The Grand Inquisitor Explains “Crypto-Conservatism”

By way of sharpening up some points which I began to chisel a week ago, let me attempt a dialogue in the vein of Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor.

There is no reason on earth why the trustee of a thriving university would want to talk to an untenured assistant professor, or would even have occasion to meet one such humble being.  Yet kings sometimes speak to cooks, and dukes sometimes address their tailors… so I will appeal to poetic license so far as to imagine the idealistic young Professor Wingo in close colloquy with the taciturn and somewhat mysterious—but not ungracious—billionaire Block, the dean of wireless security systems.

Block: So you are disappointed in Stephanos University after your first year?

Wingo: Disappointed… yes.  I had expected to find here more of a defense of the Western tradition.  The University advertises itself, you know, as a kind of liberal arts equivalent of Hillsdale College.  Anchored in humane values and classical ideas, independent of public subsidies and unbeholden to PC trends…

Block: Ah, yes.  Advertising.  Public relations.

Wingo: But the message is a strong one.  It obviously elicits enough support from like-thinking citizens that enrollment is healthy.  So why do we sabotage ourselves by becoming just another all-is-relative, don’t-want-to offend purveyor of mush when it comes to literature and history?  Why is the mandatory senior seminar a crash course in feminist criticism, always taught by a person (and I don’t intend to name names) who wants to see my World Literature Survey scrapped because of its imbalance between male and female authors?

Block: Maybe… and this would just be a shoemaker’s guess about what the baker does… maybe your unnamed adversary wants graduates to be able to sally forth from Stephanos and find a job, which will only happen if they can present their anti-literary, politically charged papers at anti-literary, politically charged conferences.  Assuming, of course, that they desire a job in academe…

Wingo: But then, all is lost.  The very purpose for which Stephanos exists… and I don’t mean to lecture you on the mission of the institution…

Block: No, no.  You’re quite right, in fact.  All is lost.  Certainly in the world of higher education—but even in the social and political world.  Especially there.  All the trends are pushing victim classes up to the front of the pack.  Everyone wishes to be victimized and entitled to restitution or special accommodation.  Naturally, those in the public sector who want their votes flatter their claims to special treatment… for the swelling “entitled victim” class has very, very many votes!

Wingo: Oh.  So… so why am I here?  I thought we were pushing back, in some small way.

Block: Your “we” is… well, not the sort of word that a man like me uses, but it’s “charming”.  You’re young, and you want to identify yourself with a worthy cause.  Many of your colleagues, too, are young, and they like the crusading atmosphere of the fight for the little guy.

Wingo: Unfortunately, Mr. Block, you would be severely disciplined in my position for using either the word “crusade” or the word “guy”!

Block: Well, there you go!  We’re screwed.  We can’t even say a plain sentence in plain English any longer.  That’s where we are, as a culture and a society.  End of the line.

Wingo:  So what would you recommend that someone like me do for the next thirty years?  Study computer programming?

Block: Not necessarily.  I would recommend that you keep right on reading Dante and Milton, if you can find a way to do so and survive.  And then be patient.  Wait for the collapse.

Wingo: Wait for the… collapse.

Block: For the end of the end.  Even endings come to an end, you know!  Let them—the Philistines, the barbarians, and the sophists—ruin this place, and others like it.  Let them ruin everything they touch.  Let them bankrupt the nation by doling out free iPhones in return for a vote, or promising free state-of-the-art health care to millions of people who eat like pigs, stay inside all day, and haven’t enough skills to get a decent job.  Free college, too.  You think the competitors of Stephanos aren’t salivating over that prospect?  Put them—put us—on the public payroll, too, and give us unlimited customers.

Wingo: So Stephanos will cease refusing federal moneys, with all the strings attached to them?

Block: You see… this is where I get very personal with you, where I glance over my shoulder and lower my voice, and where I assure you that I will deny publicly all that I’m about to say in confidence.  Stephanos will best serve its cause by becoming one of them—by precipitating the collapse.  The sooner, the better.  Of course we’ll accept federal money!  That will bankrupt the nation a little sooner.  Of course we’ll yield to the mandate to create unisex bathrooms, and drive Christian organizations off campus, and dismiss classes for Gay Pride Day, and ban Ben Shapiro from speaking, and all the rest!  The more we promote all of this suicidal idiocy, the sooner the idiots all commit suicide.  Between homosexuality and abortion, our intellectual class will have no progeny—no children into whose heads they can infuse their garbage.  Within a generation, American society will consist primarily of the offspring of Third World types who produce five, six, eight kids per family.  Oh, some of these children will be truly gifted… but most will have a very poor home environment for learning and a tradition where males aren’t expected to toil away at books and where females just marry and have babies.  So our society will be overrun with unskilled manual labor at the very time when assembly-line jobs have disappeared… and more people will go on the dole, and more voters will demand that more money be doled out, and more politicians will promise more freebies… and eventually there will be no more free iPhones for people who can’t even pay for their monthly WiFi… and eventually, not too long after that, there will be no more bread on the shelves awaiting shoppers with purses full of food stamps.

Wingo: And then you have hungry masses rioting in the streets.  Why would you want to precipitate that?

Block: Because it will come no matter what you do.  Would you rather have your limbs amputated one by one as you die of an incurable organ rot, or just go ahead and get the crossing over with?  Yes, rioting in the streets… and homicidal tribalism at a nightmare level.  The  red shirts killing the green shirts, the blue shirts killing the yellow shirts….  you can imagine the shouts and the placards.  “We have no food because of you damn people with your dark skin!  We have no food because of you people with your strange language!  Get out of my house!  Mi casa no es su casa!”  Massive unrest.  Not civil war, but civil chaos.

Wingo: Wouldn’t the dignified, principled thing to do in that case be to take the high road right into the abyss, since all will end in the abyss, anyway?  If we’re all going to die, why not be one of those who dies doing the right thing?

Block: Love the youthful idealism—love it!  But it could get us killed.  Really killed.  Because, you see, my rotting-organ analogy is inaccurate in that somebody may indeed survive—some few limbs of the body, the hands or the head.  Hopefully the head.  Maybe the blue shirts will be the last men standing.  And you want to be one of them, because then you get to dictate the terms of the society to be reconstituted.  But if, instead, you insist on letting the mob crucify you without resistance, then there will be no reconstitution, or only on the worst possible terms.  There will be no more Christ, no more Cross, for the survivors.  All will revert to the jungle.  Civilization’s only chance is to let the dog have his day… the jackals, in this case: to be the lion, to lie and watch as the hyenas fight, and then to crush the skulls of the last two or three hyenas.

Wingo: Pardon me for insisting… but there is no Christ, anyway, if you must contradict his message and his mission just to keep him alive as an artifact.

Block: That’s very well said—but also completely inept.  You’re not understanding the gravity of the situation.  To enjoy the youth and idealism that vibrate in the Christian message, one must first tame the jungle.  One must create an environment where youth and idealism can survive.  You can’t teach charity to a pack of howling baboons.  The job is going to be next to impossible even without all the objections of delicate sensibilities like yours.  The Chinese, for instance, can be expected to be very interested in walking in—like the lion after the jackal brawl—and crushing the puny victors one by one.  Their leadership desires nothing less than world domination.  That’s why the tech sector of our economy is so important: not because we have to keep producing cheaper, better iPhones for baboons who can’t show up at eight o’clock to check groceries, but because we need to stave off opportunistic predators like the PRC.  And we will do so, if only we can keep working off the grid—feeding the popular press UFO tales to cover our tests.  Also, of course, feeding stupid capitalist profiteers just enough innovation to market to the Chinese that we always know what Beijing thinks it knows about us.  Not all of us are all about profit, you see, whatever they may say about me.  I’m a patriot and a man of faith, and I’m willing to be defamed if my duty requires it.  It does.  Beneath the slurs, we dedicated few work on.  Believe me, provision is being made.  All off the radar, sub rosa, black ops.  We’ll be ready for rival lions.  A lot more is being carved out of our incalculable, unsustainable federal budget for useful R and D than anybody “out there” realizes.  They’ll all get their free tummy tucks, until the money runs out to filtrate clean water… but meanwhile, where they’re all too lazy or too stupid to look, we’re building stuff that could take us to Jupiter’s moons or transport a craft through a time portal.

We’re going to win, Professor Wingo.  We’re going to preserve our cultural bequest, just as the mission statement of Stephanos promises… though not quite in the terms of the promise.  We just have to clear the human litter out of the way first that our progress has unfortunately generated.  Frankly, that’s a bigger problem than China, as the Chinese well know…

Wingo: So you will help them commit suicide… that’s what you call clearing the litter.

Block: Yes.  Do you still not understand?  We will help them commit suicide before their poisoned Kool-Aid takes us all out together.  They’re the ones who abort their own babies and ruin their own health with psychedelic drugs and saturated fats.  And the tech revolution—the progress that they so pride themselves upon mastering, just because they know how to navigate a website!  They can’t talk, they can’t think for themselves, they don’t know east from west, their rare utterances are all clichés or obscenities, and they couldn’t change a tire with all year to try… but what a high opinion they have of their technical sophistication!  Why, we could make them all believe within twenty-four hours that the sun has burned out or hostile aliens have landed.  Orson Welles did that by accident with much more primitive technology, almost a century ago!  In fact, in a pinch, we could have them all do a Jonestown and off themselves with a recipe circulated on the Internet.  Like cattle lined up for slaughter…

Wingo: Would you do that?

Block: Would you not do it, if it was your children’s only chance of survival and if death for all was certain, otherwise?  We nuked Japan to save the lives of half a million American GI’s, and the innocence of many of those Japanese non-combatants would be a lot easier to argue than the innocence of your idiot snowflakes in their “safe zones”.  I would repeat, too, that the mass-lobotomy ongoing through popular technology is quite simply, quite plainly a suicide of mind and soul.  The Japanese girl returning from her seamstress work for lunch who looked up and saw the Enola Gay was not engaged every day in dislocating her tongue from her brain and rehearsing antisocial habits.

Wingo: Put that way… you make it sound almost charitable, like a mercy killing.

Block: So now, at last, you understand!

***

Two closing observations about the estimable Mr. Block’s traditionalism that works through a malicious dormancy—his “crypto-conservatism”.  Both have to do with qualities that render him indistinguishable from ideologues who are supposed (by the general public and by him, as well) to be his enemies-unto-death.  What he imagines to be tactically hidden conservatism (that is to say) is really pseudo-conservatism.

In the first place, notice how this manifestation of the Right shares the Left’s paternalistic contempt for ordinary people.  At best, they are children who need constant guidance from their superiors.  How the elite at the head of the oligarchy account for their intellectual and moral superiority is never explained by any of them; or, rather, those on the Right like Mr. Block probably assume that the superficial reverence they show to their version of religious faith makes them humble conduits of God’s will.  On the Left, I have found the same question always met with stupor, as if any educated person who could doubt the brighter light of the progressive vanguard were himself a wonder of the world.

And progress, in fact, is the second axis of identity.  This time it’s the self-styled conservative of Block’s stamp who is more likely to be kidding himself; for he believes his off-the-radar R and D and his hands-off indulgence of social collapse all to be working on behalf of the good old ways, which cannot otherwise be saved from history’s dust bin—but everything he does is manipulation, and none of it conservation.  The leftist progressive at least knows that the ever-recessive dawn of change is his god.  He slashes and burns the past out of zealous conviction—not because he deludes himself that he is clearing a space for old ways to root more securely.

These two essential principles of ideology are sufficient for the “adversaries” who subscribe to them to join in favoring the same legislative agenda from day to day.  Very few “limited government” conservatives, I imagine, ever justify their contradictory taste for growth of centralized power in Mr. Block’s sublimely speculative terms… but I think his mood probably underlies many of their compromises.  This is why we see ever less freedom in our civic and political lives regardless of which side seizes the reins of power: i.e., because both view us as incurable children, and both believe in their superior ability to effect an earthly utopia.

A certain logic may lead us to conclude that the one side and the other must fall to poisoning and backstabbing as soon as the palace is built and the people herded beyond its walls… but this may be naive—so naive that Block may awaken one day to find his brethren linking arms with the Chinese elite.  After all, a Superman is a Superman; and if you tell your rival Superman that your pedigree comes from God, he may decide that he rather likes that creed and join you at God’s right hand.