As the Left has no principles, only power, we need to put aside our principles, too, and start seeking power for power’s sake.  So we should start thinking about what power is.

Imperial Romans derided Christianity as a religion for women and slaves.  Christians would claim that their religion’s rapid spread under extreme persecution is proof of its truth.  But a naturalistic explanation faces the same problem: How did “a religion for women and slaves” turn into “a religion for manly legionaries” in the space of (at most) 150 years?  That’s pretty impressive now; in a low-tech, low-fi world like the later Roman Empire, it really does seem miraculous.

The answer, I’d argue, has to do with the Romans’ understanding of power.

Roman legions didn’t triumph because Italians were impressive physical specimens.  Ancient accounts go on and on about how huge and strong the barbarians are, and while we can dismiss some of that as propaganda, archaeology seems to confirm that, mano-a-mano, Germans were tougher hombres than their opponents in the legions.  But legionaries were disciplined — a legion whose commander wasn’t a complete fool could triumph over forces much larger than itself, provided the line held.  Iron self-mastery, not brawn, won the day for the Romans, and that’s how they understood power — a true Roman reveals himself by holding the line, no matter what.

In other words: Who has more power than a man utterly willing to die?

The pagan Romans had their “martyrs,” I suppose — men and women who endured awful conditions with unflinching fortitude — but always in the remote past; “Catonian” was more of an epithet than a compliment to people who had known the living Cato.  But the Christians had dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of people willing to die right now — who seemed fanatically eager for death, in fact.  They actually worshiped their founder’s shameful death — the most shameful of all deaths, and an excruciatingly painful one, too.  No torture could make those people recant.  They died with a prayer on their lips.  What is that, if not ultimate power?

That understanding of power died with Friedrich Nietzsche.  Here’s G.K. Chesterton, ironically arguing against Nietzsche, on courage:

Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. ‘He that will lose his life, the same shall save it,’ is not a piece of mysticism for saints and heroes. It is a piece of everyday advice for sailors or mountaineers….He must seek his life in a spirit of furious indifference to it; he must desire life like water and yet drink death like wine.*

Courage is self-mastery to the point of death.  Only someone who has faced death — real, immediate, personal death — can truly know if he’s courageous, or a coward.  No matter how much power he has over everyone and everything else, he still doesn’t know if he has power over himself, because he can’t know.

Lacking opportunities to test ourselves — I should say “thankfully lacking opportunities,” as a world war now is the end of the human race — we’ve lost sight of what courage really means.  Instead, we’ve elevated cruelty to its place.  Just as Marxism turns envy from the worst vice (it’s what caused the angels to fall) into the best virtue, so Leninism turns ruthlessness and brutality into sham courage.  It was the Black Cat Milita, not the Bolsheviks, who said “my honor is my loyalty,” but that’s what Lenin meant when he wrote of a “vanguard party” willing to do whatever it takes to further the Revolution.  Leftists think they’re brave when they inflict barbarities on us.

The one ray of hope is: They’re not willing to die for it.  Totalitarian regimes always collapse eventually, because the increase of power after power is, as Nietzsche recognized, ultimately futile.  Only mastery over the self is real power; it’s the only thing that gives life meaning, even to atheistic power-worshipers like Nietzsche.  Mistaking cruelty for courage, our Leftists will eventually rip themselves apart… or someone with nothing left to lose will do it for them.



*I think Chesterton badly misunderstood Nietzsche, but there was a lot of that going around in the early 20th century.  Nietzsche’s works were “edited” beyond recognition by his Nazi shrew of a sister, and poorly translated to boot.



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11 thoughts on “Power

  1. Recusant

    I don’t know how long you lectured for in the academy, but I am sure that you have educated more people more thoroughly here. Top stuff you clever chap.

  2. Al from da Nort

    Your main point about courage and the need for it by guys on the Right stands. I believe that you’re right about Roman discipline being essential to holding the line, but perhaps you are mistaken in how it was maintained. Any legionary had every reason to have confidence that:
    – He was well trained, well equipped and would be well fed by a superb (for the period) logistical organization.
    – His fellows were too.
    – Should he shirk his duty, any duty, or any order, punishment would be swift and brutal.
    – Should he run away while on campaign he faced immediate death from his fellow legionaries or the enemy of the day. To run away was to bet both that the other Romans couldn’t catch you and that the enemy wouldn’t kill you anyway.

    Rome was not the individualistic society that we think of as natural today. There’s a reason we hear about the Patriarchy (Latin word), after all. The legion became your clan. So individual courage wasn’t as critical so long as the conditions for group solidarity and group courage were maintained by TPTB. Belief in the idea of Rome was also important. IOW, there was a *system* of courage: Likewise for the Black Cat Militia, I’d say. Indeed, one of the essentials of military command is to ensure that the troops’ individual courage not be over-tested unless absolutely necessary.

    But such ‘systems of courage’ depend on well cultivated and reinforced manly virtue and leadership, something our diabolical enemies on the left not only lack but denigrate at every opportunity. Christianity *used* to be fine with both, particularly in Roman times. Plus there’s the work of the Holy Spirit to reckon with, then and (hopefully) now. I actually kinda like our chances if we don’t give up hope.

    For a fun read on the subject, I recommend: ‘Legionary: The Roman Soldiers Unofficial Manual’ by Philip Matyszak. It even turns out that there are (or were 10 years ago) fully equipped Roman re-enactors in the UK. Who knew_?

    1. Al from da Nort

      What I could have said better: A contemplative Roman legionary might have said, “Wow, that Christian dude was incredibly brave in a dumb sort of way. I got a lot going for me to help me hold the line and sometimes I can barely keep my sh*t together. All he had was his God. Must be one powerful God. Maybe more respect would be in order.”

  3. Pickle Rick

    You all know what power grows out of, and it isn’t dirt. And simply owning a power generator isn’t worth jack unless you have the willingness to use it, not in a worthless aloha snackbar style massacre, but in a for real mass group. Individuals are squashed like bugs, but a mass movement cannot.

    You bring back the tribal mentality, with a hefty dose of Southern pride in the old Confederacy, or Don’t Tread on Me in the rest of white America, we might have something, but that might take another generation…

  4. Richard Lamoureux

    Do you have any thoughts on de Jouvenel’s theory of Power? As in, how accurate do you think it is? How could we apply it to today’s screwy situation? Thanks.

  5. MBlanc46

    There might be plenty of us willing to stand up and fight and die. There might be plenty of us with the self-discipline to hold his position while his comrades fall all around him. But we’re a bunch of loners and malcontents. Do we, will we ever, have the unit discipline to hold a line simply because some noncom or junior officer that we don’t particularly like tells us to? My guess is that, no. But perhaps that’s balanced out by the fact that our enemies don’t have it either.

    1. Pickle Rick

      You’d be surprised how quickly you can build a unit, to mold malcontents and loners into a machine. It took exactly 16 weeks on Parris Island…and there’s lots of guys like me who remember how.

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