Socrates Versus the Bugmen

[1]2,285 words

I’ve mentioned before on this site and elsewhere that being part of the Dissident Right is an initiatory experience, as far as I’m concerned. Even though there’s a good deal of new information to be assimilated, none of it is exactly obscure. Any normie can read Kevin MacDonald or watch a Stefan Molyneux video. We don’t have any exclusive knowledge about the world. And yet we are very different. This, I believe, is firstly due to a fundamental transformation – spiritual and physical – that the average guy has to undergo in order to become /ourguy/. Secondly, the aforementioned normie must have within him the kernel of that thing which makes our guys /ourguy/. We can wax scientific about the heritability of character traits and political beliefs, and the literature on that is pretty strong (see Steve Sailer, hbd Chick, and Audacious Epigone), but suffice to say for the moment that it’s so.

We can try to discern this transformation and its precursors, or we can indulge our laziness and read an obscure book, in which the ancients have already done that for us. Stashed in Book II of Xenophon’s Memorabilia [2], there is an exchange related by Xenophon in which Socrates has a discussion with a wayward student, one Aristippus of Cyrene, about the wisdom of indulging in physical pleasure. Our lad Aristippus, of course, here plays the part of the hedonist who overeats, overdrinks, oversleeps, avoids labor, and is overly amorous in his disposition.

The way Socrates goes about attacking the hedonist position is very interesting. The go-to response to hedonism in our movement is “x is degenerate.” Now, while that may be true, many things, including some of the things we do ourselves, are “degenerate” in the Spenglerian, if not the colloquial, sense, and then we go into the fun world of nuance and whether a vice is still degenerate if practiced in moderation, or if vilified by our enemies. For example, is being a womanizer degenerate? If so, why is womanizing demonized by the most obviously degenerate Leftists? And furthermore, “x is degenerate” is only half a step removed from the EvangeloCon’s risible “x makes baby Jesus cry.” That aside, “x is degenerate” is a valid expression within the confines of the movement – as esoteric speech to the already initiated. However, when one faces a normie, the normie is likely to ask, “Why is x degenerate?” And here Socrates gives us some great arguments.

His argument to Aristippus is this: Imagine you were tasked with educating two children, one to be raised to be a ruler, and another not. Which one, Socrates asks, would Aristippus teach to abstain from overeating, drink, lechery, laziness, and other vices? Aristippus responds that of course the child who shall rule must be taught to abstain from vice, and for good reason. Not only does vice distract from the business of governance (or war, or farming, or other noble professions that Socrates mentions), but it can serve as bait for hostile forces to entrap the ruler – Socrates specifically mentions quails and partridges lured to their deaths by the call of a hen-bird. Can you say honeytrap? Can you say blackmail? For the longest time, the most sensible governments forbade homosexuals from serving in office – not because of some sort of “homophobia” against gay cooties, but because a homosexual can be blackmailed, especially if one is married. The same goes for adulterers, gamblers, debtors, alcoholics, and drug abusers. Developing a vice and incurring debt (which are the same thing) are actions which invite blackmail and entrapment. God knows how many tales of treachery begin with a busty Russian woman saying – in that enigmatically attractive accent – “If you betray your country, KGB will make your debts go poof.”

As an aside, it’s good to mention Socrates’ view on comfort. As we mentioned before, Socrates considers war and farming noble professions. Both, as he explains, are practiced outdoors, as are “more than half the rest” – at least in his time. And yet, men are not trained to endure heat and cold. I write this in a heated office, sitting in an ergonomic chair, but I’ve predicted the collapse of the current global political system in almost every article I’ve ever published. One day, we’ll have to fight, farm, and toil in scorching heat and bitter cold. This fragile and fragilizing edifice of Epicurean delights will be gone. And not only climate control, but other comforts will be gone, too. Stop taking painkillers, even mild analgesics. Do not get used to anything that’s likely to be gone after the collapse. Listen to the wise philosopher, and get used to it early, friends.

Aristippus concedes that it’s better for a ruler to be free of vice and unaccustomed to comfort, and concedes that if a child were to be put in his care and that child was meant to become a ruler, he’d teach it to shun vice and comfort. And yet for himself, he reserves the right to enjoy vice and comfort because he doesn’t seek power. We are treated to a speech by Aristippus on the thanklessness of leadership which is best described as “sour grapes on steroids.” A ruler, according to Aristippus, is he who is treated by the state in the manner that a man treats his servants. He is expected to do everything and get nothing in return. If he does something as natural as appoint his nephew Minister of Justice, he is called corrupt, and there’s even a special word for appointing your nephew – nepotism, complete with that scary “ism” on the end. A ruler is, in this sense, a slave of the state.

Socrates shoots this down quite easily by pointing out that the rulers always and everywhere live better lives than the ruled. In a manner that is especially poignant and relevant to our contemporary woes in the deracinated West, where we are enslaved by a foreign and hostile elite, Socrates brings up many examples of entire peoples being ruled by foreigners: the Syrians, Phrygians, and Lydians by the Persians, the Maeotians by the Scythians, the Libyans by the Carthaginians, and so on. Aristippus claims that he doesn’t belong to that class of people who are ruled, but rather takes a middle path, a path of freedom which leads to happiness. And here, we get to the meat of what Aristippus is. He’s not just a guy who wants to get his rocks off and is unable to restrain himself. He belongs to a very specific and repugnant type of man, sadly abundant both in our age and that of Socrates. But let us read on and see if we can get a more complete image of the esteemed Athenian’s interlocutor.

Socrates, again, points out the obvious: that as long as Aristippus goes among the people, there’s no way he’d be neither ruler nor ruled, as rule is merely the application of power. Strength and bravery dominate over weakness and cowardice, and the strong subjugate the weak. The weak have no freedom, no happiness, and everything that they build can be taken from them by force.

This, I believe, is one initiation that libertarianism cannot survive. My own personal journey through the libertarian milieu and into the Dissident Right pipeline began with reading Nassim Nicholas Taleb. He considers it very important to have “fuck-you money,” so that one may be independent and pursue one’s appetites and interests without being in thrall to a boss, a career, and a reputation. I agree with this wholeheartedly and encourage everyone who reads this to obtain fuck-you money. But say there’s a mean ole government who has it in for you. They’ve got all the guns, whereas you have none (or a peashooter which you can only use at the range). They’ll take your fuck-you money, fine you for saying “fuck you” to them, and tell you to go fuck yourself – while fucking you. Or, as our friends in the criminal-American community would put it, “Damn, it feels good to be a gangsta [3].”

The solution, mes amis? Either put this idea of being “free” to rest and make a life for yourself in the shadow of the state – which isn’t that bad once you consider the alternative – or obtain fuck-you power, which is to say a private army, and not one whose loyalty is based on money. Mercs are shifty, and the government has more money than you. In other words, be a baron, which, circling back to the discussion between Socrates and his pupil, means becoming a ruler. And that, my friends, is how your esteemed author resolved to renounce libertarianism.

Now, whereas a modern-day libertarian would violate the non-aggression principle (NAP) by raping our ears with incessant tirades on the subject of the NAP, Aristippus immediately concedes that indeed, the strong and brave dominate the weak and cowardly. He, however, isn’t constrained by such trifles, because, you see, he is a citizen of the world, living everywhere as a foreigner. By not belonging to any particular polis, he is free to move whenever he feels tyrannized.

Here we understand that we are dealing with someone who is not your average hedonist, but an international globetrotter, rootless and consuming. I am reminded of Jeffrey Tucker’s cringeworthy and embarrassing plug of McDonald’s mozzarella sticks as the pinnacle of human achievement [4]. Yay, capitalism; yay, open borders; yay, buttsex! These are not your misguided – though honorable – Hoppeans looking to enforce covenant communities based on race and ethnicity. Tumbling out of the clown car with weed decals are the freaks, degenerates, drug addicts, gluttons, lechers, morons, pop-culture consumers, and fig-leaf intellectuals with their lips surgically attached to the Koch brothers’ rear ends which comprise the Libertarian Party and Reason magazine’s readership.

Socrates then delivers yet another cold shower of ruthless reality. The foreigner is always and everywhere of low status – excluded, and not quite as safe as the citizen. Even in our feminized, fragilizing society, tourists are always the ones getting ripped off, and one has only to haunt the pubs nearest the hostels for an easy lay.

Aristippus attempts one final rhetorical flourish by attempting to equate the self-denial of Socrates’ ruler-to-be with the privations of the poor and downtrodden. However, Socrates won’t be fooled. Much like how the hunter derives pleasure from the toil, the thrill of the hunt, so the man denying himself comfort and vice gains pleasure from this denial and toil – virtue is in many ways its own reward, but more than that, they who toil for their friends, their family, their nation, their country – they all look to higher rewards than comfort or freedom from pain. It’s rather comfortable to spend your nights playing video games and eating junk food, whereas being a father, a son, a soldier, a statesman, and a friend isn’t. But one category of being brings the highest pleasure, whereas the other brings emptiness on an existential level.

Aristrippus here acts as an Iron Age bugman who is content with being nowhere in life – in having no roots, no home, and pretending to eschew power, while having very little hope of actually holding it. The reader is well advised to read this dialogue. Aristrippus’ little diatribe on why power is bad is laughable to anyone who’s ever been near power, or offered real power. It feels good – viscerally good – to be in charge, even though you may be overworked, sleep-deprived, and lonely. But more importantly, power is a means to an end, to achieve something great, something good.

And here I come at last to discerning between the types of guys who have the potential for greatness – for being /ourguy/ – as opposed to being just another part of the teeming masses. As for the two children in Socrates’ analogy, sure, we may try to teach them one way or another, but I suspect that the propensity for leadership is inborn. Thus, he who would be king, will be king, and he who wouldn’t, wouldn’t. Raising men to shun vice and comfort will not turn them into rulers, but raising rulers to love vice and comfort will turn them into corrupt rulers, easily manipulated by enemies both foreign and domestic. I think, however, we can sniff out potential /ourguys/ by measuring their response to the fundamental nature of power. If a man reacts with hysterical shaking and repetitions of “muh NAP” when faced with the fact that men with guns will eventually show up to take that for which he toiled, he’s probably got no potential for further growth; or in initiatory terms, he cannot proceed to the next degree in the lodge.

He who accepts the nature of power can either resolve to live in its shadow, or take the tremendous task of seizing power for himself, in order to ultimately be free – have fuck-you power, so to speak. These two categories of men are /ourguys/: the first to follow and build our new world, the second to lead and guide it. But both must experience a transformation – a physical, mental, and spiritual transformation. Both types of man must achieve physical fitness, deny themselves the petty comforts of modernity, and shun its vices. To build a new tomorrow, they must become new men, better men, stronger men, men who take responsibility; those who don’t fear either leading or following, and who reject the lie of equality and the lure of hedonism. The sublime pleasure of discipline, of knowing one is above the lures of the flesh, that one has rejected today’s poisons and lies, and the one who has serenity of purpose and the fire of determination – these are the rewards for he who resolves to be great and stares down the beast.