe that the West in its current form can be saved. This does not mean that we don’t keep fighting on all the issues we care about. It just means that I no longer expect the Western societies as societies to turn around before it’s too late. We keep working at trying to save the West, but if it is saved, it will be in a different form from what it is now. Preparing for that new form is our task.”

        America as a concept is finished. She still wields enormous power and commands great resources, but as an idea and aspiration she has jumped the shark. Unfortunately, she is entirely unequipped for what comes next. And Auster is right: preparing for that new form is our task.

      • Fourmyle of Ceres
        Posted November 27, 2011 at 10:32 pm | Permalink


        Trainspotter in blockquote, emphasis in bold:

        Heck, even Auster (yes, I know, I know) has crossed a rubicon of sorts:
        “Another blog entry working out my new point of view, which is that I no longer believe that the West in its current form can be saved. This does not mean that we don’t keep fighting on all the issues we care about. It just means that I no longer expect the Western societies as societies to turn around before it’s too late. We keep working at trying to save the West, but if it is saved, it will be in a different form from what it is now. Preparing for that new form is our task.

        Have I mentioned the works and analysis of a Mr. Harold Covington tonight?

        It seems Mr. Covington has addressed these painful truths, and offered some excellent leading thoughts as to a metasolution to the metaproblem.

        I believe Dr. O’Meara has even written on the topic of Mr. Covington’s formulations. His book is available for purchase, as well, and a great investment it is, in terms of clearly seeing what lurks right around the corner, waiting for us…and what to DO about it, in an “apple-pie, strictly legal, sort of way.” (HT: Jim Giles)

        What’s In YOUR Future? Focus Northwest!

  2. Denise
    Posted November 3, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    The one important element is the seeming inability of White people to care about thier obliteration from existence.

    • francis alexander
      Posted November 3, 2011 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

      If Europe is in dormition, what does that make America?

      Michael, good to see you spreading the word to the Alt Right i.e warmed up pale0-conservatives

      • Michael O'Meara
        Posted November 3, 2011 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

        “If Europe is in dormition, what does that make America?”

        Good question.

        I go two ways.

        On bad days, I think America is no nation, no people — she lacks a tradition and High Culture – and she never became anything more than a white, English-speaking population committed to a Dream born in opposition to Europe’s tragic culture. She — and her materialist escape from reality — will inevitably break-up and, with it, bring down her horrendous world order. Despite certain manly virtues (however repressed) and an engaging will, I think white Americans will be saved through the grace of God alone – for America is not asleep, she ‘s simply an illusion — one of Europe’s bad ideas — she lacks an origin, she lacks a destiny.

        On good days, however, I remember the gallant Confederacy; the cowboys whose chivalric spirit refutes the Puritans, and bandits like Jesse James (our Ned Kelley, our IRA) coming straight out of the Iliad. On good days I remember the America of John Ford and the St. Patrick Day parade, of the Alamo and Kearny’s Workingmen’s Party, of Father Coughlin and Huey Long. However plebeian, this America gives me hope because in its rude, innocent way it is true to our Mother soil and Father Culture.

        And Francis, the paleos are one of my roots. I read Tom Fleming’s Chronicles for a decade. Through them, I discovered the American in me (I travel with an Irish passport); I discovered Sam Francis (who led me to TOQ); and I encountered Tom Sunic’s early pieces on the ENR (which led to other things).

        In any case, I’m having more good days now since Europe started awakening.

  3. Posted November 4, 2011 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    An important review, which I’d advise reading along with a very short Venner article, “Europe in Dormition”, of only 492 words (here at CC).

  4. CompassionateFascist
    Posted November 7, 2011 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    I’ll just point out the obvious: these post-1945 “Europeans” have allowed themselves to be spiritually AND physically disarmed by globalist bankster overlords. Not so in America: Gunfighter Nation. This is where the real Uprising against ZOG will begin, and where it will succeed.

    • Michael O'Meara
      Posted November 27, 2011 at 11:57 am | Permalink


      Are you delusional? The ‘globalist bankster overlords’ are preeminently American, just as your ‘Gunfighter Nation’ is the Global Cop, who, at gun point, ensures that the bankers are paid.

    • White Republican
      Posted November 28, 2011 at 5:23 am | Permalink

      Americans baffle me. They have so many guns, and so many worthy targets on the streets and the corridors of power, but they can’t put their guns to good use. They still believe in the lies and delusions of the system, they still respect the malignant institutions and absurd rituals of the system, they still wear a kosher collar and leash around their necks. They might not like the politicians they cast votes for in elections, but they would be genuinely shocked and appalled if these politicians were to be rewarded for their treason with lead rather than gold. That kind of thing just isn’t done.

      As Revilo P. Oliver put it over forty years ago: “Treason is merely commonplace in the United States today.” Decadence and subversion almost appear to be natural and integral components of the American system.

      Oliver also wrote, in the review I cited above, words that contemporary White Americans should take to heart: “We in America must again have faith — an unyielding and unquestioning faith — in ourselves, in our values, and in our strength. For without that faith, we are lost, and no syllogisms will save us. Without that faith, we are men standing helpless on the bridge of a sinking ship and our voices are lost in the rush of the wind and the infinite loneliness of a darkling sea.” This conception of national identity and sovereignty is, of course, very different from that held — or should that be received? — by most White Americans today.

    • Lew
      Posted November 28, 2011 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

      Well, even after a year of reading CC and “new right” perspectives, the anti-American commentary from our Euro friends still leaves me a bit baffled. The fact is, there is nothing that is true about America that is not also true about Western Europe and the West generally. Western Europeans are just as decadent as Americans, just as beholden to international finance, and just as enamored with feminism, egalitarianism, multiculturalism and consumerism. Moreover, European governments and the EU are as bad as the US government and in some cases worse.

      • White Republican
        Posted November 29, 2011 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

        Your comments on European decadence are probably true enough, but what Guillaume Faye has called “the system that kills peoples” is centered in America, to the extent that this system can be said to have a center. Given that America is the superpower of this system, and given that European countries are its satellites, it is quite natural that European nationalists are often strongly anti-American. American and European societies may be more or less equally decadent (it should be noted that judgments passed on such things are often ill-informed and invariably impressionistic and subjective), but America plays the leading role in promoting such decadence internationally. In this sense, America is the Great Satan.

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