“His credit, not his crime, was non-compliance with a wicked time” ~ Heiland
“So face with calm that heritage
And earn contempt before this age” ~ Allen Tate “Brief Message”*
My last post exposed some initial frustrations with the current debate taking place among Dissident Rightists. After measured reflection, I’ve decided to articulate myself a little better, namely: by rejecting the arrogance of those who believe this debate has never taken place before. Hard as it is to believe, greater men than us have wondered if they might not be better off coating their message in softer language for the benefit of winning over wider segments of the populace. Richard Weaver was one of those, and a brief look at his life will shed light on our current dilemma:
Richard Weaver is one of the more interesting agrarian thinkers. He wasn’t born into his position. He wasn’t a natural agrarian. He began his intellectual career as a left-wing socialist at the University of Kentucky. Upon reading “I’ll Take My Stand” he rejected it as so much antiquated posturing.
But later, he attended Vanderbilt and studied under the agrarians, most notably, John Crowe Ransom, who impressed upon him the importance of traditional thinking and religion. Weaver was particularly fond of Ransom’s “God without thunder” and his emphasis on the spiritual nature of man opposed to modernism’s physicalist notions.
Upon graduating, Weaver was a born again agrarian. He moved to Louisiana State University to “begin his education all over again at the age of 30”. For three years, he studied antebellum Dixie and concluded his research by writing the excellent “Southern Tradition at Bay”. In it, he highlighted the innate spiritualism of Dixie and its organic resistance to industrialism in particular, and “modernism” more generally.
Only problem was, no one would publish it. He approached the University of Chicago press, who suggested he strip the book of all references to the South, and re-package it as a generic philosophical criticism of modernism. So, Weaver made his decision. He did what was asked and produced his infamous “Ideas Have Consequences”.
A great book in its own right (and heralded by conservative writers like George Nash as one of the most influential conservative books of the 20th century), it, nevertheless, represented a “softening” of the Southern position.
And my question is: to what end? What did Weaver get for his efforts?
At best, his book (as Nash asserts in “The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America”) called for a clear philosophical foundation upon which to ground Western democracy. This, apparently, set up conservative Christians to begin making epistemological criticisms of modernist philosophy (never mind that Weaver was a Platonist whose own philosophy was and is subject to criticism from us Van Tillian Christians), where as before, they were intellectually manhandled.
And, guess what dear readers?
When I study Weaver, I STILL seek out his “Southern Tradition at Bay” to get the purified version of his thought. The South STILL needs defending! The West still falls! Weaver didn’t halt a thing. His book is, if anything, a catch-phrase among pseudo-wise sages who pontificate about the consequences of ideas (ironically, Weaver hated that title), but the content is completely irrelevant today.
What did Weaver gain by his compromise (other than, perhaps, brief notoriety and financial security)?
Don’t mistake me. I’m a fan of Weaver and much of his writing is very valuable to me. I don’t wish to undermine his achievements. But, it is my contention that we no longer have the luxury of covering our desire for inaction (and some might even suggest: cowardice) with calls for pragmatic benefit and rhetorical strategy.
We are literally staring down at a dark hoard of savages, who are hell-bent on, not only raping our children, but turning our children into vile creations – turning them into “Orcs” (to borrow from Tolkien). Orcs were captured elves, tortured and battered until they became monsters. This is happening to our people on a daily basis. It’s being funded by our tax money! What’s more, the institutions guiding this evil are world-wide and financed by all the resources and funds capable of being produced by our present age!
Along with King Theodin, we cry out to the Heavens: “What can one do in the face of such evil?”
Should we compromise our message? Mitigate it (as Weaver did, and as so many “wise” alternative righters suggest we do?) Should we run, or placate the evil?
No! We RIDE OUT AND MEET IT! Head on! For death and glory!! We stroll up to the powers that be, and throw down our gloves of mortal defiance!!
If we fail now, there will be no hope for our children. We will not compromise; will not surrender. We will not yield.
* This poetic line is ironic, coming from Tate, himself a vulgar compromiser.