Category Archives: Apocalypse Cabaret Manifesto

The Apocalypse Cabaret Manifesto – Part 10: The Community Design Principles We Don’t Yet Have

The most crucial element to the success of a moral order (anti-political space) is that it accurately represents (or close to) the values of those who choose to live in it. That these values support human thriving is of also of vital importance – but that issue is fiendishly difficult for a political order to make judgments about. The choice of whether to live in a community or not is one that a political apparatus can unambiguously support – but the fact that we don’t have a common definition of human thriving and what values are truly important to live out is why we need a diverse ecosystem of moral orders in the first place.

While it had a very mixed record of utilizing them in practice, Western modernity clearly had developed many of the tools necessary to help people create communities that share their values. To the extent that the challenge of setting up moral orders is a lack of prosperity and logistical support, Western modernity was in fact the most advanced civilization in history at generating prosperity and solving logistical issues. Those tools should not be abandoned.

But we must likewise learn from its failures, and this is as true, or even more true, in the bastions of progressive politics as it is anywhere else. Continue reading The Apocalypse Cabaret Manifesto – Part 10: The Community Design Principles We Don’t Yet Have

The Apocalypse Cabaret Manifesto – Part 9: Why The West Got Modern In The First Place

Does the notion that a diversity of cultures can actually be more stable than a single common culture seem counter-intuitive? It shouldn’t: it’s actually the basis of the American experiment. Freedom of speech and religion, and the ability to have spaces outside the purview of the government, were created in no small part specifically to avoid the kinds of religious and cultural civil wars that had incessantly wracked Europe – and it worked.

To be sure, there is plenty of violence and bloodshed in America’s history (including the American Revolution and the War of 1812 – which were white Anglophiles fighting other white Anglophiles), but it almost always occurred when the commitment to the fundamental idea that people should be free to live in communities that reflect their own values was abridged, not when it was upheld. The more that commitment to religious and cultural pluralism was upheld, the more America has actually flourished.

Indeed the notion that mono-ethnic and cultural states are actually any more unified and internally peaceful ignores the vast majority of historical evidence: it is only in the aftermath of colonialism and mass migration that we have looked back on those pre-modern states through rose-colored glasses and deemed them peaceful and harmonious. This is historical amnesia – one of the four horsemen of the cultural apocalypse.  Continue reading The Apocalypse Cabaret Manifesto – Part 9: Why The West Got Modern In The First Place

The Apocalypse Cabaret Manifesto – Part 8: The Purpose of Politics is Anti-Politics

 We are now ready to address the first of the questions asked before: (given the human condition and the nature of culture) what kind of society should we be trying to create if we want this to turn out well?So far we have established:

  • That you cannot “win” a culture war – even hegemony only creates counter-hegemony; and
  • That the character of a population is a crucial component of its cultural destiny, and that character cannot be learned on behalf of future generations: they have to learn it for themselves. You can only set the conditions in which the horsemen of cultural apocalypse (laziness, selfishness, alienation, historical amnesia) can be more easily identified and struggled against.

The process of reasoning that has brought us to those two observations implies a third, one which was essentially first made by Plato: that all political systems, unless they are checked, become oligarchies. All oligarchies, however beneficent their beginnings, become ruinous. Oppression, colonialism, and political violence – at a minimum – follow.

Yet politics is unavoidable in human affairs.  Any time a sufficient number of people live in proximity – with “sufficient number” sometimes being as low as two – a political system, however informal, will develop.

The only way to preserve the longevity of non-ruinous political systems (which we’ll provisionally call “legitimate”) is to keep their tendency towards oligarchy in check.

This is done not by the optimization of politics – which leads only to the more efficient creation of oligarchies – but by the use of politics to create anti-political spaces.

Continue reading The Apocalypse Cabaret Manifesto – Part 8: The Purpose of Politics is Anti-Politics

The Apocalypse Cabaret Manifesto – Part 7: Society and the Human Condition

Experts as much as imbeciles are wondering how a society as advanced as the modern West could be repeating so many mistakes of the past.

How, after everything we’ve learned about both prosperity and collapse, could we allow this to happen? After so many advances that have lifted many people out of poverty and oppression, after so much education, after so much enlightenment, how could we so willingly fall back towards barbarism?

Or, looked at from another perspective, how could we have allowed the benefits of education, enlightenment, and prosperity, to overlook so many people that they preferred to veto Western modernity than go on living with its advances? Continue reading The Apocalypse Cabaret Manifesto – Part 7: Society and the Human Condition

The Apocalypse Cabaret Manifesto – Part 6: It’s The End of the West as We Know It, and …

There are three different levels at which the question “what do we do?” can be answered in this context.

They begin at the most abstract level: “what and of society are we trying to create?”

They move down to the level of collective action: “what kind of civic virtues and institutions do we need to encourage to get there?” Which implies what kind of systems we want to build, and what kind of behaviors they will incentivize.

Finally, they come to the most grounded and direct: “How do I, personally, act?”

We’ll look at these questions in that order, moving from the most abstract of our collective goals to the most specific of our personal actions, and therefore begin with the question: if Western modernity is failing, what kind of society do we want to replace it with?

But first, we must admit explicitly what we’ve only implied: there is no turning back. “Western culture,” as we have inherited it, is a dead culture the same way that Latin is a dead language, and prog rock is dead music.

Continue reading The Apocalypse Cabaret Manifesto – Part 6: It’s The End of the West as We Know It, and …

The Apocalypse Cabaret Manifesto – Part 5: There is No Winning, Because Hegemony Becomes its Own Deathwork

What we’ve seen so far is that the wave of “Trump-like” politicians in the West emerged (beginning significantly before Trump) because what are their vices, from the perspective of hegemonic consumer-capitalist modernity, are in fact virtues from the standpoint of people whose primary goal is to veto that modernity. Likewise the rise in Nazism and Islamic fundamentalism has occurred not because of any innate appeal of those doctrines, but because they are things that modernity has so far refused to (or genuinely cannot) co-opt. Trump-ism and neo-Nazism and “Islamic fundamentalism” are not at this point themselves coherent ideologies – they are the form that the tactics of anti-modernism takes. Coherence is beside the point.

Now there’s no guarantee that this precise state of affairs will last – and in fact, the particulars are bound to change at some point. It is horrifically possible that consumer capitalism will decide to co-opt Nazism … or that Socialism will be seen as truly dangerous again, or that the hegemonic system will develop some kind of political antibodies that neutralize politicians in the Trumpian mold. Or we’ll all blow ourselves up.

One way or another, at some point, these specifics are going to change. And most likely either modernity will triumph and become even more of a hegemony, or its hold will start to crumble and what was once ridiculous and impossible will begin to happen next door.

What do we do? Continue reading The Apocalypse Cabaret Manifesto – Part 5: There is No Winning, Because Hegemony Becomes its Own Deathwork

The Apocalypse Cabaret Manifesto – Part 4: This is What Fighting a Hegemony Looks Like

Okay, let’s recap.

So far we’ve established that:

1. A significant population across the Western world is trying to “veto” Western modernity as it has come to develop, not for a single reason that everyone shares but for a whole grab bag of reasons, their only connection being the fact that so much has changed so quickly that they no longer know how to live in the world we’ve made, and this makes then resentful and afraid. A group of people don’t need a common agenda to exercise a veto, they just need to all say “no.”

2. That far from being a sudden phenomenon, this has been a growing concern across the West since at least the 1990s, and that when it breaks through the surface into mainstream success, it is almost always under the leadership of a figure like Donald Trump – Silvio Berlusconi, Pim Fortuyn, Nigel Farange. Far from being contingent or idiosyncratic, these figures and their behavior are uniquely successful at channeling this “veto power.”

3. That the alarming rise in the most explicitly violent ideologies of this period – neo-Nazism and Islamic Terrorism – has very little to do with the content of these ideologies, and instead is about the image of these ideologies: the fact that calling yourself a “Nazi” or a “Radical Muslim” is one of the very few ways that you can genuinely frighten and offend people in a modern Western society.

Here’s where we put them all together.

Because what’s fascinating about both the kind of political figures that are leading the “veto” movement and the rush of angry young men towards Nazism is the fact that these are events happening all across the West – and yet, wouldn’t you expect the kind of political leadership the disaffected turn to, and the kind of ideologies that attract them, to be determined by the local culture?  Continue reading The Apocalypse Cabaret Manifesto – Part 4: This is What Fighting a Hegemony Looks Like

The Apocalypse Cabaret Manifesto – Part 3 (Addendum): A Short Meditation on Incoherence

Before we start putting all this together, it’s worth noting that while I think the incoherence of much of our most violent ideologies is an important element of our current situation, that it is not a unique one.

In fact, it appears to be a rule of thumb that times of significant upheaval produce both incoherent ideologies and even mass delusions about basic facts.

In some ways, this is a “fog of war” phenomenon applied to “culture wars,” which appears to have been the case in Nazi Germany, as seen in this passage from Erik Larson’s book In the Garden of Beats, about the American Ambassador to Germany in the first year of Hitler’s chancellery: Continue reading The Apocalypse Cabaret Manifesto – Part 3 (Addendum): A Short Meditation on Incoherence

The Apocalypse Cabaret Manifesto – Part 3: Where Did All These Damn Nazis and Islamic Terrorists Come From All of a Sudden?

One of the most fascinating things about the two most evocative violent threats to our society today is that neo-Nazis and Islamic terrorists pull from symmetrically identical groups: young, alienated, men.

This has led researchers to conclude that in many cases it’s not the ideologies themselves that are making people violent, but that young men with a propensity for violence are attracted to these ideologies. In fact, the data is overwhelming.

(So much so that it’s actually kind of a misnomer to call “Islamic terrorists” “Islamic” at all. So-called “Islamic terrorists” generally do not attend mosques, isolate themselves from mainstream Islamic communities, and have very little religious education. At that point, calling them “Islamic” is a bit like saying that the creepy guy hanging around campus to attack women is a member of the faculty. He could be, but assuming he is because he likes to assault students is a category error.)

But why these particular ideologies? What’s the mass appeal? Continue reading The Apocalypse Cabaret Manifesto – Part 3: Where Did All These Damn Nazis and Islamic Terrorists Come From All of a Sudden?

The Apocalypse Cabaret Manifesto part 2 – The Dating Profile of the Anti-Modern Demagogue

The key argument against the idea that Trump is simply a hiccup in history is the realization that he is part of a pattern.

Historical comparisons have been made, of course, but they tend to be made to totalitarian and fascist leaders, which is inaccurate enough to be unhelpful. A far better comparison, and one which has been made far less often, is former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi – who is rich, corrupt, comically ostentatious, and indeed autocratic, but not so much “totalitarian” in the political sense as narcissistic and “mediagenic” in the Reality TV sense, and certainly not a fascist (though he is supported by fascists).

This comparison is far more apt – even the smaller details, like misogynistic sexual indiscretions and tax fraud fit surprisingly well – but insufficient on its own. Its implications are properly understood only when it is bolstered by additional comparisons that are almost never made. Continue reading The Apocalypse Cabaret Manifesto part 2 – The Dating Profile of the Anti-Modern Demagogue