“Postmodernism and Cultural Marxism | Jordan B Peterson”

Thoughts on traditionalism

Been thinking about the topic of traditionalism lately, since people keep bringing it up. Made a video last night pertaining to my rejection of misogynistic traditions (and the anti-feminists who accept them), but I couldn’t do the topic justice since it encompasses so much. First off, when we say “traditionalism,” what are we referring to? Oftentimes we Americans are referring to past Christian traditions, seeing as how that’s the religion that’s had the greatest influence on our culture. But that’s not all there is to traditions — traditions existed LONG before (and since) Christianity came on the scene.

Religions have always factored into human history, and they varied wildly from culture to culture and up through time. I think what’s most impressive about Christianity is how pervasive it proved to be. Prior to the rise of Christianity there had never been such a broad-scale, globally-saturating religion, because advances in technologies went hand in hand with its dissemination. And it wasn’t sold to various countries and cultures by sheer influence but rather through conquest and invasion (i.e., imperialism).

I don’t hate Christianity or reject 100% of its teachings, though I am not a religious person and take great issue with plenty of the ways in which it’s interpreted and how attempts are made to literally apply its scriptures in today’s world. It’s a historical record of a collection of narratives intended to guide people who lived long ago. The kernel of Jesus’s teachings and ideas I respect the most, and I’ve always aimed to tease them away from the rest of the theological casing since that kernel all unto itself remains significant and valuable to us moving forward. This I do believe.

And this strikes at the differences between spirituality, religiosity and theology. I haven’t the energy this morning to delve into all of that and would be better off citing authors who do more justice in unpacking the inquiry. But I personally do consider myself spiritual and pretty much always have to whatever extent. I am not an atheist and never will identify as such, and the same goes for being a religionist (past the point of losing my religion in my early teens).

Getting back to the topic of traditions…they all contained and were based on spiritual and religious elements, going as far back as we can examine human existence. Humans are a religious species by our very natures. Always have been and likely always will be, even if the new religions turn out to be coined as secular ideologies. We are always in need of a narrative to guide our lives and our communities and to define the ethics we enculturate into youths. This is an unavoidable necessity apparently, and I do not rail against that fact, only specific narratives that I cannot support.

Families are also a fact of life, or at least always have been. Communities are as well. Our psychological well-being is directly tied to the health of our families and our communities, and there’s no getting around that. This I do not take issue with either, and I am very flexible in accepting different family and community dynamics since there isn’t only one size that fits all. Though, one truth remains ever-present and that is the need to properly care for our young. Different ways of going about that and not all are created equal, but the strategy I take the most issue with is handing over so much care of our youths to Big Government entities and their education systems and fostering programs since that’s proven to be destructive to family and community cohesion and is targeting youths with new ideological narratives that I believe we would benefit from being highly skeptical of. Children remain the responsibility and legacy of their families and their communities and great care needs to be taken to ensure it remains that way (versus relinquishing control and allowing outside entities to do much of the raising and socializing instead). That is my view.

I have no dream for any utopian society because I do not envision just one type of society. I envision several, countless, because diversification is a strength among humans. People capable of living and working together and forming stable, cohesive communities has always been the name of the game, though now we are experiencing their dissolution in the face of major nation-states having come into prominence and now globalization is further undermining small-scale units. On these points, I may be considered a traditionalist of sorts.

But when it comes to how any given community is structured or what social arrangements are deemed tolerable among its members, I am pretty flexible, though I want to see humans branch out of restrictive roles of the past so as to transcend and explore as individuals. And this is where things get tricky admittedly. Social cohesion tends to call for a high level of conformity, but I believe we can conform on matters that are key to a given community while still maintaining our own individuality so long as it isn’t completely antithetical to the point of being too disruptive to a given community. And this is where diversity across communities remains so important, because there is no one-size-fits-all model that will prove compatible with each of our sensibilities and personal ethics.

I do not believe that humans need to be strictly confined in gender roles in a universal sense, not at this point in history and not so long as technologies allow this not to be the case. Nature is our ultimate slave-master, it is true, but the role of humankind has always been to find a way to carve out our own habitat and to expand our potentialities. This is true of men just as much as it is true of women. Not all women wish to be harnessed to child-bearing and home-making, nor should we be. Just as not all men wish to be confined to the role of protector and financial supporter of a nuclear family they’ve helped create. There is also no reason why homosexual relationships need be considered immoral aberrations, not universally at least. There is flexibility here, and that’s a blessing of modern times and is what technologies and higher intellects have afforded us.

In that way, I don’t qualify as a “traditionalist,” not unless the tradition we speak of is very ancient or belonging to indigenous cultures that did not adopt the strict hierarchies that became common under Abrahamic faiths. This is largely why I consider myself ultra-paleo in my conservative standing.

This modern era has ushered in the rise of corporate power and dominance, and with that we the people have lost ground because we no longer live in ways that are self-sustaining. We do not grow the food we need to nourish ourselves, and now we see less often that youths are taught skills to fend for themselves (unless that means earning a paycheck — that being all we’re lucky to be taught anymore). I’ve repeated this many times already and will likely continue doing so since this is my dream for us going forward: that we become more self-sufficient as individuals, families, and communities. Otherwise, the trade-off appears to be that we lose part of our humanity, in turn, by becoming automatons serving corporate and political giants, and that is a very dangerous road to travel down.

An agrarian renaissance can include all sorts of different communities and religious attitudes, and this could be healthy for us. If advocating going back to the land and learning how to provide for our sustenance makes me a traditionalist of sorts, then so be it. Others undoubtedly will frame it however they wish. My main interest is in seeing a new form of sanity restored, at least by-and-large. This cannot come about by pushing one particular religion down the throats of all others and condemning them for not living up to expectations they aren’t willing (or able) to accept. And the same goes for gender roles being ordained from on-high. We have room to navigate probably more than ever before in history, and I think this is an excellent opportunity to think outside of the box and to imagine the possibilities rather than waste our time trying to coerce others into fitting some universally-applied mold we deem as best for all.

[Edited for typos and greater clarity on Nov. 5th, 2014]

On why we create enemies and victims — an excerpt from the book “Escape From Evil”

Tonight I decided to read a portion of Ernest Becker’s book Escape From Evil (1975), and I will now transcribe that portion (since the audio quality didn’t turn out too good and I won’t claim to be great at reading aloud). Beginning on page 114 under the section titled “The Science of Man after Hitler”:

Burke recognized that guilt and expiation were fundamental categories of sociological explanation, and he proposed a simple formula: guilt must be canceled in society, and it is absolved by “victimage.” So universal and regular is the dynamic that Burke wondered “whether human society could possibly cohere without symbolic victims which the individual members of the group share in common.” He saw “the civic enactment of redemption through the sacrificial victim” as the center of man’s social motivation.32

Burke was led to the central idea of victimage and redemption through Greek tragedy and Christianity; he saw that this fundamentally religious notion is a basic characteristic of any social order. Again we are brought back to our initial point that all culture is in essence sacred—supernatural, as Rank put it. The miraculousness of creation is after all magnified in social life; it is contained in persons and given color, form, drama. The natural mystery of birth, growth, consciousness, and death is taken over by society; and as Duncan so well says, this interweaving of social form and natural terror becomes an inextricable mystification; the individual can only gape in awe and guilt.33 The religious guilt, then, is also a characteristic of so-called secular societies; and anyone who would lead a society must provide for some form of sacred absolution, regardless of the particular historical disguise that this absolution may wear. Otherwise society is not possible. In Burke’s generation it was above all Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini who understood this and acted on it.

If there is one thing that the tragic wars of our time have taught us, it is that the enemy has a ritual role to play, by means of which evil is redeemed. All “wars are conducted as ‘holy’ wars”34 in a double sense then—as a revelation of fate, a testing of divine favor, and as a means of purging evil from the world at the same time. This explains why we are dedicated to war precisely in its most horrifying aspects: it is a passion of human purgation. Nietzsche observed that “whoever is dissatisfied with himself is always ready to revenge himself therefore; we others will be his victims. . . .”35  But the irony is that men are always dissatisfied and guilty in small and large ways, and this is what drives them to a search for purity where all dissatisfaction can come to a head and be wiped away. Men try to qualify for eternalization by being clean and by cleansing the world around them of the evil, the dirty; in this way they show that they are on the side of purity, even if they themselves are impure. The striving for perfection reflects man’s effort to get some human grip on his eligibility for immortality. And he can only know if he is good if the authorities tell him so; this is why it is so vital for him emotionally to know whether he is liked or disliked, why he will do anything the group wants in order to meet its standards of “good”: his eternal life depends on it.36 Good and bad relate to strength and weakness, to self-perpetuation, to indefinite duration. And so we can understand that all ideology, as Rank said, is about one’s qualification for eternity; and so are all disputes about who really is dirty. The target of one’s righteous hatred is always called “dirt”; in our day the short-hairs call the long-hairs “filthy” and are called in turn “pigs.” Since everyone feels dissatisfied with himself (dirty), victimage is a universal human need. And the highest heroism is the stamping out of those who are tainted. The logic is terrifying. The psychoanalytic grouping of guilt, anality, and sadism is translatable in this way to the highest levels of human striving and to the age-old problem of good and evil.

From which we have to conclude that men have been the midwives of horror on this planet because this horror alone gave them peace of mind, made them “right” with the world. No wonder Nietzsche would talk about “the disease called man.”37 It seems perverse when we put it so blatantly, yet here is an animal who needs the spectacle of death in order to open himself to love. As Duncan put it:

. . . as we wound and kill our enemy in the field and slaughter his women and children in their homes, our love for each other deepens. We become comrades in arms; our hatred of each other is being purged in the sufferings of our enemy.38

And even more relentlessly:

We need to socialize in hate and death, as well as in joy and love. We do not know how to have friends without, at the same time, creating victims whom we must wound, torture, and kill. Our love rests on hate.39

If we talk again and shockingly about human baseness, it is not out of cynicism; it is only to better get some kind of factual purchase on our fate. We follow Freud in the belief that it is only illusions that we have to fear; and we follow Hardy—in our epigraph to this book—in holding that we have to take a full look at the worst in order to begin to get rid of illusion. Realism, even brutal, is not cynicism. As Duncan so passionately concluded his Nietzschean and Dostoevskian exposition of the terrifying dynamics of purity and love “. . . we cannot become humane until we understand our need to visit suffering and death on others . . . The sociology of our time must begin in [such an] anguished awareness . . .”40  It has already begun in the work of Burke, Duncan, Mumford, and Lifton; but its theoretical formulations were already plentifully contained in the neglected work of Rank. From the point of view of such a sociology, the great scientific problems of our time have been the successful and grand social cohesions, especially of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao. Burke and Duncan have amply described the religious horror drama of Germany under Hitler, where the dirty and evil Jews were purged from the world of Aryan purity by the Nazi priesthood.41  […]

Leaving off there and then picking back up on page 118:

It took Stalin’s purge trials to show us that the highest humanistic ideals of socialist revolutionaries also have to be played out in a religious drama of victimage and redemption—if one is to have a pure and cohesive socialist society at all.42 The Russians exiled religious expiation but could not exile their own human nature, and so they had to conjure up a secular caricature of religious expiation. And they are still doing it: the magician-priests who give absolution to the clean communist masses now wear the white coats of hospital psychiatrists who transform dirty dissident victims with the latest techniques of “secular” science. It is grotesque, but Burke had warned us to always watch for the “secular equivalents” of the theological formula of victimage and redemption; the scapegoat is not a ” ‘necessary illusion’ of savages, children, and the masses,”43 but now an achievement of the “most advanced” socialist society.

[Italicized emphases his. Bold mine.]

That’s what I decided to read aloud today, though I don’t know how well it will be understood without first reading his arguments and explanations leading up to that portion, but I thought it could stand alone on its own and at least perhaps entice others to consider reading the entire book for themselves. Click to read another excerpt posted from this book.

Thanks to the books of Ernest Becker and his frequent mentioning of the Austrian psychoanalyst Otto Rank, I recently decided to purchase one of the latter’s books titled Beyond Psychology and look forward to delving into it in due time.

For further reading on these and related subjects, you may want to look into Ernest Becker’s book The Denial of Death (considered a companion book to this one — see excerpts 1, 2, 3 and 4) and works produced by the psychoanalyst Erich Fromm (which I’ve also transcribed bits of on here and intend to do more in the future).