Neoreaction, at its core, is a critical analysis of the Cathedral. It should surprise nobody, therefore, to see it hurtled into public consciousness, as the sole cultural agency able to name the self-evident configuration of contemporary sovereignty.
As the Cathedral becomes a self-confident public performance, its only remotely-articulate analyst is drawn into prominence, in its wake. In this regard, we haven’t seen anything yet.
Even had the Obama administration consciously decided to select the Cathedral as a branding device, it could not have been epitomized any more perfectly. Sacralized progressivism, ivory tower ‘brahminism’, academic-media fusion as the exclusive source of recognizable authority, and the absolute identification of governance with public relations have reached a zenith that tilts into self-parody. Soft fascist self-transcending hyper-Calvinism has been lucidly distilled into blitz-promoted political iconography. Everyone with a television set now knows that the Cathedral is in power, and merely await the terminological confirmation of their perceptions. Enthusiasts and dissidents are seeing more-or-less the same thing, characterized in approximately the same words. The only serious matter of controversy is the quantity of spiritual devotion such a regime, faith, and symbolic order reasonably commands.
Politics-as-religious-experience has been seen in America before. Arguably, it is even typical. What has not been seen since William Jennings Bryan at the dawn of the progressive movement, and never at all before then, is democracy pitched to such rapturous extremities of soteriological expectation — and Bryan was stopped. By identifying himself deliberately with a promise of comprehensive socio-spiritual redemption, Obama has more fully exemplified hubris than any leader in the history of the United States. The appropriate frame of political explanation, therefore, is tragic.
Tragedy is the fundamental teaching of Classical Occidental Antiquity, nucleated upon the insight that hubris escalates to nemesis. It finds its most lucid philosophical articulation in the fragment of Anaximander:
Whence things originate,
Thence they return to destruction,
According to necessity;
For they reciprocate justice and pay recompense
For their injustice
In conformity with the ordinance of Time.
This conception strongly resonates with neoreactionary fatalism (anti-politics), and with the formation of ideas around wu wei (laissez faire) in the Chinese cultural context. Nemesis, the agency of cosmic justice (Δίκη) eventuates automatically, as a retarded consequence that is nevertheless inalienably bound to the hubris of political action. The fatal stroke is delivered — at the right time — from the intersection of power and fate, rather than by any kind of considered remedy or political dialectic. Tragic rectification completes itself.
If there is a ‘strategic’ lesson from tragedy, it is not opposition, but non-participation. To become entangled in hubris is to invite nemesis. To the greatest extent possible, hubristic power should be left to its fate. The less interrupted its acceleration into concentrated nemesis, the more spectacularly cosmic justice is displayed, and the more effectively the audience is educated.
If you’re sitting comfortably, you can pass around the popcorn now, because the American tragedy is a real doozy. We already know that Obama is playing the part of the tragic hero with exceptional genius, as the very personification of immoderate political ambition and narcissistic blindness. Far more unexpectedly, his GOP opposition has somehow reached beyond its corrupt dementia to discover the fatal stance of non-participation, unanimously rejecting the President’s key-stone domestic initiative, and also distancing itself from his foreign policy agenda in overwhelming numbers. Unilateral Cathedralism reigns, uncompromised. This is the secret to the unprecedented delights of the current epoch.
Jonah Goldberg describes the spectacle well:
If you can’t take some joy, some modicum of relief and mirth, in the unprecedentedly spectacular beclowning of the president, his administration, its enablers, and, to no small degree, liberalism itself, then you need to ask yourself why you’re following politics in the first place. Because, frankly, this has been one of the most enjoyable political moments of my lifetime. I wake up in the morning and rush to find my just-delivered newspaper with a joyful expectation of worsening news so intense, I feel like Morgan Freeman should be narrating my trek to the front lawn. Indeed, not since Dan Rather handcuffed himself to a fraudulent typewriter, hurled it into the abyss, and saw his career plummet like Ted Kennedy was behind the wheel have I enjoyed a story more.
Alas, the English language is not well equipped to capture the sensation I’m describing, which is why we must all thank the Germans for giving us the term “schadenfreude” — the joy one feels at the misfortune or failure of others. The primary wellspring of schadenfreude can be attributed to Barack Obama’s hubris — another immigrant word, which means a sinful pride or arrogance that causes someone to believe he has a godlike immunity to the rules of life.
The catharsis is so harsh and pure that even the invertebrate Buckleyites at The National Review are beginning to get it, for a short, exquisite moment, at least. As Konkvistador warns (in this thread), a far less radically degraded group of people will nevertheless “forget all about these insights [as] the next election cycle warms up, indeed elections with their promise of power for conservatives and pseudo-conservatives [have] historically served as their mindwipe. Election cycles are when conservative obsolete Progressivism is updated to a slightly less obsolete version.” The sojourn of conservatism on the Outer Right, where tragic non-participation holds, cannot be expected to last. Yet even as a brief intermission from vile ambition, it allows nemesis the space to express itself in its full, planet-shuddering splendor.
Whatever the disagreements and divergences among the strands of neoreaction, there is one message that has to remain unwaveringly consistent: The Cathedral owns this (totally). Less than a quarter of the way into Obama’s second term, full-spectrum catastrophe is already written across the heavens in letters of incandescent sulfur. Obamacare is wrecked before it has even rolled out, Yellen has all-but promised to dedicate the Fed to full-throttle bubble-mania, metropolitan bankruptcy is burning through the nation’s cities like a zombie virus, crime is angling sharply upwards, American foreign policy lies in smoking ruins … there is simply no way this disintegrating jalopy holds together for another three years.
Let in burn — in the Cathedral’s hands.
ADDED: Advice from Michael Walsh to the GOP: “Don’t do something, just stand there. You didn’t vote for it, not once, not a single time, ever. […] Obama threw a spanner into his own Rube Goldberg machine yesterday and the best thing you can do is to sit down, shut up, get out of the way, and enjoy the show.”
ADDED: For Democrats, Obamacare Unfolding Like a Greek Tragedy
ADDED: “Hubris has a way of ruining grand designs. And like reality, it bites.”