Tradition makes us what we are. The institutions that are dominant today want to make us more manageable as human resources, so they destroy all traditions but those of consumerist careerism. The latter, of course, include pluralism and inclusiveness.
People usually don’t like it when things that are close to them are attacked for someone else’s benefit. So why doesn’t everyone join the traditionalists and overthrow the technocrats?
The situation has a variety of causes. As I’ve argued, a big one is that the current system of social power is strongly supported by the current system of thought, which says that things don’t have natures, traditions don’t have authority, and the whole world is basically a resource to be used to achieve the goals of whoever’s making the decisions.
Still, that kind of grandiose theory isn’t everything, and there are less overarching explanations for what we see around us, One worth mentioning is that public life today is generally secular. That’s a problem, because non-confessional traditionalism has no way to determine which version of which tradition is authoritative.
The result is that it loses direction. That’s an obvious issue with English conservatism. The break with Rome left it no way to maintain a definite focus so it became mostly a matter of doing the done thing. Leftist demands eventually change what’s done, so in the long run the whole approach falls apart. The same problem accounts for the ineffectiveness of the conservatism of polite and educated people in general.
American conservatism is mostly populist, so it avoids the Scylla of gentility, but avoiding Scylla has its own problems. Americans are go-getters, which means that American conservatism favors will over being. To be slightly more concrete, it appeals to independence and individualistic self-assertion, combined with team spirit regarding the role of America in the world. Those tendencies mean American conservatives aren’t sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought, and that’s a good thing, but they’re not a good basis for an overall political tendency.
Another problem is that the decline of coherent tradition makes people try to come up with substitutes to provide them with a general orientation. A lot of young non-mainstream righties are mostly into libertarianism or something like white nationalism. Save the white race by abolishing the Fed. That’s a step forward from hipster liberalism, but it won’t restore civilization. Freedom and inheritance matter, but they don’t make sense as final standards.
A final problem, that’s become very practical when I’ve actually tried to organize something, is personal conflicts. People who buck the general direction of opinion are sometimes not very clubbable. And those who believe in authority, but don’t accept a definite way to determine what’s authoritative, eventually become a collection of popes fulminating mutual excommunications.
So I’m pretty pessimistic about any non-confessional traditionalist right. What about the religionists?
I don’t know much about paleoprotestants or the Orthodox, so they’ll have to speak for themselves. As to Catholic trads, they seem to focus on specifically Catholic things that are often very particular more than grand civilizational considerations. There’s more interest in holding on to whatever toehold they have and grousing about Cardinal X or papal pronouncement Y than a global or even localized reconquista.
Such statements are of course unfair to many, and if the nonpolitical is fundamental it should indeed come first. What we need most of all is not a political movement but something more basic. Still, public problems are worth noting, and if there are signs of public hope they’re worth mentioning as well. I’m Catholic, and I see signs of hope in Catholicism. Others will have to speak for themselves.
On the day-to-day level there are parishes with a strong trad presence and the parish life reflects that. There are also loose networks of Catholic homeschoolers. Some people choose where to live based on that kind of consideration. There are even networks of trad Catholic intellectuals that get together to talk now and then.
It seems to me those sectors have growth possibilities. After Vatican II the Church decided to make nice with the modern secular world. It hasn’t worked, and I think the momentum within the Church is shifting from liberal to conservative and from neo to paleo.
At the most basic level, people need a way to live that makes sense. That’s not much on offer these days, and assimilated American Catholicism doesn’t fill the gap. So during the coming years, as the secular society continues to unravel, I’d expect somewhat separatist and distinctively traditionalist Catholic communities to continue to grow up around parishes offering the Old Mass, which the current Pope has made possible, and around new schools and colleges that emphasize traditional Catholicism.
That could be a version of the Benedictine option—local communities of religious cranks (to use the current lingo) that are coherent enough, and deal with the human condition well enough, to maintain civilization through a dark age. And if “dark age” turns out to be too apocalyptic, they could still provide a rallying point for forces opposed to current tendencies.
What exists now may not seem like much, but in bad times it’s more important to find principles that seem like they work than extrapolate current trends, which won’t last anyway. Catholics have a fundamental advantage in their principle of authority, which gives them a usable bottom-line principle of resistance, and their emphasis on concrete local communities like parishes. (Others, of course, may have similar or other advantages, so examples from readers would be welcome.)