Thymos Book Club Position Paper #1.
A while ago I received a comment by a certain Das Untier questioning the notion that Western European are pessimists: “most who support the current eradication of Europe are sure as hell optimists, rather than pessimists”. In my response, I emphasized the link between pessimism and childlessness, which I stand by, and I suggested a distinction between presentist optimism and teleological optimism, which lacks substance in retrospect, because one can’t be optimistic about the present, only about the future.
This is a point worth elaborating upon. If you’re a presentist, the future is of no importance: partly because future generations won’t exist (childlessness), partly because you won’t exist (death), and partly because the future really looks like a bad place (Climate change, pollution, overpopulation, criminalization of steaks… and whatever else progressivists manage to come up with. Why inflict such a future on a child?). So really, the European presentists are more pessimistic than optimistic, more discouraged than combative in their progressivism — and in this, I find myself in agreement with Peter Thiel 1:
Indefinite pessimism is low-thymos, discouraged pessimism (“We give up!”) 2.
Why are Europeans such low-thymos pessimists?
Peter Thiel situates the shift in the collective mindset of Western Europeans towards indefinite pessimism in the early 1970s. What happened in the early 1970s in Western Europe? One thing that happened is the consequences of De Gaulle’s fall from power: during the 1970s, France, and thus continental Western Europe, essentially became a vassal state of USG.
In order to bring them into compliance with the religion of Human Rights championed by USG, the French administrative elite during the 1970s started implementing changes in the social and economic institutions of their country 3.
One of the central beliefs of this elite was and is that the problems of the world would be best solved by a global administration staffed by French civil servants, especially at the top — a belief that supports and justifies the French colonization of supranational, globalist bodies, such as the EU today. The 1980s were years of great national sacrifices conducted by members of this high-flying phalanx, accompanied by the rise of a progressivist antinational narrative, according to which the EU represents the pinnacle of human evolution 4.
In this narrative, Europe was never great in the past, and, in fact, Europe and the European nations as such never really existed in the first place. The only European thing that existed in the past are European acts of evil — a darkness and baseness that, from the enlightened and elevated viewpoint of the present, should be viewed with unlimited feelings of guilt by white male Europeans.
Thus the only shared positive identity allowed to Europeans by their State religion is that they happen to exist together in a superior and ever-progressing present: a post-historical, paradise-like bubble were they focus on eating, drinking, making merry, vacationing and retiring 5.
Because it is the self understood in the sense of the long self of lineage that is sacrificed, presentism is not just low-thymos: it is anti-thymos and anti-vital (unhealthy for the individual).
Gaining status through virtue signalling takes dedication. It’s a competitive sport with winners and losers, with ever-crazier signals and uncertain status gains. Those who lose at this game destroy themselves with nothing in exchange. Think of feminists hitting walls. Think of manlets who’ll never escape the evidence trail of their deeds. Most of course remain passive and just watch the show going on outside of their lives from time to time: but as the show intrudes upon their homes and families, their soul revolts and seeks to somehow restore the balance disrupted by the compradore elite.
Presentism is inherently depressing on an individual level, because low thymos is depressing, and because the progressivist narrative barely makes sense on its own. Look at “I’m with her” : if you’re with her this time, who or what will you be with when the next election comes around? A donkey? An amusing notion perhaps, but will it compensate for your own collective suicide?
The pure categories of oppression and exclusion central to the current progressivist narrative are simply too random to provide more than a pseudo-cognitive high to low intellects 6.
Beyond minorities asserting their rights and fighting prejudice, Progressivists are desperately attempting to create new “tribes” to improve their thymos balance (see Seth Godin, and his French precursor Michel Maffesoli 7): simply because the progressivist identity is a direct negation of thymos — all human beings as such have Human Rights and belong to Humanity, their nationality being a mere administrative matter devoid of temporal depth.
Just as important as electing instances of non-white-male political candidates, if not more, is the act of purging fascists from society. Progressivism could not function as a religion without such thymos-restoring rituals, in which individuals can reenact the historical-mythical victory of USG, participating in its higher thymos.
Returning to France in the 1960s: on the one hand, you had De Gaulle. On the other, you had the Boomers. The failure to repress the student uprising in 1968 reflects the power of the antifascist narrative: the French youth assimilated De Gaulle to fascism, and itself to America or the Soviet Union 8. They would liberate France, once again — or rather they would liberate themselves from the narrative of the French nation! They certainly leveraged the fact that the French knew they had been liberated in 1944 and that De Gaulle’s narrative was only half-true.
De Gaulle always knew post-1918 France was running on thymotic fumes.
What about Germany? Germany remains a USG military outpost to this day. The reason Germany was able to rebuild after WW2 is the rivalry that emerged between Americans and Russians after the war (the original plan was to annihilate Germany 9). The smartest Germans are very aware that they have a massive thymos problem since 1945: I’m told halal is the norm because German butchers don’t have the balls to do their job and prefer to delegate it to Turks.
Where can Europe find the thymos to become great again?
In 2016, I searched for Europe’s lost thymos in two places, essentially: Plieux and Schnellroda. Plieux is where Renaud Camus lives. Schnellroda is where his publisher in Germany lives. There are a lot of books and good people between those two places.
A few days before the Trumpslide hit planet Earth, I was in Schnellroda. I went there to talk with German dissidents about the identity of Europe. I think Germans are a lot more interested in Europe than the French 10, on a general level 11. I was also curious to see how Götz Kubitschek’s think tank functions: generally speaking, and thanks to him and his team, there is, relatively speaking, a far better alignment between politics and metapolics in Germany than in France, which still inherits mistakes made by the so-called New Right a long time ago.
In Sezession #74, Benedikt Kaiser laid out 10 propositions relative to a European conservative revolution. In his opinion, the starting point of such a revolution is negative: to make Europe great again, we would need to make Europe anti-capitalist (meaning: financial capitalism), anti-imperialist and anti-replacist. He writes that determining who the enemy is comes at the beginning of the revolutionary process, before the positive vision of a European identity — something that I’ve been wondering about for a while.
Thymos has an affinity with re-, but also with anti- narratives.
In France, law professor Jean-Louis Harouel wrote a fundamental essay in 2015 following the massacre at the Bataclan 12, in which he states that the survival of France depends on its repudiation of the progressivist religion of Human Rights. I’d add that bit to Kaiser’s list — as long as Europe’s identity is restricted to the defense of Human Rights, there can simply be no determination of who the enemy is, simply because in such a configuration no real distinction exists between the national ingroup and outgroup. If you don’t know who is part of your group and who isn’t, it is strictly impossible to know who that group’s enemy is 13 — the very existence of the group itself is conceptually precarious at this point.
Another thing that would require some clarification is the relation of Europe to other powers and civilizations. The civilizational narratives of great powers always contradict each other to some extent 14.
I’ll take the example of Russia.
Under the prudent leadership of Vladimir Putin, Russia could be on the verge of its greatest geopolitical success yet since the fall of the Soviet Union. Across the West, citizens are extremely close to a powerful “Emperor’s new clothes” moment, the magnitude of which could dwarf everything we’ve seen in 2016 15.
Be that as it may, Russia has a very specific idea of its own identity. Russia isn’t Europe — and the Russian civilizational narrative negates the legitimacy of Western Europe (just like the French civilizational narrative negates the legitimacy of Germany, btw).
In particular, Russia has tended to support European dissidents that shared its own understanding of Islam. But if Russia has a long history with Islam, the fact is that Europe has a long history against Islam (Russians will gladly explain that Europe only inherited Greek philosophy thanks to Jews and Muslims — but that is less than half of the truth). Regardless of what Russians like to believe works for them, in Europe either there will be some form of remigration of Muslims, or Europe will simply cease to exist other than in name (if that).
Russia, not without some justification, tends to see itself as a victim of the West: not just of the terminally progressivist West, but of the West since Charlemagne. It connects with Islam on that level.
But the West undermines Islam, because Muslims envy Western modern individual freedoms, and Islam undermines the West, because Westerners envy the Muslim archaic holistic order. Carl Schmitt liked to quote Theodor Däubler when he defined what he meant by “enemy”: our own question taking a concrete shape (René Girard probably said or would have said something interesting about this quote.)
Russians are too smart no to understand that the West and Islam are essential enemies (of course, the progressivist West refuses to understand this, because it has a replacist death-wish.)
I like Putin, Russia and Russians, but it is what it is: they don’t get us (even if they are correct to think that the West is currently degenerate), and we don’t get them (although Putin is objectively awesome).
Thymos was on the side of the West for a long time. First the Romans conquered the Greeks and decided to adopt Greek culture. Then the Germanic barbarians conquered Rome and eventually adopted its culture. Russians see arrogance in Charlemagne, in the Frankish heretics. But true Europeans such as Rémi Brague see in Charlemagne the humility of the barbarian who strives to become worthy of becoming Roman. The essence of the European identity is the Roman attitude of being second in line, of being a transmitter, a cultural aqueduct, not the source, which lies outside, far away, in Athens, in Jerusalem (not in Aachen!). The culture of Europe is founded on the nostalgic dream of a distant “somewhere else” — in which some may decide to recognize a manifestation of the Faustian soul applied to the temporal dimension. There would be much more to say about these things, perhaps involving the poet Yves Bonnefoy and his Beyond († 2016).
A recent interpretation of Brague’s concept of European identity by Lars Schäfers 16 manages to completely miss its application to the present situation. According to Schäfers, Europe could, and should remain faithful to its identity by integrating the cultural enrichment brought by Muslim migrants: simply by admitting Islam as a new eccentric cultural source, as a new “somewhere else”. What Schäfers doesn’t take into account is something that Brague himself hardly emphasizes, although it plays an absolutely decisive role in his analysis, which is the thymos factor itself: it would be impossible to qualify the Roman, or Charlemagne’s attitude as being “humble” if it wasn’t attached to conquering, dominating, victorious groups. In Brague’s concept, Europe is always high-thymos, not low-thymos.
But today in Europe, it is the Muslim who conquers, not the European.
There is one person though who got Rémi Brague’s message right, and that is Michel Houellebecq 17:
Houellebecq perfectly captured the thymos factor in his novel: Islam humbly prolonging the Roman narrative — but of course, that is all a fantasy. Islam is not humble, and the purer Islam is, the more it destroys all traces of non-Islamic entities (Islam in Russia is hardly pure, contrary to what we’re dealing with in Europe).
No, Europe will have to succeed where Houellebecq’s hero fails, and find its own thymos in itself.
- Zero to One: Notes on Start Ups, or How to Build the Future (2014). Required reading for TBC members! ↩
- Definite pessimism is high-thymos, combative pessimism (“Never give up!”). Pessimism provides cognitive closure: in Musil’s words, a healthy pessimism provides something inescapable to cling onto. Nietzsche judged skepticism superior to pessimism for this reason. ↩
- 4 June 1970: Family code reform making parental authority collegial instead of patriarchal. 16 July 1971: The Conseil d’État government body vetoes a law because it doesn’t conform to a Human Right found in the Preamble to the the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. The transfer of sovereignty from elected representatives to various judicial bodies commences. 1 July 1972: Pleven law first of several laws aiming to repress hate speech against discriminated racial minorities. End of freedom of expression in France. 3 January 1973: Law prohibiting direct financing of the State by the Central Bank. 1974-1976: Adoption and implementation of the right for foreigners to immigrate to France based on the principle of family reunification. ↩
- Now more than ever, as the progressivist elite sees in Angela Merkel the post-trumpocalyptic new leader of the free world. ↩
- Peter Thiel left out doing drugs and consuming loads of prescription mood-pills. ↩
- The old-school marxist narrative is relatively superior to the present, human rights-based progressivist narrative in this regard, as it purports to explain oppression instead of merely using the category of oppression to “explain” facts or pseudo-facts (“gender wage gap”). The current ideology of progressivism simply has no explanatory depth (cf. https://twitter.com/RealPeerReview). ↩
- and just gnosticist bs in general throughout history. ↩
- they also sided with the Vietnamese against the Americans, with Mao’s Cultural Revolution, etc etc. ↩
- See Beuteland Bruno Bandulet (2016). ↩
- Antaios translates a lot of books into German, but the French don’t translate anything by Antaios authors. That is not to say that Germans are “true Europeans”: Germans are really just Germans, mostly. ↩
- The smart French dissidents are sovereignists for the most part. Most Identitarians there have their heart in the right place but lack ideas or just haven’t read enough books. There’s not much of a debate going on between both sides. In Germany, sovereignists and identitarians share at least one discussion space: Sezession. ↩
- Les Droits de l’homme contre le peuple: mandatory reading for TBC members. ↩
- Enemies are outgroup members, but outgroup members aren’t necessarily enemies. ↩
- It is perhaps the fate of rival narratives to view each other as soft and arbitrary, similar to the way rival ontologies view each other as mired in the world of appearances. Each narrative implies an ontology, and a thymotic belief in its own superior justification. ↩
- What would happen if proof were to emerge establishing that Western governments actually provided help to ISIS against the Syrian regime? ↩
- Europa, Flüchtlinge und die Aneignung des Fremden: Eine christliche-sozialethische Analyse auf der Grundlage des Europabildes Rémi Bragues (2016). ↩
- Submission (2016, original publication in French 2015). ↩