We Are All Collectivists Now: Sargon of Akkad vs. Richard Spencer

    Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve caught the Great YouTube Brouhaha between individualist skeptic Carl ‘Sargon of Akkad’ Benjamin and alt-right ethnonationalist Richard Spencer.

    Styxhexenhammer666, Millennial Woes, and a variety of other YouTubers were involved too, and moderated by Andy Warski and JF Gariepy. The stars of the hour were without doubt the dueling online titans, Spencer and Sargon.

    But why should we care about a bunch of talking heads and their YouTube debate-fest?

    My answer to that is also a question: How can we not care? This is the central question in any society that aspires to call itself free:

    what is the proper relationship between the individual and the collective?

    In some form, is this not a question every society must answer, whether ably or poorly?

    What follows my attempt to reconcile two tendencies that I see at war in the ideational and ideological ecosystem of the broader New Right or Dissident Right: individual liberty on the one hand, and a sense of culture, heritage, and nation on the other.

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    As for the livestream debate itself, I will be honest up front: I found the whole thing a badly-managed tangle, rife with misunderstandings and misrepresentations. Much of the time, it seemed that Spencer and Sargon were arguing past each other, and (to my eye) an inordinate amount of time was spent attempting to establish the legitimacy of racial categories.

    For all its faults, though, the livestream did raise some fascinating issues and ideas. In many ways, it is of immense relevance to the fundamental questions now facing Western civilization. Whether and how to balance cultural heritage, blood, and nationhood being the organic conceptions of identity and belonging, with abstract, intellectual theories and philosophies of government and public policy, i.e. synthetic ideas.

    Sargon’s position was overwhelmingly concerned with rights, moral principles, and ideals. He is an individualist and a classical liberal, and he spent a fair bit of time trying to peg Spencer down on the questions of who should count as white, and what prescriptions Spencer had for whites in his proposed white ethnostate. Sargon himself, as an individualist, opposes ethnostates and collective racial identities.

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    As Alternative Hypothesis observed, the problem with Sargon’s line of thinking boils down to the fact that humans are naturally tribal and group-favoring, and Sargon is (in essence) wanting non-white groups to give up their racial identity the way that whites have—without any of the institutional support from the media, government, and so on.

    Spencer actually pointed out this weakness in Sargon’s line of thinking in the debate. It is all very well and good to talk about whether groups should have power over individuals, but the fact of the matter is that groups do have power over individuals. He also talked about whiteness as both a genetic phenomenon and a cultural phenomenon.

    On this issue of groups having power over individuals and the question of whether individuals should affiliate in racial groups, I find myself mostly in the same camp as Spencer and the YouTuber known as Alternative Hypothesis. They are correct about this much, at least. Whites have been convinced to de-prioritize their racial-cultural identity. Whites have done this in order to join a coalition with other groups who have not denatured themselves in like manner. One can acknowledge this, and not immediately jump to the conclusion that whites in the U.S. need an ethnostate of their own to rectify the matter.

    It is easy to criticize this trade-off as bad for whites. On the other hand, whites have traded away an older, more limited hegemonic identity in exchange for the ability to join a different, larger and more ecumenical hegemonic identity. Sure, they have to engage in a little masochism, but hey, stronger together, right? Gotta fight those oppressive white males!

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    Sargon’s solution, so far as I can tell, is classical liberal individualism for all. He doesn’t deny the legitimacy of the modern nation-state and he is opposed to mass migration, so there is some room for group-based principles in his worldview. The problem I see here is that if the nation-state is valid and we should not have open borders then there is some role for, if not an ethnostate, at least an ethnically-defined state.

    Sargon is opposed to Spencer’s particular form of collectivism, but if he has no problem with nation-states and is leery of mass migration, then he’s drawing the line in favor of a lesser degree of blood and soil. He isn’t an ethnonational purist the way Spencer is, but he’s far from an individualist purist. Think about it: if your country shouldn’t have open borders and should regulate immigration, doesn’t that privilege a certain ethnic, linguistic, and cultural composition?

    It’s important to note, as James Allsup very capably did, that Sargon’s individualist critique is not solely applicable to ethnostates, and that one, in fact, needs collectives, and can get them without full collectivism if one is to defend individual rights.

    Overall, I did not find Sargon terribly effective in debate or even all that deep. The quality of his arguments left much to be desired, and he spent a fair bit of time arguing past Spencer instead of engaging. Aurini’s criticism was particularly trenchant, and it points to my own general sense of disaffection with Sargon’s hyper-individualism and with libertarian purism.

    Spencer’s position was interesting. He wants an ethnostate, but he seems unconcerned about how it is to be governed.

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    He is not concerned with what religion whites follow in the ethnostate, so long as it is not Islam (“Islam is a black flag raised against Europe,” he says). He acknowledged the past history of religious conflict in Europe, particularly with regard to the Protestant-Catholic Wars of Religion. It is great that Spencer is  honest about the potential for religious conflict, and I respect that; but if he is willing to accept a certain amount of religious diversity, despite a history of conflict, why shouldn’t the same argument apply to race? Spencer has no problem with a white ethnostate despite a long history of conflict between white nations. He is an educated man, and I am confident he has read about Rome and the Germanic and Indo-Iranian barbarians. He has already alluded to the Wars of Religion; I assume he needs no introduction to the broader history of the wars of the Angevins, Bourbons, Capetians, Habsburgs, Hohenzollerns, Plantagenets, and Romanovs. Now, Spencer did say whites have a way of being; a way of being that produces recognizably white societies. I suspect that is how he would counter me here. Okay, fine— but there was a time when all societies were hunter-gatherers. The move away from that started in the Middle East, near the end of the last Ice Age. Fast forward many thousands of years of agricultural development within Europe, and the civilizational gulf between the Romans of Julius Caesar’s day and the Germanic tribes he encountered -both in Gaul and across the Rhine- was huge.

    As a neoreactionary, High Church libertarian, I believe the state should adopt a completely race-neutral policy. Race-conscious policies are a recipe for social conflict, and they fuel grievances and resentment. The point that I am making is that I am primarily a culturist on this subject. I am not suggesting evolution stopped at the neck, and the scientific conversation about racial realism is both fascinating and worthwhile, but my priority is culture. I care about the ability and the willingness of a group of people to 1) assimilate to Western cultural norms, and 2) the extent to which they are more or less likely to favor government policies that will turn the dial of state intervention in the direction I like (being much, much less).

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    How can we square the circle? In my view, the answer is simple. The nations of the West must institute high standards for immigration; education, desired skills, and enough money in the bank to not be a welfare leech in one’s new home. It is not a perfect standard (there are no silver bullets here), but it’s much better than the Democrats shutting down the government because they have their hands on those 800,000 DACAnauts, and by God, they’re not giving up that ball without a fight! Inquiring minds want to know: how many votes for the Democratic Party will 800,000 DACAnauts produce through chain migration and simply having kids? Two million? Three? Ten?

    On that note, another YouTube exchange which is very relevant here is the recent Molyneux-Kokesh debate which I will summarize for you here. Kokesh opposed control of immigration based on fantasies of a free society, and Molyneux logic-hammered him with the argument that mass migration is the tool of the left because immigrants from the Third World tend to be in favor of expanding government. This does not have to mean zero immigration —indeed, skilled, capable immigrants can be very welcome additions— but it should caution us against allowing the Left to import vast numbers of future leftist voters.

    This is the problem with Kokesh’s position: it is an ideological fantasy, with no more substance than a vaporwave-themed air-castle. Kokesh states, in the video, that he wishes to run for president on the platform of immediately abolishing the federal government. This is the kind of delusional fantasy that your brain can entertain if you run it on nothing but “low church” libertarian purism. The neat thing, though, is that Kokesh’s beliefs effectively neutralize him. His political program offers no incentives for any appreciable number of non-institutionalized people to endorse. And his endorsement of a concept of freedom of movement which includes the putative right to cross national borders is in accord with the trans-national designs of the Left, as Molyneux pointed out. I do tend to think that over the long term, even very major cultural differences can become smaller, and even very different groups may prove assimilable to each other and be able to maintain a high level of civilization.

    With that said, let me acknowledge some important common ground with Spencer and with Molyneux: as things stand now, there are very real differences between groups which have enormous consequences for social stability and civilization. The response in South Africa to H&M’s coolest monkey in the jungle advertisement is instructive in this regard.

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    On the subject of South Africa, it’s also a tragically dangerous place to be a white farmer.

    But why go so far afield, when mass migration to Western lands from the Third World is producing such vibrant, multiculturally-enriched crime rates and welfare dependency? For that matter, this is not a problem that is exclusive to migrants: the welfare state in the Western world is the tool of the parasitic left, has contributed to social dysfunction and pathology in our various underclass communities, and is facing serious fiscal shortfalls that will render it unsustainable. (Reform is a productive option worth exploring).

    If Western civilization is to be saved, we need to reconcile the synthetic ideas of individual liberty and personal responsibility on the one hand with organic notions of blood and soil and collective identity on the other. The former is necessary for Western freedom; the latter is necessary for Western revival.

    Our adversary, the Left, relies on the welfare state as war-chest-and-sacrament: it is how they reward their faithful clients, which is why it is necessary for them to pretend, Boston-Cream-Pie-Feminist style, that it is an irreplaceable institution, beyond criticism and beyond reproach. The ongoing migrant invasion of Europe simply represents the logical outgrowth of this pathology, the metastasis of the cancer that originated within the host body.

    Many of us already understand the importance of heritage, of culture, of nationhood. We need these things because human beings are not by nature sterile receptacles for ideologies. We are cultural and social beings. It is the Left that seeks to denature us, to sever us from a past they deem oppressive. And it is necessary for them to do this, necessary for them to pollute our traditions and our heritage and our sense of who we are, because how else will they pursue their unfounded and childish fantasies of egalitarianism?

    Human beings vary. We differ from each other in almost every conceivable way that our genes allow. As a consequence of these differences, this wonderful and beautiful human diversity, the natural order emerges. There is the family, with man the father-provider and woman the mother-nurturer-provider. And there is inequality, because human beings, being different, are inherently unequal with respect to everything that matters for success in life. Most of us make our peace with this in some form, do our best to overcome our challenges, and get on with life. And the truth is, this is a necessary consequence of freedom as we know it in the West: the ability to succeed is also the ability to fail.

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    The spirit of progressive leftism in its purest form hates this because it is essentially egalitarian. Why do so many on the left hate capitalism and resent the 1%? Because success is not egalitarian in nature. It exposes differences in talents, skills, ambition, and motivation which are painful for some people to accept. Of course, leftists will counter that people are born into wealth. This is true of some people, but all this means is that some people are born to successful and capable parents. Mobility both upward and downward is more common than leftists often seem to think.

    My message to libertarians and liberty-lovers of all stripes is that culture, heritage, and nationhood are not things of which we should be afraid to embrace. We need cultures and societies that value self-reliance, personal responsibility, and hard work if we are to have any prospect of Western freedom. We cannot replace Western people and expect to retain Western freedom. This can only mean that we need Western revival.

    The story of the West is the greatest epic of human civilization in the whole of world history. Greece and Rome and Medieval Europe, revolutions and wars and barbarian invasions, the rise and fall of great cities and kingdoms and empires, the great conquerors, kings, churchmen, and philosophers; does not the mind boggle trying to comprehend it all? The story of the West is far more than any narrative of freedom, faith or power, though all are vital parts of the Western story.The story of the West is known to all who love the West. It is a story of struggle, of transformation, of dynamism, of daring the new and preserving the old. It is the story of the empire-builders and empire-breakers, the great popes and the great heretics who founded new orthodoxies. It is, most importantly, our story.

    Individualism is a dead letter. We have inherited the fruits of a vast river of human achievement, everything our ancestors labored and fought and bled to give us. The relative freedom and prosperity of our societies are among the greatest of their gifts but freedom in the end must always depend upon group sacrifice and group vigilance. Individualism as a concept is dependent upon this, like a green twig growing from a branch that runs to the heart of an ancient tree.

    It would be a mistake to reject any sense of Western freedom for the charms of a romantic fantasy of an ethnostate. Nonetheless, we must acknowledge that there is no Western freedom without Western revival, without a sense of togetherness, without a sense that the lands of the West must remain Western together. We must stand for a sense of Western-ness, must revive our confidence in ourselves and in our ability to do great deeds. Unencumbered by the Vampiric Left, there is no height Western Man cannot summit, no distance he cannot cross, and no empire he cannot conquer.

    It would be naïve indeed, then, to conclude that we face a choice between individualism and collectivism. This is a shallow understanding of the matter. The restoration of our freedom depends upon the collective will, a coalition formed by the revival of our confidence in ourselves and in each other.

    In this sense, as a coalition united in purpose, one could say—with tongue planted in cheek—that truly we are all collectivists now.

    Julius Roy-Davis

    Julius Roy-Davis

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