What I am about to say does not concern the ordinary man of our day. On the contrary, I have in mind the man who finds himself involved in today’s world, even at its most problematic and paroxysimal points; yet he does not belong inwardly to such a world, nor will he give in to it. He feels himself, in essence, as belonging to a different race from that of the overwhelming majority of his contemporaries. ~ Julius Evola.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

T.S. Eliot: Culture and Empire

T.S Eliot by Wyndham Lewis (1938)

 The following is taken from Notes Towards the Definition of Culture (1948), Eliot's critique of the post-war dispensation and defence of  traditional, organically formed culture. In this passage Eliot discusses  various means by which  imperial hegemons spread their culture to subject societies.
One people in isolation is not aware of having a "culture" at all. And the differences between the several European nations in the past were not wide enough to make their peoples see their cultures as different to the point of conflict and incompatibility: culture-consciousness as a means of uniting a nation against other nations was first exploited by the late rulers of Germany.

The early British rulers of India were content to rule; some of them, through long residence and continuous absence from Britain, assimilated themselves to the mentality of the people they governed. A later type of rulers, explicitly and increasingly the servants of Whitehall, and serving only for a limited period (after which they returned to their native country, either to retirement or to some other activity) aimed rather to bring to India the benefits of Western civilisation. They did not intend to uproot, or to impose, a total "culture": but the superiority of western political and social organisation, of English education, of English justice, of western "enlightenment" and science seemed to them so self-evident that the desire to do good would alone have been a sufficient motive for introducing these things. 

The Briton, unconscious of the importance of religion in the formation of his own culture, could hardly be expected to recognise its importance in the preservation of another. In the piece-meal imposition of a foreign culture-an imposition in which force plays only a small part: the appeal to ambition, and the temptation to which the native is exposed, to admire the wrong things in western civilisation, and for the wrong reasons, are much more decisive-the motives of arrogance and generosity are always inextricably mixed; there is at the same time an assertion of superiority and a desire to communicate the way of life upon which that assumed superiority is based; so that the native acquires a taste for western ways, a jealous admiration of material power, and a resentment against his tutors. 

The partial success of westernisation, of which some members of an Eastern society are quick to seize the apparent advantages, has tended to make the Oriental more discontented with his own civilisation and more resentful of that which has caused this discontent; has made him more conscious of differences, at the same time that it has obliterated some of these differences; and has broken up the native culture on its highest level, without penetrating the mass. And we are left with the melancholy reflection that the cause of this disintegration is not corruption, brutality or maladministration: such ills have played but a small part, and no ruling nation has had less to be ashamed of than Britain in these particulars; corruption, brutality and maladministration were too prevalent in India before the British arrived, for commission of them to disturb the fabric of Indian life. 

The cause lies in the fact that there can be no permanent compromise between the extremes of an external rule which is content to keep order and leave the social structure unaltered, and a complete cultural assimilation. The failure to arrive at the latter is a religious failure

To point to the damage that has been done to native cultures in the process of imperial expansion is by no means an indictment of empire itself, as the advocates of imperial dissolution are only too apt to infer. Indeed, it is often these same anti-imperialists who, being liberals, are the most complacent believers in the superiority of western civilisation, and at one and the same time blind to the benefits conferred by imperial government and to the injury done by the destruction of native culture. According to such enthusiasts, we do well to intrude ourselves upon another civilisation, equip the members of it with our mechanical contrivances, our systems of government, education, law, medicine and finance, inspire them with a contempt for their own customs and with an enlightened attitude towards religious superstition-and then leave them to stew in the broth which we have brewed for them. It is noticeable that the most vehement criticism, or abuse, of British imperialism often comes from representatives of  societies which practise a different form of imperialism-that is to say, of expansion which brings material benefits and extends the influence of culture.

America has tended to impose its way of life chiefly in the course of doing business, and creating a taste for its commodities. Even the humblest material artefact, which is the product and the symbol of a particular civilisation, is an emissary of the culture out of which it comes: I mention that influential and inflammable article the celluloid film. American economic expansion can be also, in its way, the cause of disintegration of cultures which it touches. 

The newest type of imperialism, that of  Russia, is probably the most ingenious, and the best calculated to flourish according to the temper of the present age. The Russian Empire appears to be sedulous to avoid the weaknesses of the empires which have preceded it: it is at the same time more ruthless and more careful of the vanity of subject peoples. The official doctrine is one of complete racial equality-an appearance easier for Russia to preserve in Asia, because of the oriental cast of the Russian mind and because of the backwardness of Russian development according to western standards. Attempts appear to be made to preserve the similitude of local self-government and autonomy: the aim, I suspect, is to give the several local republics and satellite states the illusion of a kind of independence, while the real power is exercised from Moscow. The illusion must sometimes fade, when a local republic is suddenly and ignominiously reduced to the status of a kind of province or crown colony; but it is maintained and this is what is most interesting from our point of view by a careful fostering of local "culture," culture in the reduced sense of the word, everything that is picturesque, harmless and separable from politics, such as language and literature, local arts and customs. But as Soviet Russia must maintain the subordination of culture to political theory, the success of her imperialism seems likely to lead to a sense of superiority on the part of that one of her peoples in which her political theory has been formed; so that we might expect, so long as the Russian Empire holds together, to find the increasing assertion of one dominant Muscovite culture, with subordinate races surviving, not as peoples each with its own cultural pattern, but as inferior castes. However that may be, the Russians have been the first modern people to practise the political direction of culture consciously, and to attack at every point the culture of any people whom they wish to dominate. The more highly developed is any alien culture, the more thorough the attempts to extirpate it by elimination of those elements in the subject population in which that culture is most conscious.

The dangers arising from "culture-consciousness" in the West are at present of a different kind. Our motives, in attempting to do something about our culture, are not yet consciously political. They arise from the consciousness that our culture is not in very good health and from the feeling that we must take steps to improve its condition.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Anthony Ludovici: Charles I and the Grand Puritan Rebellion

Occidere Rex (To Kill a king) by Ernest Crofts

Anthony Mario Ludovici MBE (1882 – 1971) can be described as a 'Nietzschean Tory' (Ludovici was responsible on large part for the translation and propagation of the German philosopher's work in the English speaking world). In his 'Defence of Aristocracy' Ludovici argues that many aspects modernity are dysgenic; that it has engendered a physical as well as spiritual degeneration (recent discoveries such as those regarding epigenetics may well bear out some of Ludovici's assertions on this account). The aforementioned book, aside from critques of the industrial revolution, liberalism, democracy (and more eccentric passages warning of the harmful effects on the race of putting hops in beer and drinking tea) contains a chapter on the English Civil War in which Ludovici argues that the conflict was essentially a war between short term profit seeking, bourgeois Puritans (“the tradesmen and grasping landed nobility”) and those elements of the aristocracy and peasantry led by Charles I who remained custodians of the land and the race; a war of trade versus nobility; the Parliamentarian victory constituting a triumph of dysgenic, capitalistic forces over those of “flourishing life”.

To the Englishman of average culture, even when he is not biassed by any party or religious feeling, Charles I is little more than a captivating figure of misguided royalty, possessing a considerable measure of romantic charm. With his long hair, his velvet suit, lace collar and long-maned charger, it is his exterior, and, perhaps, his all too violent death as well, that chiefly endears this unhappy monarch of the seventeenth century to the sentimental Englishman. If, however, you say to such an Englishman that there is much more than romantic charm in Charles I's character and rule, he will immediately smile upon you with indulgent incredulity, and regard you as a fanatic who is suffering even more severely than he is himself from the seductiveness of bygone dramas and their principal heroes. […]

Not long ago, for instance, I had the honour of meeting a certain gentleman who is well known in the literary world of London, and who, moreover, enjoys the distinction of being at the head of one of our greatest publishing firms. He informed me that he, too, was a convinced convert to this romantic cult of the most fascinating figure of the seventeenth century, and smiled almost tearfully over the thought that his son, in whom he had implanted a strong adoration for our beheaded sovereign, had once solemnly raised his hat in the presence of Charles I's golden'armour in the Tower of London. Hoping, at the moment, that there was something more fundamental and more solid in this gentleman's hero-worship than mere sentimentality and the love of a picturesque prince, I suggested to him that there were many rational and very sound reasons for his admiration. In an instant the incredulous smile I had so often seen, and which I confess I had half-dreaded on this occasion too, again spread over the features, even of this hopeful fellow-worshipper, and I was overcome with disappointment […]

His admiration of Charles I was sartorial, romantic, sentimental, school-girlish—in fact, it was merely a foolish and empty pose! Apparently it had never occurred to him, despite his undoubted erudition and experience, to ask himself whether, in an age which is in every respect the creation of Charles I's maligners and murderers, a public school history class were precisely the best place in which to hear the truth concerning the Stuart King. 

Seemingly, he had never inquired whether, at a time when vulgarity, trade and hedonism are paramount, a sober judgment— not to speak of a friendly one—could possibly be formed on this vital question. Without hesitation, without a moment's doubt or shrewd suspicion, this apparently sceptical person had accepted the verdict of a most deceptive and unreliable age, age, concerning a man who had so little in common with its principles, that in a hopeless endeavour to oppose and defy them, he had heroically given up his life.

And yet the evidence of this fact is accessible to all. The proof of it can be read by everybody and anybody, at any hour, any day. Only a bias that is friendly to the evils of this age, only a prepossession in favour of our materialistic, mechanical, unscrupulous and supinely irresponsible civilisation of "Progress," could so distort the facts as to make Charles I appear as the felon, and the ignoble band of grasping, bigoted and filthy-minded Puritans as the just accusers, in this historical trial and tragedy. For in spite of all that the school history book may say, Charles I fought for a cause very much more vital and more fundamental than that of despotism. He fought for the cause of flourishing life against the growing, but already powerful forces of modern capitalistic trade, of democracy, and of mere quantity as distinct from quality. He himself, the whole of his government, and his lieutenants were inspired by the watchword  "Respect the Burden." Their downfall can be ascribed to the fact that they were no respecters of persons, that they upheld the oppressed against their oppressors, and that they tried, wherever possible, to arrest that vile greed of gain and accumulation, at the mercy of which the lower classes were to be left for evermore, after the opening of the Grand Rebellion. This is not fancy or exaggeration; it is a plain statement of fact.

Charles I was unfortunate in his predecessors, and still more unfortunate in his contemporaries. We have seen that the upstart owners of the Church lands, forced upon the country by that unscrupulous Bluebeard, Henry VIII, had introduced a commercial spirit into the English soil. These parvenus, the majority of whom had been obsequious sycophants in the entourage of that most outrageous specimen of English royalty, were now quite settled on their estates, and were running them on purely mercenary lines with a view to reaping the maximum amount of gain possible irrespective of the comfort or happiness of the inhabitants.

But there was also another class, that of the successful tradesman, which was now invading the rural districts and buying estates in all parts of the country. This element tended only to intensify the commercial spirit which was now spreading over the whole land and transforming its customs just as much as its temper; while in the towns themselves a great and powerful middle class was rising into prominence, thanks to the fortunes which were constantly being amassed in home and over-sea trade. The destructive influence which these changes brought to bear upon the patriarchal relationship between the lower and the higher orders—a relationship which, though it was never complete or hearty and never worked smoothly, at least had qualities infinitely superior to those of the new regime —this destructive influence, together with the abolition of the monasteries, and that still more heinous crime, the appropriation and confiscation of the Guild funds and lands, gave rise to widespread discontent and considerable unrelieved poverty. The fact that Henry VIII alone put 72,000 thieves to death in his own reign, shows the extremes to which desperate indigence had been driven even in his time. Edward VI and Elizabeth had infinite trouble with the poor, and we have only to examine the numerous statutes dealing with the problem of poverty, passed in the latter's reign, in order to realise the extent to which the evil must have been increasing.

I should like to lay stress only upon the close connection which the commercial element in the nation bore to Puritanism. In addition to the wealthy tradesmen who had wandered into the country in search of a pastoral and gentlemanly existence, and the large number of landowners, after the style of Cromwell himself, whose Puritanism was almost a conscientious justification of their being in possession of lands which had once belonged to the Holy Church, London, in which at that time nearly the whole trade of the kingdom was concentrated, was almost entirely Puritan; whilst practically the only two important towns in the west which ultimately opposed Charles in the great struggle, I refer to Bristol and Gloucester, were both likewise strong in trade and in Puritanical opinions. It should also be remembered that East Anglia, Kent and other southern counties, had recently been overrun by Flemish refugees and French Huguenots, and although many of these aliens were at first not necessarily extreme Puritans, as tradesmen and manufacturers they threw in their lot with the Puritan party against the King, and thereby revealed that their sympathy with the religious views of the Parliamentary forces was deeper than with those of the Cavaliers.

This relationship of trade to religion was a most important factor in the struggle between the King and his more powerful subjects. Even in our analytical times it is difficult enough to find people who are sufficiently honest to see clearly into the springs of their actions and desires; but in those days, in which mankind was scarcely conscious at all of the multiplicity of motives that may sometimes conduce to bring about an action which has all the appearance of having sprung from a single desire or aspiration, it was easy—nay, almost inevitable—for the Puritan tradesmen to marshal all their mercenary objections to Charles and his lieutenants' paternal and protective government, his beneficent interference with trade, and the check he put upon their rapacious oppression of the lower orders, under two such high-sounding and empty terms as " Liberty " and " No Popery." In this way they appropriated from the start the two most deceptive and most attractive war-cries which could possibly have been found, to appeal to the masses. And the fact that, despite these seductively alluring devices upon their banner, they failed to draw the non-commercial and poorer classes of the community over to their side, only shows the extent to which Charles I's rule must have endeared him to these portions of the population. [...]

With the impudent effrontery of extreme Protestants, these people who supposed that the Almighty was always hobnobbing with them and standing perpetually at their elbow, just as the Low Churchmen, Methodists and other Nonconformists believe to-day, were not the sort of persons to respect an earthly King, however great. They had harassed poor Elizabeth, who detested them. But, not being strong enough during her reign to defy her openly, they had contented themselves with creeping into corners, allowing their resentment to ferment, and growling that she was an " idle slut" and an " untamed heifer."[…]

The basis of the King's unpopularity among the rich and powerful was, of course, in the first place, ostensibly of a religious nature […] The true reason, the genuine, though often unconscious, reason was neither a religious one, nor due to the fact that the King's taxation was illegal or levied without the consent of the Commons. An essential part of the real grievance was that the weight of this taxation fell entirely upon the trading and wealthy classes. It reduced the profits of the tradesman and took a percentage from the incomes of the landed gentry. The taxes on food, on the poor man's sustenance, were to be the innovation of a free Parliament a few years later. But Charles was content to tax the profits of trade, and, for the rest, to demand a contribution to the expenses of government from the wealthy landed classes. The nobler among Charles's wealthy subjects understood and accepted it. They saw the King daily making sacrifices himself, in order to rule beneficently. They knew that he had pledged the Crown jewels and plate, and sold property to the City of London to the extent of £ 120,000, at the very moment when he was appealing to the clergy to help him, early in his reign. And they saw that he did not spend this money in idle merriment or wasteful extravagance.

It is well known that the Tudors were consistently opposed to the introduction of all engines and machines which tended to prove injurious to handicraftsmen, or to deteriorate the quality of the articles produced. Edward VI and Elizabeth were both equally vigorous in their attitude towards mechanical innovations […] The course which these two monarchs had inaugurated, however, James and Charles continued with even greater vigour. But, in the reigns of the last two monarchs, the men who firmly believed that mechanical innovations per se, quite irrespective of whether they improved or deteriorated man, constituted " Progress," were beginning to lose patience and to grow in number. They could no longer brook this paternal control from on high. To them any thought of directing or limiting the march of mechanical science amounted to intolerable interference, insufferable tyranny. They scoffed when James I prohibited the use of a machine for making needles; but they scoffed still more when Charles reinforced the Tudor enactments, and also upheld his father's attitude in this struggle against the besotting machine. Their surprise, however, must have been great when the noblest of the Stuarts, on June 15, 1634, not only issued a proclamation against " that great annoyance of smoke which is so obnoxious to our City of London," but also carried his concern about the beauty and happiness of this city so far as actually to recommend the use of a new and special furnace calculated to mitigate the evil. Incidentally, it is obvious from this royal proclamation that the great Stuart King was not blindly suspicious of innovations as such; otherwise he would have looked askance even at a furnace calculated to mitigate the evil of smoke [...]

But one does not require to be a deep student of the vulgar and unthinking class of mechanical innovators, to understand the kind of exasperation to which such an attitude on the part of the ruler would soon give rise in their ranks. Big-sounding, bombastic phrases, such as the " Forward March of Humanity," " The Progress of the Race," welled up in their foolish and sentimental throats and caused them to look with rankling indignation at that superb figure in lace and velvet whose consummate taste preferred to cling devotedly to Beauty rather than to their absurd and inhuman idea of advancement! There was, however, a deeper and perhaps more unconscious hatred in Charles I and his father against mechanical innovations than the mere hatred of their threatened deterioration of both the handicraftsman and the quality of the goods produced. There was the profound suspicion that machinery implied expensive and elaborate installations which must necessarily lead to the extinction of the poor home-worker, or even of the artisan of moderate means, and the yielding up of his liberty, his power and his gifts to a more unscrupulous and less desirable taskmaster than the buying public, i. e. the capitalistic traders, out for personal gain. For machinery and capitalism are plighted mates and are necessarily allies. […]

In the Grand Rebellion, therefore, we see the curious anomaly of a powerful minority of agitators, supported by a large contingent of aliens, landed upstarts, town tradesmen and thousands of deluded followers fighting against the poorer people and the King, for the "liberties of the people." Only unsuspecting spinsters or modern democrats, however, could ever believe such a tale; and, when we know what followed, when we read of the oppression and slavery to which the victory of the Parliamentary party prepared the way; when, moreover, we keep steadily before us the facts of Charles I's reign, we not only suspect, we know, that there were other, more personal, less disinterested and far less savoury motives behind the so-called popular party, than a desire to vindicate the " liberties of the people." The triumph of Parliament did not mean the triumph of the liberties of the people. It meant the triumph of a new morality, a new outlook on life, and a new understanding of what life was worth. It meant the triumph of the morality of unrestricted competition, of uncontrolled and unguided trade, and of a policy of neglect in regard to all things that really mattered.

This was what the Grand Rebellion achieved, and this, in the main, was the sole object of the Grand Rebellion.

Excerpted  from A Defence of Aristocracy: A Text-Book for Tories. London: Constable, 1915. Boston: Phillips, 1915

The Lost Philosopher: The Best of Anthony M. Ludovici is available from Counter-Currents Publishing: