Roth, castes, chimps and Rangordnung

Conrad Roth, whose literary erudition, unlike mine, seems quite genuine (if the masthead isn’t warning enough, readers should know that I’ve never studied any of the subjects I expound upon with such professorial authority, and some commenters have already seen how easy it is to scratch my bogus polymathic veneer) does me the distinct honor of linking.

(I mean, doesn’t just the name “Conrad Roth” sound like some celebrated literary figure? A man who might have clinked glasses with Svevo in Trieste, slashed Robert Musil with a sword-cane on the Ringstrasse, or consoled Edmund Wilson through his turbulent marriage with Mary McCarthy? I actually get the impression he’s barely old enough to drink, but since I myself am a failed child prodigy I can hardly complain. Anyway, his blog, the Varieties, is well worth a visit.)

Conrad, if I may, is most interested by my failure to follow the convention—accepted by Hindu, Marxist and Scholastic alike—of ranking the castes. As if they were prepended to some Great Chain of Being, with innocent, big-eyed apes poised just below the squalid Poor, then horses and dogs, those noble beasts, and so on down to amoebas, lawyers and real-estate agents. I admit that this is customary and sensible, and I should explain my deviation.

I’m one of those who believe human social behavior is not entirely learned. Chimps and other primates exhibit many social patterns that would strike any human as familiar. They form tribes, reciprocate grooming, spring devastating ambushes in routine board meetings, and so on. One of these social patterns is, of course, linear ranking.

In a stable chimp society, every chimp knows his or her rank versus every other chimp. This exacts a mighty mental tax on the little chimp brain, but it enables these natural weightlifters to live together without constantly tearing each others’ genitals off. (If you ever find yourself in a fight with a chimp, I recommend the fetal position.) We can think of this ur-Rangordnung as a sort of simian version of formalism. The Law of Chimp is that the little chimp shall yield unto the Big Chimp, and all shall get along.

When the system fails and ranks are unclear, chaos ensues. And this goes for humans as well—not just individuals, but castes.

In chimp terms, the history of the last 200 years is a four-way genital-ripping battle royale for reproductive dominance between the old feudal-clerical nobility, the new merchant nobility, various military brotherhoods, and what in Old Regime France they called the noblesse de la robe—the scholar or Brahmin caste. The losers in this struggle may keep their actual gonads, but they lose their repeaters, i.e., the institutions which install values and beliefs in the young.

So, since the Brahmin victories of the 20th century, it’s very rare for a young Western man to grow up in anything like an aristocratic or militaristic tradition, or to learn business in the traditional apprenticeship style. Instead all are thoroughly Brahminized, and if this doesn’t take, they remain nyekulturny—Vaisyas, in a word, whatever their tax bracket.

People somehow assume that this change is an automatic consequence of modern technology, as though DVD players were somehow incompatible with fancy-dress balls, sadistic pseudo-Spartan boot camps, or learning a trade by actually practicing it. Of course, military history is for all practical purposes random, and surely if the Luftwaffe had won the Battle of Britain you’d be reading this on the Nazi Internet. I’d have to use delicate circumlocutions to try to convince my readers that young men and women might spend a little more time studying, and a little less giving each other horrible facial scars with obsolete edged weapons.

In any case, during this “modern” period—now ending, mainly because the Brahmins have reached the point where they have no real enemies left, and their credibility in conjuring up an Optimate menace of Colonel Blimps, pedophilic cardinals and servant-eating capitalists isn’t what it once was—the linear Rangordnung did not apply. Instead there were two or more (I have lumped all the non-Brahmin elites in my “Optimate” caste, simply because otherwise there wouldn’t be enough to fill a decent ballroom) castes contending for the Big Chimp spot.

We can see this most clearly when we look at the emotions different castes express toward each other. English, at least, uses very different words for group emotional response depending on the rank relationship of the castes involved.

For example, affection, as expressed from higher to lower, becomes caring or concern. So, for example, Brahmins care about the poor (Dalits and Helots). But when this same emotion goes from lower to higher, it becomes loyalty or respect. Not that Dalits have much of either, but I suppose Helots probably do. Historically, the relationship of reciprocal concern and loyalty, normally felt between elites and their subjects, is very common and remarkably stable.

Likewise, animosity, when expressed from higher to lower, appears as contempt. Expressed from lower to higher, it comes out as resentment. No one could possibly mistake these emotions for each other.

One key lacuna of Brahmin thought is a constant confusion and miscategorization of contempt and resentment. For example, the historical phenomenon that Brahmins call “hate” is most certainly contempt—for example, the attitude of many whites toward many blacks in the Old South. The attitude of many Brahmins today toward many Vaisyas—for example, San Francisco hipsters versus Peninsula suburbanites—is also contempt. And in both cases, the reciprocal animosity was and is resentment.

Yet Brahmins have a hard time engaging with this comparison. And they also have a hard time seeing that the genocidal outcomes of intercaste animosity tend to spring not from contempt, but from resentment. National Socialism, for example, was driven by the animosity of Mittelstand, Vaisya Germans for cosmopolitan Jews—resentment in a nutshell. The massacre of the Tutsis was pure resentment. And yet Brahmins, as they inveigh against “hate,” and as they root out any traces of Optimate or Vaisya contempt with the wiccaphobic fury of their Puritan progenitors, seem to put an awful lot of energy into cultivating Dalit resentment.

What is so unusual about the Brahmin-Optimate conflict is that the emotion is, or at least was, contempt on both sides. Their view of the conflict is perhaps the less recorded, but I’m sure the late high Victorians lampooned by Lytton Strachey felt exactly the same way about him as he felt about them. In other words, they found him pathetic, just as he found them pathetic. In every hominoid species this is a recipe for titanic violence, and so indeed it proved.

Ultimately this is a major reason why I don’t consider myself a “conservative” or a member of the “right.” It is not that I don’t agree with many of the thoughts of people like Larry Auster. But my goal is not to crush the Brahmins—not at all. My goal is to try, in my own small way, to remind them that they actually are the ruling caste, that their enemies basically no longer exist, that they can come down from their 20th-century insane chimp rage without getting their genitals ripped off and eaten by a lurking band of equally-enraged Optimates.

I regard the strategy of trying to engage Vaisyas (Pat Buchanan’s “peasants with pitchforks”) in democratic politics, as especially counterproductive. What makes a Vaisya a Vaisya is that he or she is a sensible normal person who takes an appropriate and healthy interest in his or her own life. Trying to involve these people in the disaster of democracy, in some sort of attempt to restore a Brahmin-ravaged Optimate culture that can no more be restored than Albigensian Provence or Mughal India, and which in any case was no more perfect than either of these wonderful and deceased societies, strikes me as an enormous mistake. It enrages the Brahmins and it achieves nothing, as the West has been run by its civil servants, not its politicians, since World War II. What is the glory and culmination of 40 years of American conservative politics since Barry Goldwater? The Bush Administration? Your honor, I rest.

If Vaisya votes are needed to help abolish our profoundly dysfunctional and moribund system of government according to proper legal procedure, fine. But let them vote once, on a proposition that is unambiguous and final, and prevents them from ever having to concern themselves with the ridiculous high-school absurdity of electoral democracy (so brilliantly satirized by Alexander Payne) ever again. Until there’s an election in which one box is a clear mandate for abolishing the New Deal, if not Washington itself, democratist conservatives are wasting time and annoying the pig.