There is one point of agreement between the progressives and the conservatives, and that is the depressive effect which globalized, urban, consumerist mass culture has upon the individual. They differ in their reactions: the former usually ending up throwing out the baby with the bathwater, but the latter often getting confused as to the proper reaction, both to the phenomenon and to the progressives’ attitude toward it.
My opinions on the constant barrage of commercials (I call it brainwashing), on the evils of fast food, on the mind-numbing power of television, on the tastelessness of pop culture and its icons such as Britney Spears, on the drabness of an “everyone to himself” life of big cities and on the emotional starvation of online attachments are the same now as they were in the 1990’s, when I was a left-winger, when I called myself a progressive. In that, the Progressive Left and the Conservative Right see eye to eye almost completely: not all is well in our kingdom.
Nor is it an entirely new sentiment: from the 18th century onward, we see Western writers projecting their dissatisfaction with their own culture onto non-Western characters, characters that are to varying degrees of proximity to reality. The “noble savage” dates from that age.
I have been reading geographic magazines since elementary school, and I saw then a trait in them that still exists now: that editorializing in favor of exotic cultures. Today, when we can all see the mainstream media betray its stated job of objectivity day after day with its editorializing, this is no great surprise; back then, it shocked me. In the case of geographic magazines, it is even worse than the mainstream media, for the MSM has only short items in which to do its underhanded work, while those magazines have whole, spacious articles. Then as now, you will not find it difficult to read in them an article whose spirit is no different from that of Montesquieu (of Persian Letters fame) and Diderot: the outsider is used as the platform for criticizing one’s own society. Those criticisms, as I said, are such that progressives and conservatives share, but the geographic magazines and the mainstream media are of an overwhelmingly progressive, left-leaning streak. And that has dire consequences for our present conflict, for the War On Islam.
An article from a geographic magazine would be too long to bring here, so here’s a link from Flickr, the online photo album, that is quite representative of that mindset. Photograph The Bedouin of Sinai, by Mike Marcus, from September 27, 2005:
That has two comments. First, from Gunnella:
Love the tilt of their heads, ;-) the pride!
And second, by the photographer (mikemarcus):
They are proud and they deserve to be. Bedouins seem truily satisfied with thier lifes. How many westerners can say that? (All spelling original. —ZY)
Concisely put indeed: tribesmen are happy, modern Western man is not. Though such a sweeping generalization should raise question marks, especially when sounded by those who claim to “oppose all bigotry, stereotyping and racism”, there is in it the grain of truth that modern society of mass-production has lost us something.
Do you not long for it, that society whose members are a community, helping each other in times of need? Do you not pine for family ties, for gatherings where your kin are united in common cause and thought and feeling? Do you not yearn for those tales of love where the man is willing to go in fire and water for the woman, to be her protector and win her heart so as to marry her? Do you not long for traditions, for authentic festivities, for the opportunity to say, “This is what we do”, for being yourself a possible object of an article in a geographic magazine for a change?
“Romanticism”, I hear you say. “Letting your feelings carry you away, away from reason”, I hear you warn. “No better than those Sixties Radicals you so despise”, I hear you scoff. And yet… how many of us who were raised as progressives and became conservatives would have done that if the change had not been stated to involve the rejection of the mass-produced decadence we see around us? The fact that we might have a point of agreement with the progressives doesn’t negate the reality of that drive, that push, that thrust toward something bigger and better. The only question is where this takes us.
The progressives say, “Western culture is trash, all that mass-produced junk is an integral part of it and not a modern aberration, the only way to escape is to throw it all away and adopt the wisdom of the non-Westerns, thereby also atoning for our past colonial sins”. This leads to all kinds of roads to perdition: Marxism, anarcho-primitivism, multiculturalism and, of course, Islam, whether by actually converting to it, as Adam Gadahn did, or, more usually, giving sympathy and support and aid and comfort to it as a “resistance movement against Western imperialism”. In which case the sentiment of, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” prevails over many, many stated progressive ideals, such that the suggestion that women might actually be harmed by abortion is decried as “Biblical patriarchy”, whereas the custom of female genital mutilation prevalent in African societies is hailed as a form of women’s liberation!
On the sane side of the map, the side that is not so lost in hating itself and embracing anything exotic solely by virtue of its exoticity, what is to be done? So far, conservative reactions to leftist Occidentalism (to invert the title of Edward Said’s intellectual ball and chain) have been to discredit them without addressing the common root, shared, as I said, by both progressives and conservatives, from which they sprout. They rightly say that a full application of those anti-Western ideas would lead to famine, oppression and misery of unimagined proportions. (As they already did. Ask any Cambodian.) But then they fail to make the positive case for an authentic, might I say even tribal, Western culture.
For I know, I know, what I have as my own now! I see this situation in which, when one man suddenly gets in financial trouble, all the others help him—because he is one of the regular congregants at our synagogue. I see at least one day every week set out, mandatorily, for all the members of the family to be together at the table, singing and conversing on holy and good things. The community watches for unmarried men and women and cares for their solution. Life is steeped in tradition. Festivities abound, whether the gaiety of the Purim carnivals or the solemn procession of bringing in a new Torah scroll. And all this, all this is without relinquishing a single modern convenience. City tribesmen, as happy as any Bedouin.
Now that was a description of life in [Orthodox] Judaism. But every Western country has its traditions, mostly Christian, some pre-Christian reworked into modern times. And it never ceases to amaze me how progressives envy the Bedouin tribesmen yet trash the Bible. So many traditional customs and ways of life that win their hearts when marketed as “Oriental exoticisms” can be found in the Bible. The three patriarchs of Judaism, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (peace be upon them), lived as desert nomads. This is not to say life as desert nomads is necessarily desirable—I just described a whole, authentic tribal life without it—but it does show that the progressives don’t just betray their minds, they betray their own hearts as well. The fact that the same custom elicits a different reaction from them when presented as Biblical than when presented as, for example, Ancient Native Himalayan means the progressives are not for anything positive, but only for the negative goal of doing away with Western civilization. It makes things all very clear now.
Biblical justice and Greek democracy are good enough reasons for some as to why Western civilization is worth fighting for. But apart from these admittedly relatively abstract concepts, there is a substratum of native, authentic Western culture, or cultures, which can still shine clear through the mud of mass-produced junk culture, and which can thus serve as the anchor against throwing it all away for life in a Marxist or Islamic gulag. Be your own tribes.