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Why & How to Build Dissident High Culture

[1]2,930 words

It’s been said that the greatest political divide in America is urban vs. rural, with Democrats controlling cities and Republicans controlling small towns and villages. Beyond this political divide, there’s also a deep cultural divide between Red and Blue America. Hell, there’s even a physical divide, manifested in the physiognomy of the people. As observed by Travis LeBlanc in his reportage on the Million Maga March [2]:

If I weren’t a believer in physiognomy before reaching Freedom Plaza, I was soon afterward. White liberals and white conservatives just look different. They look about as different from each other as Italians and Germans do. You occasionally meet someone who could pass for the other, but you will guess right over 90% of the time. As someone who has spent the last several years in one of the most liberal cities in America, that’s something that really stood out to me: just how different conservatives look. Part of it may be differences in fashion and dietary habits. Maybe with a different haircut, clothes, and a vegan diet, some of these people might look more liberal, but I don’t know. People just look conservative, and being around them felt like I had traveled not just to a different city but a different country.

I have my own theories as to why this is so, but that’s a story for another day. Suffice to say that my own observations of the conservative and liberal animals in their natural habitats bears out M. LeBlanc’s commentary.

These two different sets of white people have radically different cultures. White liberal culture is best summed up at Stuff White People Like [3] (SWPL). Notice that it’s framed as explicitly white culture: white liberals are conscious of their whiteness, at least. White conservatives, on the other hand, would probably describe themselves as American or Christian before anything else. White liberals also seem to have a racial consciousness in the political sense; what separates them from dissidents is that they lack in-group preference, being strongly xenophillic — exhibiting strong out-group preference. Much of the SWPL list consists of exotic foods and practices. White people love showing their worldliness, even if they’re not worldly.

Contrast that with Red American culture, which appears to me — as represented through the imperfect prism of social media — to be centered on a seemingly utilitarian cuisine which nevertheless maximizes calorie intake at the expense of macronutrient distribution, big houses (McMansions), big trucks, guns, evangelical Protestantism of the megachurch variety, claiming to be independent, and venerating labor. The predominant politi-cultural archetype of Red America —  and especially since Donald Trump and MAGA swept away any remaining notions of Christian propriety from Red American culture — is the middle-aged peroxide blonde woman who shoots guns, drinks whiskey, and supports Israel. In fact, if I were given the abilities of Dr. Frankenstein, an unlimited budget, and a mission to bring this archetype into being, I’d take Marjorie Taylor Greene’s face and hair, stick it on Kristi Noem’s body, but add Kaitlin Bennet’s tits. She’d have a MAGA hat, aviator sunglasses, a tight black tank top, and military-style khaki pants (or jean shorts).

Red America seems like a magnificent place to visit, but I’d hate living there. For starters, they drive too freaking much. Maybe it’s a European thing, but I prefer walking. In fact, one of the biggest perks of city life is that everywhere worth being is within walking distance. I did not have a driver’s license until I was 27 and did not need it. The idea of commuting to work for more than half an hour disgusts me. The notion of sitting in a car and breathing its A/C for two hours every day just to go to work is disturbing, and I wouldn’t wish such an existence on my worst enemy. Back when I was working, my office was a five-minute walk from my house through picturesque, tree-lined streets. While I do own a car nowadays, I see my Korean compact automobile as merely a tool for going from place A to place B, Red America has a cult of the big truck. In fact, part of the suburban/exurban mode of living means that leaving the house automatically entails going somewhere in a car. Sometimes, entire weeks pass without me ever even starting my car.

Red American culture isn’t xenophillic. It is characterized by strong in-group preference. However, as I pointed out before, Red America lacks racial consciousness, and the people there introduce themselves as Americans, Christians, patriots — anything but white, really. Nevertheless, Red American culture is a white, Western culture, just as Blue American culture is a white, Western culture. But unlike Blue American culture, Red American culture is low culture — a peasant culture, or if you want to be more charitable, folksy culture. It’s self-sufficient and dreamlike and distrusts change, preferring to keep things as they are (even though it rapidly mutates under modernity’s relentless pressure). It is governed more by physical factors such as the vast distances of the American continent, or the necessity for arms in the face of America’s predatory wildlife. Most importantly for us, it sees that which is foreign as a problem to be solved or a danger to be kept at bay. Sure, they love it when foreigners like Kathy Zhu or even Nick Jeelvy enjoy their culture, but they’ll never try to integrate the Chinese or the Macedonian into their own. Isn’t this a good thing? Isn’t it better to keep our culture pure instead of syncretizing it with foreign influences? Perhaps.

Contrast this with high culture, which is more beholden to the elite tastemakers’ caprice, always seeking to manifest the elusive and ideal metaphysical-moral center into concrete cultural products. This aesthetic-moral center isn’t arbitrary, nor is it under any one person’s absolute command, but it is an emergent property of a system of elite tastemakers seeking to ennoble existence beyond the nasty, brutish, and short facts of life. High culture emanates from the halls of power, and the further divorced it is from material reality, the more sophisticated it is.

In a high culture’s decadent phases, it starts losing its transcendence, starts dropping its supreme confidence in its metaphysical-moral center, and becomes dangerously unbalanced. Islamic decadence has papered over its loss of faith and confidence with fervor, favoring the metaphysical and intensifying the conservative and performative aspects of the religion and the various Islamic cultures. Islamic high culture, which was already ancient when the Umayyads were chased out of Qurtuba, died with the Jannisary corps, when the Ottoman Caliph set his empire on an inevitable course towards dissolution. Without the Caliph to center the Islamic world, it drifted exclusively into a low-culture, low-church (mosque?) religion, embracing the jejune fanaticism of ibn al-Wahhab (a suspected dönmeh, meaning a false Jewish convert to Islam). If you want an image of Islam’s present and future, think of the aesthetically barren House of Saud presiding over the ruins of Arabic low culture. Naturally, this isn’t the end-all-and-be-all of all Islamic culture, but its Arab core has been gouged out. Christian civilization, however, took a different turn.

Instead of taking the Islamic path of decadence — which is essentially the Kierkegaardian leap of faith for when faith is absent — Christian civilization took the route of good works, humanism, Christianity without Christ, and of jettisoning the metaphysical in favor of the moral. This was more or less a conscious decision of the Western elite once they found themselves unable to believe in the Gospel of Christ. Unlike the Caliphs of Islam, they’ve yet to suffer a complete collapse —  although the West has historically always been politically and culturally decentralized, certainly to a far greater degree than Islamic or Chinese civilization. As such, we still have high culture in the West, and only its metaphysical-moral center has been stripped of most of its metaphysical claims, leaving behind an overgrown moralistic tumor with a single, solitary metaphysical belief at its core: that all men are created equal. The current age of nihilistic moralism is the result.

SWPL is the lowest order of cultural artifacts emanating from this decadent Western high culture. It has a degree of sophistication, although nowhere near as grand as deconstructive theater or post-structuralist philosophy. But unlike Red American culture, Blue American culture — which also contains a high-cultural element — is an imperial culture, not understood in the sense of imposing itself on foreigners (although it also does that) but in the sense that it actively seeks out foreign cultural practices and artifacts in order to assimilate and integrate them into its own. Like the Imperial British culture of the nineteenth century, it’ll scour the world for that which it finds useful, beautiful, or merely diverting. It’ll gorge itself on Bashō’s poetry, it’ll pour matcha and aquavit down its gullet, it will stare transfixed at the magic of Indian cinema, it’ll even appropriate the hijab and repackage it as feminism. SWPL is more than half foreign because Blue American culture retains that imperial attitude that culture is to be enriched by the foreign and exotic, such as the silks and cardamoms of the Far East, the lush carpets of Persia, the million spices of India, and the gold and diamonds of darkest Africa.

How impoverished by comparison does Red America appear, content to live in its little corner of the world. How petty, clinging to its flag, banjo, and pickup truck. They talk a big talk about supporting Israel, but they won’t even eat hummus or matzo ball soup (which is incidentally an Austrian invention, known in Europe as Tyrolean soup) and find Seinfeld too alienating. No wonder they always get accused of anti-Semitism: they love the idea of Jews and support the idea of Israel, but engaging with the actual people and country? Not unless they’re looking at hot IDF girls with guns on Facebook — which is in fact a corollary of their own culture, seeing as the gun-toting girl is the Red American aesthetic as well.

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You can buy Greg Johnson’s Truth, Justice, & a Nice White Country here [5]

Even Red America’s imperialism is absent in the cultural sphere. In the Bush years, Red America wanted to invade Afghanistan and Iraq: some to spread democracy to the Middle East, others to “take the oil,” and others still to kill the bad guys. Few thought of acquiring the vast cultural treasures of Mesopotamia and Bactria for America. The neoconservatives didn’t, either, because they, for all their posturing, are uncultured swine, lacking even a folksy low culture. But only 55 years prior, America absorbed Polynesian culture and developed the California tiki aesthetic [6]in the wake of its conquest of the Pacific. Something similar was developed in the West Coast Asian cuisine and cultural aesthetic as a result of the American occupation of several Asian countries.

This seems to be the case whenever there is imperial cultural exchange. Just as Britain had irreversibly changed India, so had India irreversibly changed Britain. When T. E. Lawrence, as the vector of British imperial will, went to the Arabian desert, he was absorbed by it and the surrounding Bedouin Arab culture, emerging a different man. The only American serviceman to undergo a similar transformation during the War on Terror was Bowe Bergdahl, who was decried by Red America as a traitor.

Blue America, by contrast, will absorb everything: the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to break free; the sun, the stars, the clouds; the social credit system of China; the moral fervor of Scandinavia; the violence of darkest Africa. Blue America is open about being in the process of un-Americanizing herself, as its institutions are increasingly staffed mostly by Han, Jews, and Indians. Its culture is starting to turn on white people, even as it projects SWPL onto the swarthy and yellow elite tastemakers it has imported to replace them. What began as an appreciation of the foreign has become a cult of the “vibrant, diverse, and authentic,” which nowadays just means the most vulgar aspects of black and Hispanic tribal cultures. It is ripe for the decentering which we saw in the Islamic world with the abolition of the Caliphate.

To avoid the fate of the Islamic world, a parallel high culture will have to be developed to fill the void. Red American culture cannot be that because it is, as previously stated, a peasant culture and lacking in the imperial element. It is too beholden to material facts to become the basis for court rituals or the glue of an ascendant elite. Thus, the dissident must seek to detach himself not only from Blue American (globohomo) culture, but also from Red American culture. Naturally, just as the Critical Drinker [7] and others remain attached to globohomo culture so that they can show the refuseniks the way out, so will some dissidents or fellow travelers have to remain part of Red American culture in order to gather up those with potential and send them our way.

As for how to actually build this dissident high culture, we do it the way it has been done for millennia: by cultivating a dissident culture class. By this I don’t just mean artists and entertainers, but also thinkers, rhetoricians, and most importantly, dreamweavers [8]. This culture class will then refine the metaphysical-moral center of the emerging high culture. Since we’re scattered all around the world, our high culture will be international from the beginning. Since so many of us are worldly, well-read, and well-travelled, and yet secure in the validity of our whiteness, we will not be ashamed to borrow even from non-white cultures, absorbing what is useful, as Bruce Lee put it.

For various reasons — some of which are enumerated in my essays on cargo-cult politics [9] and echo chambers — this dissident creative class needs to operate far away from and out of sight of Red American culture. We will, of course, absorb from that culture all that is useful — for example, the idea of arming men and fostering the martial disposition — and reject that which is damaging, such as the promotion of gun-toting females who ruin their hair with hydrogen peroxide, or the veneration of Israel.

We must also resist the temptation to hold that culture in contempt, even though it may invite a lot of it [10]. But the main reason why dissident high culture must be developed separately from Red American culture is because Red America will instinctively lash out against any high culture, even if it doesn’t actively disdain it. Having been at the receiving end of Blue American high culture’s disdain for many years, and primed by its inculcation of liberal ideology over the course of four centuries, Red American culture is suspicious and hostile towards anything implying cultural hierarchy — a high in relation to their low. They have the peasant’s innate distrust of the aristocrat, and especially of the urban imperial potentate.

Far too many dissidents have internalized Red America’s distrust of the big city. This distrust is not necessarily Red American, but a universal attitude of peasant culture. Because the dissident tends to stand up for the little people and defend their racial interests, he is tempted to likewise absorb this aspect of their culture. In light of the state of most modern cities, it’s not hard to see why. However, there’s nothing inherently evil about cities and nothing unnatural about living in a city — only tradeoffs with regard to living in the country [11]. You gain some things and lose others.

Modern cities in the West, however, are unlivable — not because they’re big cities or because they’re “run by Democrats,” but because they’re full of incurably criminal and hygiene-hesitant non-whites. A majority-white big city, by contrast, will present a lot of what we call atomization and carries with it many of the problems of civilization (as opposed to problems of nature), but it will also be a safe, clean space where you might even raise a family. Crucially, however, cities accumulate a large number of people in a single area, and that makes ambitious projects possible. I can probably muster a crew for an independent film production in a city of 700,000, but not in a town of 20,000, simply because there aren’t enough people with the necessary disposition or proclivities for making an indie film in most small towns.

Artists tend to be city creatures, unless they’re rich and living in a big house away from the village or off chasing inspiration in the wilderness. The more complex reason for this is that the social affinity between the tastemaker and the cultural worker doesn’t lend itself well to the location- and tribe-bounded affinities of the small town. Therefore, while it might be prudent to move away from a North American or West European city for your safety, do not discount the city’s power as a cultural entity — and certainly not the idea of the city. And for the love of God, don’t move into the suburbs. Living anywhere where you don’t habitually walk will kill your soul.

In parallel to the political institutions which have to be built, the Dissident Right must also develop cultural institutions — and this means either cultivating the personnel to staff them, or poaching such people from our enemies. But for once, we’re not starting from scratch. There’s already Counter-Currents, which functions as the university of the Dissident Right and the center of its emerging salon culture through its livestreams, along with our friends and allies. We’re doing it bigly and it’s wonderful to behold.

For once, I am ending an article on a positive note. If we can keep this up and keep our heads above water, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.

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