The Capitalist Remedy for Meaninglessness
This speech was delivered at the Francis Parker Yockey Memorial Dinner in the San Francisco Bay Area on August 19, 2017. — Greg Johnson
“There can be no national epic about things which the people cannot picture themselves as reproducible in a near future . . .” — Georges Sorel
Whether it is something as deeply gut-wrenching as longing for a dead loved one or as fleeting as a random song which reminds us of a memory from high school, we are frequently involved in internal conversations and negotiations between our individual pasts and presents. It is impossible to stop this process. One’s lived experience is a quilt of interconnected memories, of dreams, personal relationships, emotions, ideals, of tragedies, and of triumphs. Our pasts, enveloped as they are in the foggy intersection of fact and romance, define us at any given moment in time. They can be explanatory and roughly predictive but they cannot be taken as law. We are not slaves to our pasts, not to our bad decisions and failures nor to our moments of success and happiness. Our psyches are informed by our pasts in the same way that any given current sociopolitical climate is informed by history, but, as with history, our pasts never have to determine anything. There are no laws that bind human will.
We live in an age of superficiality. Those things which bond communities in a real sense have been eroded to such a degree that fantasy has taken over from reality in the search for meaning. And, even worse, this fantasy is not even utopian in nature. It is a backwards, negative fantasy, one dependent on a combination of nostalgia and irony. Irony is a crucial aspect of our age; it is an indication that we, as a race and as a culture, have lost faith not just in authenticity but in the very possibility of authenticity. As the postmodernist historian Hayden White wrote:
Irony tends to dissolve all belief in the possibility of positive political actions. In its apprehension of the essential folly or absurdity of the human condition, it tends to engender belief in the “madness” of civilization itself and to inspire a Mandarin-like disdain for those seeking to grasp the nature of social reality in either science or art.
There is much more that could be said about irony as an overarching theme of our age but for our purposes we must simply note that its prevalence across the contemporary social and political spectrum is indicative of a distrust in, and perhaps an abhorrence of, man-made systems, whether formal or informal. In our search for meaning and authenticity in this age of irony, we tend to bury ourselves in nostalgia, which is, in essence, the fetishization of the dead and the impossible. When authenticity seems impossible in the present, the past is romanticized. And whatever is romanticized can be commodified. There is indeed a market for emotion.
Capitalism relies on unmoored physical movement, tenuous interpersonal connections, and sensual whim for its sustenance and has thus both facilitated the historical march of irony and provided a system of nostalgia to act as an opiate by which to provide temporary relief from the agony of meaninglessness. By disseminating palliative symbols and profiting on access to them, this system thrives and immobilizes white populations by reducing their understanding of history to false inevitabilities, superficialities, platitudes, and decontextualized assertions. Our histories, both personal and collective, become a collection of sounds, images, and texts to be bought, sold, and traded based on the emotional appeal of any particular example. There is no need for order, no need for context, and no need for contemplation. All that is required is a desire for temporary escape from the conditions maintained by capitalism.
Inherent in the practice of nostalgia is a search for meaning coupled with the unavoidable psychological tendency to mark the passage of time. These are neither unhealthy nor unnatural impulses on their own but under capitalism, as connections to “blood and soil” weaken, they take on a greater significance and work in concert to manufacture a toxic individual and collective mental state. Rather than producing minds that are energetically oriented towards the future, they produce minds mired in the past, emotionally dependent on the avoidance of reality, trapped by delusions of resurrection and romance. Whole populations of people are reduced to immobility and blind acceptance of whichever way the sociopolitical winds are blowing by dwelling on what are, somewhat paradoxically, calming images of defeat. The system of nostalgia preys on these vulnerabilities. Parasites will always take advantage of easily manipulated biological drives and psychological urges.
It is important, however, to make the distinction between historical memory and nostalgia. Historical memory — so crucial to all nationalisms — is an understanding of history as a part of a living, vital, forward-moving process. It is the integration of the essence of past collective experience into the present. It the use of history to more deeply understand those forces which act upon groups in the present and which propel history forward. That is to say, it is a sense of history that enables the creation of history. Nostalgia, on the other hand, is a pathological obsession with turning back the clock, of venerating lost eras, of dreaming of racial or civilizational regeneration minus action. It is an inherently reactionary and therefore counterproductive orientation.
In a healthy society, the weakness of nostalgists is marginalized by the vitality of the society itself. After all, it is hard to utterly devote oneself to a romanticized past if that past is no more vital than the present. But under the capitalist order, in which the temporary has more value than the eternal, the trivial is prioritized over the meaningful, and every day brings some new example of social degradation, nostalgists — through little fault of their own, it must be said — blossom and are able to infect the masses with their weakness and indeed are rewarded for doing so. What would have been relatively simple and harmless reminiscences in a healthy society become a state of being in an unhealthy society. This leads ultimately to pessimism and political paralysis. If one’s worldview is based on a return to a romanticized past, one will be doomed to failure and misery. Time moves in only one direction.
Instead of an adventurous life, nostalgia begets a safe life. Instead of engagement, nostalgia rewards retreat. Instead of optimism, nostalgia promotes pessimism. Each of us has witnessed the many years of media corporations and socially acceptable public figures reminding whites that we will become minorities in our own lands and that we should warmly embrace this fate. This message is, of course, fairly direct. But working alongside this message is this highly profitable system of nostalgia which temporarily soothes any discomfort. “You, white man,” we are told, “are going to be a minority, but please just watch this television show rerun, listen to this classic rock band, enjoy this old film and forget about it.” Not only does nostalgia offer an escape from reality, but upon return — after the high has worn off — one’s sense of loss will be heightened. The chasm between the idealized past and unsatisfactory present seems to become increasingly insurmountable. We are conditioned on all sides to accept our demise, directly and indirectly. And we pay good money for this conditioning.
There is little under capitalism that cannot be bought and sold. The natural impulses of the human mind to memorialize its own existence and seek spiritual value provide the capitalist with opportunities to feed on our meaninglessness, on our discomfort in this world, on our desire for a better place, on our loss of hope and energy. Helpless, hopeless, and drugged by the omnipresent symbols of our planned fate, the capitalist is able to work freely with little resistance. The real engines of history become buried under layer upon layer of textual sludge. The system of nostalgia offers for sale an impossible dream which destines the buyer to political impotence and spiritual impoverishment.
It is appropriate here to include a brief discussion of what the above means with regards to the recent events in Charlottesville. On the surface, it might seem that the event was one of nostalgia, a last grasp to preserve the symbols of a lost and unsalvageable era. And indeed if it had only been about the statues this would have been true. But this was not the case. It was instead an excellent example of white historical memory vitalized right before the eyes of the world. Those statues — meaningless in and of themselves — became symbols of something far greater: the maintenance in the present of white identity, of a people who are increasingly refusing to be wiped from the map through the machinations of Jews and capitalists. It was not a plea to return to the past. It was a demand on the future. It was exactly the sort of thing that makes nostalgists feel very uncomfortable.
With regards to Southern identity more broadly, the nostalgists are the “heritage not hate” crowd who have whitewashed their own history to paint it as some bucolic, harmonious, apolitical social paradise in which mint juleps were sipped by benevolent patriarchs while Sambo and Paddy toiled happily in their sunny fields. These people ache for a history that they never experienced and about which most of them probably know very little. Those present in Charlottesville who were thinking ahead, who were there out of concern for the future rather than reverence for the past as the past, harnessed the power of historical memory by consciously or subconsciously acting on what is eternal in those statues: the value of racial identity and its relevance to the past, present, and future. The preservation of the statues was important that day because their removal was nothing but yet another symptom of the corrupt anti-white system under which we live. It is unlikely that very many people at the rally wanted those statues to stay merely because they enjoyed looking at them. The “heritage not hate”-types, the civic nationalists who have no concept whatsoever of how human groups function in the real world, are nostalgists who want to resurrect a deracinated, sanitized, safe, Southern (or American) identity. They are postcard nationalists — they want the pretty pictures but do not want to spend much on them. White Nationalists, on the other hand, want to create a new and better world, one that is an extension of our history but does not view it through rose-colored glasses. White Nationalists look critically at themselves as much as they do others. This itself can be frustrating at times but is ultimately a sign of life — which is more than can be said for most other groups either native to or occupying the West. So what exactly am I suggesting we do about this capitalist system of nostalgia?
First, be self-aware. Critique everything that you consume. This does not mean stop consuming, but understand that every input has consequences and that some things which provide you pleasure are in fact hurting you. If something as minor as a particular image or song, for example, makes you long for the past or feel hopeless, discard it. You do not need it. Do not allow yourself to fall into black-pilled paralysis. If you find something that makes you want to fight for the future even harder, you have likely tapped into something eternal — you have stepped onto the plane of historical memory. Surround yourself with such things and cultivate this feeling.
Second, begin to think about the systems of modernity in broader terms than just race. Race is, of course, our primary concern but our enemies do not think solely in these terms. They are as busy manufacturing new systems of control and coercion as they are decimating our demographics — because neither can guarantee them a victory on its own. Each of us at this very moment is enveloped in a system not of our own design and one which we want to bring crashing down. But this will not happen unless we see every insidious aspect of it and reject its every manifestation in our lives. Revere that which is eternal; harness the power of historical memory; but refuse to become a victim of the somnolence of nostalgia, refuse to get teary-eyed over false hopes of resurrection, refuse to become trapped by fantasy, or dependent upon symbols of meekness, compliance, and failure. Focus on the future and act.
 Georges Sorel, Reflections on Violence, 5th ed., trans. T. E. Hulme (New York: Collier, 1972).
 Hayden White, Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973), p. 38.
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