The modern world of liberal individualism has been described by many people in both good and bad terms, but I find its upsides are easy to appreciate when one considers the alternatives. Most people in western Europe now have opportunities and freedoms that their ancestors could only dream about, they can try their luck in a profession other than that of their parents, books are nowdays rarely burned and the bond between state and faith has mostly been severed. Young men and woman can be friends and, if they choose to, lovers, without the matter concerning the entire tribe and ending in bloodshed and sorrow. Though some of us may take such things for granted, they didn’t appear out of thin air, they had to be fought for. They can however, swiftly, disappear into thin air, if not properly maintained.
Just how swiftly these gains can disappear is something that can be glimpsed from the major news stories of the last couple of decades. Be it religious fanatics flying airplanes into buildings in New York or a fascist gunman mowing down children with an assault rifle in Norway, the conclusions are the same, or at least similar. There are organized people out there who wish the modern world ill. Not necessarily always organized in the the sense of being members of actual organizations, sometimes they are just individual madmen reading stuff on the internet and then making bombs in their basements. By organized I mean being ideologically driven to some extent.
These motivating ideologies, or let’s say tribal obsessions if no intellectual justifications are provided, come in countless flavors. But some of them are limited in scope, in regards to the damage they can do, some dark forces simply cannot mobilize people by the millions. Here we can imagine something like eco-terrorists. In Sweden there was earlier this year reports of how a hunter who had shot a wolf that had been hit by a car, to put the injured animal out of it’s misery, was being sent bomb threats. It was undoubtedly horrible for the hunter and his family, the people involved should be rounded up by the police, but the tree-huggers who sent the hunter these letters aren’t going to bring the entire society down.
Sometimes there are geographical limits to the troubles one movement can cause. The Irish Republican Army murdered lots of people in the nineties when trying to bomb their way to a united Ireland, but the cause of a united Ireland cannot ever be directly exported to say Finland or Japan. There does however from time to time arise more global threats, and these too are many in number and differ in character, and the existence of one such threat shouldn’t distract us from another.
The Greek mythological creature called the Hydra can here work as a nice metaphor, it has many heads and when you cut one off, others grow out to take its place. Mongolian imperialism was for example a real threat to large parts of the world in the 13th century, but probably never will be again. Today the hydra of globally organized evil has three heads, made up of groups roughly described as radical nationalists, wahhabi fundamentalists and communist weirdos. While these three heads are not necessarily equal in size and strength today, we will unfortunately hear more of all of them in the future. Sometimes they will temporarily merge and metastasize, like when the communist weirdos take a slightly racial approach to what they do.
This situation, grim though it is, is certainly not made easier by the excesses of modern identity politics, which more often then not are just standing in the way of actual moral action. A grim example of what I mean here can be made of what happened in Sweden last year. Two attacks by blade-wielding murderers, both racially motivated, shocked the nation. In August of last year an African migrant killed two white Swedish women at a furniture store and in October of the same year a racist maniac showed up at a predominantly immigrant school and killed a student and a teacher of non-European background.
Two different patterns of how people’s reactions changed from murder to murder could be discerned in the wake of these atrocities. Most people of some moral integrity were of course outraged by both murders, but there were also those who appeared to be inclined to make distinctions where none were to be made. One group of such people, most of whom perhaps fancy calling themselves “progressives”, came out after the first set of murders and said that we shouldn’t listen to racist demagogues and so on and that society was actually safer than ever. The comedian known as Magnus Betner was among those spearheading this point of view. When the second set of murders took place, and the ethnicity of perpetrator and victims were swapped, these people didn’t reboot the talk about how we are in fact safer than ever. Instead articles began being written about how immigrants can’t even feel safe at school anymore.
Likewise, there were people who after the first couple of murders talked in terms of too broad ethnic generalizations. But then after the second set of murders, voices were raised in sympathy of the other murderer, claiming that he had just been alienated by a society that didn’t take citizens’ concerns about immigration seriously. I know of a lot of people who’s reactions I could have predicted. I could have told you before seeing their reactions in print that person A will say one thing after the first murders and person B will say something else, and then after the later murders I could beforehand have described for you how person A would now react differently, going in one direction while person B switched and went in the other.
My position when talking about this particular case is quite simple. People have been murdered over their ethnicity. Whoever did it should be locked up forever. Both acts can only be described as pure evil and both require our immediate attention and should be dealt with forcefully. Obvious points, perhaps, but even the obvious now has to be reinforced lest it be ignored. This is what the identity mongers have done to us, we see two different cases of obvious evil but don’t just call them out as such, instead descending into discussions about superficial matters. To paraphrase something one of my favorite authors once wrote, identity politics poisons everything. Have nothing to do with it, I beg of you.
The problem that confronts us now, and which will only increase in the future, is not just the rise of the above mentioned forces, the heads of the hydra if you will. It is also not just the shenanigans of regressives or the possibility of one community lashing out at another in retaliation for something. It is that in the future all of this might be happening at once.
We have, I fear, for the moment reached peak “progress” and the various revolutions that people have been waiting for have quietly happened and are now, as I previously implied, taken for granted. Individual freedom, gender equality and race relations have in western countries improved vastly over the last century, to levels never seen before in human history. There are still improvements to be made in these fields, but the momentum is now such that the forces wanting the opposite are the ones who will be making the next move. Talking about “micro-aggressions”, “cultural appropriation” and other nonsense in times like these is like vacuuming the carpet while the house is on fire. On one side we have both theocrats literally selling women like were they commodities and actual fascists dreaming of arbitrarily deporting people en mass, and on the other we have posters of models in bikinis and white hipsters “appropriating” dreadlocks. Priorities, I think, are in order, even though I don’t necessarily recognize the two last items I mentioned as problems even in a vacuum.
Much has been gained in the last half dozen decades, but it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the struggles are not over, that there is no end to history. Now, unfortunately, it looks like the tide might soon be turning and that we will have do our best to hold the line.
Post script – recommended reading
For anyone interested in how exactly I came to see the world in this way I have compiled a list of texts and video/audio recordings that have influenced me a lot, I recommend everyone with some free time at hand to check out a couple of the links below. The order of the items is arbitrary, and shouldn’t be taken as implying relative importance.
- Christopher Hitchens’ speech about George Orwell, from 2005.
- Nick Cohen’s article about the Charlie Hebdo murders, published in the Guardian in January 2016.
- Animal Farm, written by George Orwell.
- The conversation between Sam Harris and Michael Weiss about the situation in the middle east, published as a podcast in 2016.
- Christopher Hitchens’ article about the situation in Tunisia, published in Vanity Fair in July, 2007.
- This video, by the Youtuber known as Sargon of Akkad, published in April 2016.
- Hitch 22, written by Christopher Hitchens.
- Atlas Shrugged, written by Ayn Rand.
- Christopher Hitchens’ chronicles of his travels in Africa in 1994, published in Vanity Fair.
- The conversation between Sam Harris and Joe Rogan about the 2016 U.S presidential elections, broadcast this year on Rogan’s Youtube channel among other places.
- This article by Nick Cohen about the situation in Venezuela, published in the Guardian in May 2016.
- Christopher Hitchens’ speech at Google, from 2007.