The Pastry Windmill People and the Scandinavization of Anglo-American Politics

The world quite rightly looks on at the continual self-immolation of political and civic discourse and even the diminishing capacity for self-government in Britain and the United States and wonders, ‘what is wrong with those people?’ It is a fair question. Though four centuries of unchallenged puritanism and excessive global expansion only now being reversed (debunking Anglo-teleological models of history and ideology in the process) do provide most of the answers. But present pathologies cannot be reduced to this political trend of extremist binaries fighting over very little actual material divergence being new. Anyone in the Seventeenth Century could have understood that rubes and dupes with little knowledge of the world but very strong opinions are useful pawns in times of state collapse and fractious decline. Indeed, its been my point for over a year now that trendy allusions to the Interwar Period are a flop propped up by the historically ignorant, and that our nearest historical parallel to the present moment is in fact the Reformation and the subsequently related Thirty Years War and British Civil Wars.

Looking at more modern time periods, however, it wasn’t the Anglos that at this political juncture first. Much like how people when I was a teenager said that Japan was the developed country that ended up ‘left out’ of the turn of the century, observers have the order of things all wrong. Japan, it seemed to me then, was not a lost country, but the future of the developed world. More alienated, carved into monopolistic fiefdoms, and unable to grow due to Boomers making the very act of reproduction economically detrimental. I think it is now obvious that I was right. Japan showed where the Eurozone and the U.S. both were going. Now, here we all are.

Lets pivot away from late service sector model economies into ‘the realm of ideas’. Another set of countries showed the path of political parties extremely similar in actual content but extremist in shrill cultural presentation politics that effectively go nowhere well before such a model came to the Anglosphere: Scandinavia. If there is one part of the world more utterly devoted to Protestant pieties and idealism as an exercise in virtue signaling, surely it is this. I am also going to include the Netherlands here, which is not a Scandinavian country, but ideologically might as well be. Its people share the same flat-yet-self-righteous affect anyway.

Since none of these Pastry-Windmill Countries matter geopolitically, it is often hard to sell the case of their ideological odiousness to people from parts of the world that actually influence global events. They are, after all, nice places to live. Some, like Iceland (who I am leaving exempt from my criticism here because culturally it remains quite distinct from the rest) and Norway are fantastic places to visit. Non-Germanic Finland I have a soft spot for because so many of my favorite bands come from there. I myself have been to all of them save Denmark and Sweden.

The reason these countries are nice, however, has little to do with themselves unlocking a magical formula for good living but rather having small populations on relatively large and resource rich pieces of land in a high GDP part of the world whose geopolitical security has been extremely well provided for by the United States since the end of World War II. This is niche exploitation that anyone could do in the right circumstances. These were effectively poor and rural countries just a few generations ago who received massive amounts of foreign capital and faced few outside dangers. Their economic rise is part and parcel of having the right friends at the right time, much like the Gulf monarchies in the Middle East. Therefore, what success they have are hardly due to factors that could just be replicated elsewhere with virtue, bootstraps, and gumption.

And yet, when one lives for time on Asia’s westernmost peninsula (also known as Europe), as I once did, one meets many Pastry Windmill People who are convinced that they serve as some kind of righteous model (the saintly elect) which other parts of the world yearn to be like. Or, conversely, one meets another kind of Pastry Windmill Person, one who believes their societies are so nice because they are innately culturally or even racially superior and no one else could ever replicate such development for all others lack the correct skull measurements. Oftentimes, a Victorian British style hybrid of both of these Pastry Windmill Types will appear, expressing both the missionary impulse to enlighten the foreign savage and also show superiority…by turning them into good Scandinavians of course. This is done through a process called ‘getting educated’ whose specifics are never addressed…and which also seems to ignore how many Pastry Windmill People go abroad for their own education.

We have here the general prototypes of the political archetypes that presently plague us in the Anglosphere. The left dominated by priggish busybodies who believe that true change comes from modifying behavior and language rather than material conditions, a right entirely dominated by literal howling fascists, and a center who believes itself a logical end point of history even as the world they promise gets sucked down the drain in front of all of our eyes. Sweden, the most obnoxious country of the whole lot when it comes to ideology, gets wracked with anti-Semitic riots and racist trouble on a regular basis. Norway had the most devastating act of far right domestic terrorism anywhere in the world so far in the Twenty First Century. Denmark is world famous for its racism (though it has the decency to not be so messianic as its neighbors at least). Political parties that agree on everything except cultural signaling must then dial said signaling up to 11 in order to express their divergence. Does any of this sound familiar to you?

Personal Anecdote Time: I once attended an IR seminar where a Swede stood up and-totally unironically- proposed that there were such things as ‘Humanitarian Superpowers.’ Countries that, in her words, would wield predominant influence on diplomacy through virtuous example and commitment to liberal values. Two nearby people from the Netherlands clapped at this…display. It is a memory that haunts me still. And yet, perhaps to our misfortune, this attitude was merely ‘ahead of its time’, as that kind of sentiment would no longer shock me if I heard it coming from the Center for American Progress or a talking head on cable news today. You get a lot of this in U.K. media in particular these days, as that country’s days of global influence are so far behind it that this might be all that is left now. The Guardian is particular offender here. Get ready for a near future bombardment of ‘you can’t pull out of any endless war in the Middle East ever because of women’s rights’ to descend on all of us from this quarter.

Needless to say, this same ‘humanitarian superpower’ person was also the same individual who later attempted to mock me for skipping out on a boring meeting of wonks in an office that wasn’t required so that I could go to a local history museum instead. I retorted with just enough humor in my voice to take the edge off that she ‘was basic’. She was.

The funny thing about this originally Scandinavian pathology of exceptionalism is that it is somehow even more delusional than American Exceptionalism. American Exceptionalism might be a cargo cult of a civic religion with very real and damaging effects on diplomacy in the world, but it is at least based on the knowledge that a powerful country has disproportionate sway on world affairs (even if in such a way that compromises that very influence by triggering backlashes). The idea of tiny geopolitical nonentities thinking they are in some kind of drivers seat, or even thinking they are playing good ear-whispering angel to the bad angel of Turkey or Israel or whatever on America’s other shoulder, is laughable. A further irony, and one that really infuriates the Pastry Windmill People if mentioned to them, is that the ur-Kantian liberalism of their region is every bit as much a public education derived state ideology as the flag-humping trucker nuts dangling Humvee driving American chuds they believe themselves to be so much better than. Both people are just parroting the mythology given to them by the dominant media and educational cultures of their respective societies. And both those societies seek validation in being seen as uniquely virtuous across the globe. Both are truly the children of the Reformation. Much like how the Saudis are the children of the Wahhabi Reformation. No sane person abroad is actually impressed by all of this posturing. Especially when it comes from a place whose sanctioning of another nation might…increase the cost of Pastry and Windmill imports?

Pastry-Windmills will retort that perhaps living in a boring and severe country with terrible fashion sense is a small price to pay for such socio-economic security. Once I would have agreed. But even if we traffic in the absolute binaries the Germanic peoples are so fond of (we shouldn’t), I know now I would take an interesting place, within reason, over a secure one. I know that to this day the basket case of Italy is a far more interesting and culturally vibrant place than any Pastry Windmill Country could ever hope to be. I value indulgent art and vibrant giallo cinema. I do not value boring social realism and Ikea-like starkness. I don’t want my cuisine options to be the culinary equivalent of canned dog food. And I don’t want everyone around me to have the same damn boring homogenized opinions divided by tribe into two superficially extreme but functionally docile tribes of Witchunter Generals. Nazis vs Wokecels. It happened first over there, then it came here. They aren’t, in the words of a former president, sending their best.

The only hope I have for the North Atlantic world is that its (genuinely impressive compared to most other places) ability to take in large amounts of very culturally different immigrants continues, and it is able to demographically decouple from WASP inertia and pathology. Changes may be painful, but it is well within the realm of possibility that such shifts could work out in the end. But Pastry Windmill Country is the Germanic version of WASP Mecca. Or perhaps more accurately, its Salt Lake City. It will never change. What could be a phase for us is a thousand year long way of life for them. I say we have followed their trends long enough, and its time to leave them to their backwards ways. Our collective ability to engage in critical and contrarian thinking will thank us if we leave this jar of pickled moose knuckle behind.

But hey, I am genuinely thankful for all the metal. But these days even that has often migrated elsewhere.

The End of/Right Side of History is a Recurring Delusional Fad for Simpletons

Statue of Aphrodite defaced by Christians.

For a people so committed to the ending of cultural and political divergence, you would think fanatics everywhere would at least pay attention to the failure of all the other times they attempted the same project. If the definition of madness is endlessly repeating the same project again and again and expecting different results, then the universal idealists among us are truly the maddest of the mad. Perhaps this is why they despise the value of history so much. Because the message of history is that there is no message in history, save perhaps never to ignore your resource base and never to trust the pledges of fanatics claiming to be ‘on the right side’ of history. And it is very telling that an obviously ridiculous phrase like ‘right side of history’ is so commonly used in progressive politics today.

We have seen more than our fair share of the use and abuse of history by conservatives. Usually in the form of some kind of pundit with a superficial Wikipedia-level knowledge of key events and an uncritical and uninterrogated sense of the past derived from high school education that they desperately wish to affirm from further scrutiny. I have written here about that specific phenomena many times before. But the problem is that most non-conservatives, of all stripes, effectively cede the field to the right entirely because they themselves have a deeply diseased relationship with the past.

This relationship can be found everywhere now, with the de facto merger of the neoliberal establishment in the Anglosphere countries with postmodern academia and far left rhetoric (if usually not actual far left policies). The past is bad to them. People in the past had attitudes different than people today and therefore were also bad. Works of literature and philosophy from anytime before the rise of post-colonial and post-modern thought are therefore haram and must be expunged. The university, supposed to at least be the place meant to encourage atypical and norm-questioning thought, has become a giant H.R. department meant to ensure the imposition of a presentist monoculture on the next generation of downwardly mobile administrators and media people. The media itself has mostly given up all pretense at journalistic muckraking and has merged subservient stenography with declarations of religious faith in the church of social justice. If present trends continue, the majority of Generation Z and no small amounts of my own generation of Millennials seem to be well on track to carry out this mission of building a monoculture that pervades the public square. Those who know their future prospects are bleak are often those most likely to lash out moralistically as this is a socially acceptable way to ‘rebel’ without actually taking risks or digging deeper into the root (material) causes of societal decline. It is striking that, in an era where climate change represents our most clear and omnipresent threat, so many of the supposedly educated adopt culture war instead. Once seen as the domain of ignorant rural evangelicals, culture war is now the plaything of the social elite. Even if one wishes to prioritize culture war, one cannot ignore how the counter-culture trends on social issues of the last few decades before the 2010s actually delivered more measurable gains in a more hostile environment than the present top-down attempts at cultural engineering do, something I wrote more about here. If one is not a reactionary, one would be wise to feel what the backlash to this will be if this continues.

While its true that to glorify the past is ridiculous (and also implies a weak understanding of how events and eras actually work) it is surely just as ridiculous to castigate it from the point of view of present day trends. There is a lot of knowledge and wisdom to be found in taking the long view, and it is impossible to take such a view with knowledge based only around the time one was alive or even based only around a century or two. One can always be surprised by how many fellow travelers one can find hidden in long gone eras. Even in civilizations which are since departed. There were once cultures with widely different concepts of intellectualism and cultural expression than those which exist today. They are all fascinating. Some, I would contend, were even preferable in many ways. Especially on the cultural front. With the destruction of polytheism in Europe in the Middle East being the most clear breaking point from a more vibrant and interesting culture to the start of the monolith many Arab, Spanish, and Germanic societies have since sought to force on everyone else. The Chinese Cultural Revolution was an attempt to bring this type of brain dead political historiography into a new region, but fortunately it was brief and had limited effect (though enough for Chinese history lovers like myself to still rue). The PRC, a state which once carried out this state sponsored campaign of cultural terrorism, soon came to officially recognize these policies as a mistake.

Would that it was so in the Anglosphere. Here, the Christian sentiment that damaged European art and philosophy for centuries never seems to die, but only gets perpetually reborn under new forms. From the obvious sequels of the Great Awakening and the evangelical revival, to the less obvious such as militarized human rights foreign policy, American Exceptionalism, critical race theory, queer theory, the quest for ever expanding realms of ‘safe spaces’, and the present day pro-censorship trend, the tribes change but the underlying psychology does not. All of these adopt the very monotheist view that to come into contact with something you don’t like infects your soul like a virus, and affirms the idea that what is good or bad for you must be good or bad for everyone else. And always, it comes a deeply disturbing affirmation that the past is sinful, and that ones soul can only be immaculate by rejecting all things contrary to what the good people of the present do. We can stop the tragicomedy of history, these people propose, by simply rejecting it outright. And by also contending that to engage with any figure’s opinion, past or present, is to affirm all of them. No nuance in this brave new world. And nothing fills me with more concern than this growing trend I see of the hard left, already prone to sanctimonious preaching, reconciling itself with Christianity, the inventor of universal scolding and messianism. Should such a convergence fully occur, it will create the most insufferable and absolutist outgrowths of philosophy and culture of all time. I think we can now safely say what the one thing to make me see the right as the lesser evil would be, should such a wretched alliance occur.

The most ridiculous aspect of this argument is also the one that is most telling as to why fanatics despise a nuanced and contextual understanding of history: that we have it right now unlike before. If there is one thing a thorough study of history should tell everyone, it is that morality is as faddish and ephemeral a concept as fashion is. And much of it always dates poorly. Eugenics was once a progressive cause, as was prohibition. The inference is obvious: if so much that seemed obvious and good once now looks so terrible…what things that look good today will seem terrible tomorrow?

Quite a bit of it, I would be willing to bet.

If big picture issues matter to you, it is best to be above and beyond trendy moralism in the first place. Understanding structural forces in politics you want to change is good. But don’t ever get it conflated with these tent-revivalist trends that periodically sweep the Christian and Islamic worlds. In order to see the future more clearly, it becomes necessary to see the past clearly first. And that will also give you insight into the present beyond that of your more intellectually challenged and fad-chasing peers.

It becomes important to set up informal networks for those of us who, despite this ever growing monoculture by and for moralistic simpletons, plan, network and discuss as a proper counter-culture. No longer interested in trying to change this bizarre and periodic rising of anti-history anti-context people, we should break into a separate but parallel group. Occupying the same society but offering alternatives. This is not just for our own sanity, but also a useful community service. Monocultures, be it of crops, bureaucratic hierarchies or ideologies, create blind spots and thus increase the odds of society-wide failure due to an inability to adapt. Evolution cannot work without constant differentiation. A society that seeks to expunge intellectual and cultural diversity is a society digging its own grave. One thing ignored by many radicals today as inconvenient is that the Islamic State’s very destruction of ancient works of art was motivated not just by Islam’s proscriptions on the human form in artwork, but also by a hatred of divergent societies and separate states preventing their religion from being universal. The Palmyrene Empire, so notable for its brief but spectacular challenge to Roman hegemony, pre-dated Islam and differentiated Syria from the rest of the region. And Allah forbid anyone acknowledge their local context might matter more than a universal ideology. We saw in contemporary history in Iraq and Syria just what a danger to any kind of minority or even culture of critical inquiry such people represent. And what it must have been like to live in various times in the past when such people were dominant.

Well, I suppose we got what conservatives in the U.S. always wanted: a workable Rome analogy. Too bad its one that shows that the religion they treasure was the past equivalent to the wokes they hate so much today. Even I can admit there are some things not worth conserving. The Galilean Ideology has to be at the top of that list.

It is up to us to create a counter-culture alliance that one day could set up escape valves in society for when these hysterical moments all to common to the Anglosphere arise. Not just so that people can tune out of greater society if they wish, but also receive education and training from an outsider perspective in order to better understand and critique it.

This will be the topic of a future writing project of mine. One which, if short, may appear here and, if long, may become a short book or pamphlet-like work I would try to publish. I think that increasingly just as the H.R.-Neoliberal-Academia alliance pushes harder and harder for monopoly, there will have to be a backlash. Such a backlash would inevitably be diverse but it should also have some degree of coordination. Someone has to stand against the new dark age of the meek inheriting the Earth.

In the meantime…

The Black Longhouse

“You’re feeling the oppression of Christian hegemony in conflict with native animism,” he said. “Self-righteous, puritanical men seized this land. You’re also feeling the eyes of the vultures evaluating the sweet texture of your skin. The eyes of many animals. Animals endure.’

~Laird Barron, ‘Worse Angels’

What follows is a symbolic manifesto of sorts. Take from it what you will.

In a world built on bones there is an entire hemisphere that is especially shattered by abrupt displacement. On the northern continent of that hemisphere is the seat of a degenerating world-empire. Within that empire are a people unmoored from the reality of the ancient land beneath their feet even as it dies because of them. They cling to the ideologies of a failing state despite these very beliefs having brought them to this point. The universal idealism of a simple moralistic world and one set of values to make sense of it has not just failed them-it has made everything worse for everyone. The ubiquity of their communications networks brings what was once left at the pulpit of the puritan into an unceasing daily bombardment of affirmation for collapsing monoculture.

But there was a time that lasted far longer before the coming of Christ and Cotton Mather when these lands had no such grifters. Tribes existed and fought each other as humans always do, but had no concepts of messianic religion, ‘biological’ race, or the glorification of victimhood. These many diverse peoples were wiped out by an unprecedented hemisphere-encompassing apocalypse where smallpox and plague took the majority as a prelude. Then came shattered bands of survivors still alive in a time where the recently dead outnumbered the living by multitudes and were forced to respond to an alien invasion of technologically advanced extremists. They went down in a hell of a fight that took centuries and their descendants are still live today, despite the odds.

In their place came a civilization that broke all contact with this past and rushed to fill the vacuum with their own inheritance…but not all these things were a sensible fit for the new locale. Despite the cultural disconnect of most of its inhabitants, its earthy chaotic gods sleep much closer to the surface than the long-buried and fully domesticated pantheons across the sea. This is not a land of mellow meadows and shires, but of earthquakes, blizzards, tornadoes, and towering thunderstorms. This is a land that scorns weakness.

The newcomers could breed to the point where they were immune to native syncretism-avoiding the natural fate of conquerors. This further cut off the northern reaches of the hemisphere even beyond that of the rest. We live in their world now. But now, in the early 21rst Century, we see their world view cracking under the strain of its own hubris and excess. The opportunity to build something new is opening before our eyes. Something that fits this place better. Something that can at least bridge some of the gap between the incongruous ideological imposition of today and the natural state of a beautiful and terrible land.

There are those of all backgrounds and persuasions who find no tribe amongst the degenerating postmoderns of our time. They find the amplification of faddish superficial issues a distraction, the busybodies of the commentariat and consumer as the front for a past-prime ruling class in crisis. Witch hunts are everywhere as the fearful and ostensibly secular descendants of those original puritan settlers and conquistadores blame heretics for their own inadequacies.

Those who reject this status quo may find themselves walking in the woods as they travel apart from the trends. Let us say in the northeast or Great Lakes region-though it could be anywhere. The new growth forest of the woodlands hacked down and re-grown is filled with underbrush and small trees. Ticks lurk everywhere as un-predated deer strip the biodiversity as they spread like locusts.

Eventually these travelers make their way to a place deep in the woods. Giant ancient trees tower above in the old growth grove. Here, the underbrush is lighter. Flowers bloom again. Sharp unseen eyes raise their hackles as they know the deer tread lightly in this place for fear of predation. At the center is a longhouse. Those redoubtable large bark clad structures that could house many people and supplies. But this longhouse is different. It is jet black and angled as only a modern construct could be. It draws from the forgotten past but is no slave to it. It would seem incongruous to those who came across it accidentally, but not to our band our travelers.

On the inside they find the interior lit only by the fire pits. The shadows cast about imply a structure far larger than seems from the outside. There wait for them masked figures-wooden shamanic grotesques with distorted and leering features. Beneath this they wear well-tailored suits. They tell the travelers that to accept the uncertainties of a new future is to draw strength from a different past. The pipe is passed around as the masked ones speak of a land people belong to, and not a land belonging to people.

‘Mankind sought the death of Coyote, an animal once confined to the plains and Rockies. His attempts to kill it made it breed and migrate outwards. A century after this campaign began it has unintentionally spread the animal over the entire continent. Here, in the east, it has bred with Canadian wolves up north before moving south. It has thus grown in size and pack mentality.

‘The coyotes were misfits, but they came together to survive and perhaps for revenge. Now, they thrive while we decline. Be like this beast. Adapt to the new by breaking old bonds of safety. Your mouth must be red with venison for the flowers to bloom again and the ticks to recede. Face your fears directly and make them your allies against your foes. Come together at decisive points in time and scatter when countered. Always help to sabotage the complacently powerful and their defenders.’

These travelers realize their personal differences do not need to be ironed out-the diversity strengthens them. Here they can debate the most taboo subjects openly, shrouded from view of the puritans by the walls of the Black Longhouse. They have something more important now: common enemies. The missionary, the financier, the complacent monoculture that upholds them all.

As the travelers dance around the fire they revel in being both distinct and as-one. They know that their odds are low but that such difficulties only increase the glory of the fight. The future they want is yet un-defined but by taking the first step away from a failed consensus the mere possibility to building something new has been created. All of them now carry the Black Longhouse inside them.

The travelers walk out of the old growth region, through the moat of the striplings, and back into the roar of modernity. But rather than be sad as before, they see now that within this degenerating world is an abundance of new opportunities. Every decaying town is a chance to rebuild not in some nostalgic way for what it once was, but a new way to that leans forward and draws from a different and much neglected past. Many peoples, gods, and cultures united against a common old order and its increasingly hysterical defenders. What were the covenant chains of past entities on this land before colonization but the agreement that difference and divergence was fine, and could all serve a struggle against a common enemy? Such was the thought of people who lived in older longhouses. Already, one can hear the sounds of this new synthesis of forgotten old and dynamic new if one listens.

Somewhere inside a tacky suburban home at night, a clergyman (either of faith or of human resources and professional management) spots something outside the window. He peers through the glass to see the leering face of a coyote with wolf-like dimensions. The lights go dark and he screams, fumbling to bring them back on. But against one who sees in the darkness as if it was its own form of light…

In a time of monsters be the biggest baddest monster of all. And bring your friends. This ancient land demands no less of you.