Ideology and Literature Revisited: Two Recent Novels about the Culture Wars by Gary Wolf

In earlier Brussels Journal contributions under the general rubric of “Ideology and Literature” I have made reference to Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Isak Dinesen, Jorge Luis Borges, and Ray Bradbury, among others. The West’s cultural crisis has deep roots; the awareness and analysis of that crisis also have deep roots. We tend to look to “experts,” rather than novelists and poets, to understand the prevailing condition. Perhaps the literary men would be better advisors. The corrosive doctrine called multiculturalism, for example, has an ancestry traceable to Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s proto-revolutionary rejection of modern European civilization and his notion of “the Noble Savage.” Herman Melville’s South-Sea novel Typee (1848) engages Rousseau keenly. Indirectly, as fiction typically does, but incisively, Typee suggests the gross inadequacy of Rousseau’s “rejectionist” argument and its accompanying “Noble Savage” theory. We may therefore say of Melville’s novel that, in addition to its fascination as a story, it has a cognitive function: in reading it we participate with Melville in careful consideration of the question, answered in the prejudicial affirmative by the author of The Social Contract, whether savagery is preferable to civilization. When Melville’s contemporary Nathaniel Hawthorne brings the psychological structure of fanaticism under scrutiny in The Blithedale Romance (1852), his narrative too is a deflationary analysis of socialism, which he regards as misplaced crusading religiosity.

The present essay discusses two provocative novels by a contemporary writer, Gary Wolf, who, while availing himself of genre-fiction conventions, does what the likes of Melville and Hawthorne have done: vividly show, through characterization and action, the distorting effects of doctrinal thinking and true-belief on individuals and on the society as a whole. The two novels are The Kicker of St. John’s Wood (2009) and Alternating Worlds (2005).


I. The notion – becoming harder and harder to avoid – that the United States of America finds itself in the rhetorical-cum-policy stage of its second civil war, and that the nation’s politically polarized society could reach a tipping point for internecine conflict almost at any time, has driven a number of recent novels, most notably Orson Scott Card’s Empire (2006). Card’s saga tells how a leftwing cabal headed by a George Soros-like financier conspires to overthrow the duly constituted government by a one-shot multiple assassination that leaves the Union leaderless and by asserting control in key metropolitan points, such as Manhattan, which then declare themselves part of a new, radical order, “The Progressive Restoration,” that strives militantly to replace the old government. Technical innovations, developed by the plutocrat in private laboratories, contribute to the surprising efficiency of the insurrection. But so do various antinomian themes, which the usurpers have propagated in society relentlessly for decades. These themes deal with race-animosity, class-envy, and environmentalism; they serve the purpose of alienating as many people as possible from traditional forms of society, politics, common culture – and common sense. The attempt collapses, but Card’s point-of-view characters believe that the thwarted power-grab might cleverly have smoke-screened someone else’s takeover. Reviewers reacted touchily to Card’s novel, which nevertheless became something of a hit, because it thumbed its nose at liberal pieties and, in one case, represented a black, female character as a true-believing Leftwing fanatic willing to express her doctrinaire convictions in brazen homicide.

Earlier American dystopias, such as Robert A. Heinlein’s If this Goes On (1939), have dealt with the belated reaction to a coup d’état perpetrated by ideological true believers. If this Goes On supposes a puritanical-religious takeover of the United States, whose perpetrators impose their severe, Islam-like pseudo-Christianity on the captive nation. Heinlein importantly identifies the totalitarian impulse in American culture with the original Puritanism of the Salem colony, whose theocratic tendency has flavored American politics ever since, being currently on exhibit in the zealotry of the Left. Heinlein’s totalitarian inner-party elites zealously enforce all kinds of temporal renunciation on the populace but arrogate to themselves every opportunity for prurient satisfaction. It is the usual Gnostic hypocrisy.[i] Heinlein’s story stands in a line, surprisingly, with Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Blithedale Romance; both authors study closely the psychology of political religion, revealing it its core the absolute demand that the world be remade to suit the limitations of a stunted, self-loathing ego, so that he might present himself as righteous and saintly. Gary Wolf’s Kicker of St. John’s Wood has points of contact with Heinlein and Card and quite possibly with Hawthorne and Melville – not least because like them Wolf brings to his narrative his powerful curiosity about the mental, social, and cultural circumstances that foster such predispositions.

Kicker, which Wolf sets in 2020, is not only a novel about the coming civil war, or its emergence into the phase of overt hostility; it is also a football novel, than which nothing could be more American. Wolf’s protagonist, Jayesh Blackstone, is the goal-kicker for the fictional New Mexico Coyotes. Blackstone gives his essential biographical details to a female sportswriter (“her left bicep featured a tattoo of a woman curling a barbell”) who interviews him in Chapter One after a Coyotes victory in the playoffs. She begins by asking when Blackstone came to America “from India.” Blackstone corrects her: “I was born and raised in London. My father is American, he was on assignment there when he met my mother, who comes from India.” The elites of Wolf’s near-future America have carried the existing obsession with race, sex, and ethnicity to a new pitch of manic agitation. Hostility to anything traditional has also risen to a climax of righteousness. The reporter, as though she had heard nothing, shoots back with: “How does it feel to be the first star Indian player in American football?” Blackstone offers a minimal “I wouldn’t know” and answers further questions coldly.

The reporter’s story, when it appears, refers to “the arrogant Jayesh Blackstone, an Asian who fancies himself as an upper-class British snob, a classic white-male wannabe rejecting his Third World roots.” The aggressive dishonesty hints at the license that such people feel, in Wolf’s speculative world of a few years hence, to abuse anyone who dissents from ideological dogma.

Blackstone’s teammate Steve Gonzales, who stems from ancient Spanish settlement in New Mexico, has also had an encounter with the lady sportswriter: “The whole time she only wanted to know about my Mexican roots and what I thought about the Separatista movement. I told her five times that I had nothing to do with any such organization.” The governor of New Mexico, hosting a reception for the Coyotes, asks another Coyote, Hank Hubbard, whether he might formally address “the special university graduation ceremony for African-Americans [to] talk about eliminating the racism that plagues our society, that sort of thing.”

Blackstone becomes aware of an agenda, originating not nationally but supra-nationally, from the United Nations, to integrate professional sports sexually. Gonzales tells Blackstone that, “a coalition of human rights and other advocacy groups [have] involved the U.N., which is supposed to pass a resolution calling for the abolition of all-male professional sports teams.” A short time later, readers learn that “Congress was drafting a bill to enforce the recent U.N. resolution.” Wolf has accurately grasped that radicals within any polity nowadays have powerful allies in the long-radicalized, pervasively anti-Western so-called international organizations, the chief of these being the United Nations. Part of Wolf’s authorial talent, on display in Kicker, is to recreate by calculated reader-response the helplessness that his citizen-characters feel as the government subordinates national policy to international policy. As events reach their head later in the story, one of the good guys notes, “We had the rule of law here [but] it has been eroded, piece by piece for many years.”

In line with the program to abolish all-male athletics, the sitting President of the United States, Vesica Malpomme, together with U.N. bigwig, Joseph Hoomty Azala, have coerced the football leagues to field a woman in the next Super-Bowl game. She will act, as “holder,” for a single play of the game, but this will be coordinated with a larger ceremony at halftime. During this halftime event, “the American flag will be lowered to… half-staff,” Azala explains to Blackstone. The kicker himself will “come up to the podium, raise [his] fist, and shout ‘America is guilty.’” Blackstone feigns cooperative willingness but resolves privately to subvert the display. He senses something bigger at work than a cheap tableau: the design to emasculate football belongs to a larger hostile action to destroy what remains of the Constitutional order of the United States.


II. Kicker is not long; it runs about two hundred pages. The novel is fast-paced, even while adroitly executing the double-generics of a sports-narrative combined with a thriller. Wolf’s tale nevertheless manages an impressive measure of astute socio-political analysis. Wolf can make a strong point simply by projecting current trends a short distance beyond where they presently stand. On an excursion to Paris, for example, Wolf has Blackstone visit a number of tourist attractions. Azala’s organization – the United Nations Special Advisory Committee on National Expropriation, or UNSAINE – has commandeered the Ecole militaire, that headquarters of Napoleonic virility, transforming it, in part, into a prison and, in part, into a law court for activities of the “World Tribunal of Peace and Justice.” Blackstone sees, in the grand foyer: “A life-sized bronze sculpture of an Algerian patriot sprawled on the ground, with a pole driven through his chest. At the top of the pole was a French flag. One of the man’s hands was gripping the wound while the other was clutching a book, The Wretched of the Earth.

Visiting the Louvre Museum, Blackstone remarks a new, “most curious method of display.” “The Mona Lisa was one of twenty illustrious works that were spread out in as many rooms,” each one paired with an item of non-Western art, which supposedly the Western artist had merely and sneakily “copied.” Everywhere the ruling elites conspire with Third-World radicals of the Frantz Fanon variety, like Azala, to denigrate and disestablish Western achievements. For Marxism, property is theft; for multiculturalism, achievement is theft.

Wolf grasps how the alliance between Western usurper-radicals and the West’s external enemies involves the propensity of Westerners on the Left to delude themselves about reality, as they collaborate with those who, in fact, despise them and plan their destruction along with every other aspect of the free society. Azala readily solicits both the sympathy and the active cooperation of President Malpomme, a power-hungry feminist-multiculturalist who wants to impose her view on the entire nation. When Azala mentions Malpomme to Blackstone, however, he does so in the context of denouncing Western accommodation of the sexes: “Your American women… are corrupting society with their behavior.” Azala sees Malpomme as an instrument, purely and simply, “because she supports us on almost every issue”; furthermore, “she will be replaced, like all your presidents.” The misogynistic Azala, who wants to put women where he thinks they belong – that is, “taking care of their families” and out of sight – uses the very phenomenon he wishes to suppress, the liberty and equality of women, to destabilize Western society to the advantage of its “Asian” rivals.

Wolf introduces Blackstone’s sister and her husband, prosperous Londoners, to suggest the carefully prepared vulnerability of many Westerners to anti-Western appeals. The couple’s professional-class suburban home boasts in its bourgeois sitting room an “Essence Mound,” “a five-foot pile of dirt… with a smattering of white pebbles [and with] worms writhing their way through it.” The husband tells Blackstone: “It symbolizes the union of our lives with mother earth… It is a sign-post, a reminder that our lifestyles must be fitted to the earth.” The “Essence Mound” belongs aptly to the symbolic structure of Kicker. Earlier, Blackstone’s girlfriend, whom readers will definitely not trust, tells Blackstone about her dissertation on “the contribution of Christian fundamentalism to sexist attitudes in professional sports.” The girlfriend insouciantly flings about the terms “homophobia,” “patriarchy,” “exploitation,” and “cut-throat business practices,” familiar from actual politically correct discourse. “Fundamentalist Christians,” the girlfriend claims, “may very well attempt a violent takeover of the U.S. government, depose President Malpomme, and institute a regime of martial law.” The frail beauty-contest-winner drafted by Azala to play in the Super Bowl tells Blackstone that she hopes to “break down… the last vestiges of the macho rape culture.”

The dictatorial pronouncement by President Malpomme requires the soil, so to speak, of a faddish and pervasive “Essence-Mound” mentality. Isolated and threatened by increasingly bold politically correct intimidation, with one of their associates already dead, Blackstone and his friends witness the televised speech from the fastness of their head coach’s desert retreat. Malpomme begins in self-adulation: the people elected her so that she might fulfill her promise to “eliminate the last traces of sexism [and] racism” from the society and to see “returned to its rightful owners,” as she says, “all profit stolen from the working man over the course of our history.” By her success, as she boasts, “America has become a sensitive, caring, decent nation,” in which, however, dangerous “forces of reaction… are plotting to undermine our great democracy.” One should remark the not-so-subtle paranoia in Malpomme’s rhetoric, which, in fostering a vision of secret multitudes sapping the agenda of progress, corresponds to the trope of a “vast rightwing conspiracy” ritually invoked by American liberals to denigrate those who oppose their policy initiatives. The same trope has a relation to the accusatory images of “wreckers” and “saboteurs” that Stalin’s minions wielded to justify the purges of the 1930s.

Incorporating once more an actual Democrat-Party outrage – namely, that opposition-party electoral victories can only be a case of clandestine tampering with the ballot-results – Malpomme outlines how, beginning with the upcoming presidential election, a “National Electoral Fairness Committee” in collaboration with UNSAINE will select candidates and monitor balloting. This will assure, she claims, “a fair distribution of race, sex, national origin, sexual orientation, and other relevant characteristics” in the electoral outcome. As Gonzales says, “It’s amazing that just a little while ago our greatest concern was football.” The civil war, which will last for seven years, has begun.

Wolf’s carefully wrought narrative reveals him to understand the link between the seemingly trivial, which, because of its seeming triviality one guesses can be abolished or altered without harm, and the serious: “First the women football players and now this.” Indeed, in Kicker’s opening chapters, people in the football hierarchy – coaches and managers and press-liaison people – cajole Blackstone to go along with arbitrary, destructive changes to the game on the grounds that those changes mean nothing or signify only passing expediency entailing no repercussion. In just this slow and insidious manner, by appeals to courtesy and toleration, people become “detached from tradition,” as the character Hunter puts it. In the end, nothing is trivial, because the fabric of orderly existence is built up, bit by bit over the ages, in a colossal bricolage that is the in-dissociable sum of all its parts.

Missing in Malpomme’s power-grab, or so it seems, is the religiosity that informs so much of radical crusading, until one remembers Azala’s connection to the coup. Although the words Islam and Muslim occur nowhere in Wolf’s story, the reader assumes, for all sorts of good reasons, that Azala is, indeed, Muslim, and that his victory will be a victory for Islam and for Jihad. Belonging to the weakness of the threatened society is that when Christians and Jews cease being Christians and Jews – or cultured Hindus cease being Hindus – and become “Essence Mound” worshippers, their vulnerability to spiritual inveiglement by clever fanatics drastically increases.


III. Wolf’s Alternating Worlds belongs rather more to the generics of the science fiction novel – specifically to the “galactic civilization” subgenre of the science fiction novel, as exemplified by Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy and James Blish’s Cities in Flight tetralogy – than to those of the thriller although some elements of a thriller are present in the story. It is natural for a writer of Wolf’s cultural acuity to make use of science-fictional tropes. Science fiction, from Plato’s “Atlantis” story, as narrated in the paired dialogues Timaeus and Critias, and onward, has repeatedly dealt in large patterns linking history to cosmic time and in the rhythms of civilizational efflorescence and decay. Science fiction, in its modern manifestation, absorbs an earlier literary genre, that of the Utopia, which also has its roots in Plato, specifically in The Republic. We should remind ourselves that The Republic, that encyclopedic discussion of politics, commences with Socrates’ acquaintances urging him to attend with them the Procession of Foreign Gods being held on that day, as annually, in the Piraeus. In modern political jargon, Socrates’ friends have been smitten by multiculturalism, and are keen to celebrate diversity. And to get to the Piraeus from Athens, one must perforce descend, as Eric Voegelin has pointed out in a commentary.

Everyone who has contemplated multiculturalism – and its faithful sputnik, diversity – objectively knows that there is more to it, or to them, than mere idle curiosity about foreign gods, foreign accents, foreign cuisine, or foreign hygiene; there is, in fact, little or none of that.[ii] Nor did the idea of multiculturalism drop from the sky fully formed and without parentage. On the contrary, multiculturalism emerged from the bubbling cauldron of postwar radicalism – especially from the hybrid of Marxism and militant Third-World liberation rhetoric exemplified in Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth, the allusion to which in Kicker establishes a link with Alternating Worlds. Western radicals then re-imported liberation rhetoric, to serve as an ideological continuation of Marxism in the Communism-shyness of the immediate post-Soviet era. Multiculturalism, whose genealogy is thus entirely documentable, lurched to its feet in Western universities in the train of Deconstruction, its close kindred, and by whose havoc against reason it profited; from the universities multiculturalism metastasized its way into other civic institutions.

Like the Marxism for which it substitutes, and as its name suggests, multiculturalism exhibits the traits of a political religion or indeed of an introverted political cult within whose domain, as in Islam, no dissent is permitted, and every aspect of life must fall under strict Sharia-like subordination. The adherents of the doctrine, obsessed by their own secondarity with respect to that in reaction to which they find their mock identities, elect for themselves a veritable cosmic task: to eliminate, in addition to all internal dissent, all external differences.

Wolf’s protagonist is Graham Rohde, citizen of the planet Cyrus, a successful, affluent dealer in objets-d’art, and a dedicated bon vivant. Wolf’s galactic economy – science fiction takes such things for granted so that the writer can get on with telling his story – is organized as a free-market, not only in goods but also in ideas; Cyrus is a particularly prosperous chapter of this economy. Alternating Worlds tells the story how the easiness of life on Cyrus becomes the occasion for the planet’s cultural deliquescence through the bane of a totalitarian, ultra-puritanical cult. It begins when clients from the planet Gladius approach Rohde in his role as connoisseur-expert, requiring a unique item for the furtherance of the ritual calendar on their world. A closed and secretive society, Gladius resembles actual places like North Korea or Myanmar or much of the Muslim world; Gladius, once functional and free, experienced a destructive-apocalyptic upheaval calling itself “the Sandoz Revolution,” Wolf’s coinage seeming to refer to the pharmaceutical laboratory where chemist Albert Hoffmann invented LSD in 1938.

This revolution, which took place a century before, imposed a psychotic second reality on those whom it enthralled, with a small minority of dissidents escaping to the planet Salvus. The “Sandoz Revolution” institutionalized itself as “AltCom” or the “Alternance Committee,” which governs “the alternance cycle.” The alternance cycle functions with a logically contradictory but fanatically unswerving purpose: to maintain with totalitarian rigidity the unquestionable relativity of all truths. Welch, a Gladian spokeswoman, tells Rohde that the pre-revolutionary conflict arose from “each side claim[ing] that they were keepers of the truth [and] that everyone else’s truth was false.” Rohde asks, “If you have all truths represented, why do you have to alternate?” Why, in other words, would the contending parties in the dispute not have found satisfactory a pluralist dispensation that entitled everyone to exercise his conscience with respect to truth? The answer is that the triumphant fanatics of the Sandoz Revolution hated, and continue to hate, truth, which their perpetual charade demotes to so many plural and self-canceling propositions. Thus under AltCom, life on Gladius conforms to a relentless mandatory role-playing game in which perpetual change, under a five-thousand-year detailed master plan, dictates the daily shifting posture, attitude, and action of every person in every aspect of his life; the regime forbids anyone from being a stable, recognizable person, with enduring opinions and beliefs rooted in a tradition.

According to Welch, Harris Sandoz declared, “It’s not enough to have a truth simply existing, because [a truth] is not a static entity.” But as Elkington, a descendant of the Gladian dissidents, explains it: “The Gladians see it as their obligation to balance all human attributes… race, height, sex and weight, deformities, intelligence, physical strength, and a slew of personality traits. The slightest disequilibrium… is immediately rectified.”

Such rectification can entail surgical dismemberment, disfiguration, and death, to which those who are about to be “alternated” willingly submit. “The people are told that they have a sacred responsibility to implement the alternance cycle.” Elkington’s news explains certain things that Rohde had seen during his visit to Gladius. Take the emotional coldness and sexual neutrality of the Gladians. “Reproduction is strictly controlled by AltCom,” Elkington says: “Sexual relations take place only within the framework of reproduction, not due to any law, but simply because it has no place in the alternance cycle.” So all consuming is the Gladian dedication to the alternance cycle that the obsession “has managed to quash the sexual drive – and most other emotions.” Elkington also corrects Rohde’s impression that the Gladians lack any interest beyond their own world: “The fact is, they intend to expand the alternance cycle to other worlds. As they eliminate the imbalance on Gladius, they are increasingly bothered by the lack of balance elsewhere.”

The name Gladius is not without significance. Latinists will recognize it as designating the particular type of sword associated with and lending its cognomen to the notorious blood sport of Roman imperial antiquity. Rohde meets a number of rescued people who have experienced unwilling, prolonged stays on Gladius, whom the Gladians have “alternated.” All exhibit disfigurement, small or gross. These details establish the alternance cycle, not merely as political religion of the usual intolerant character, but as sacrificial religion, little differing in operation from the known historical instances, such as those of the Carthaginians or Aztecs. Lest the implication – that multiculturalism is also sacrificial, at least in its logic – be thought extreme, one should consider the ideology’s basic application: arbitrary exclusion of persons from participating in institutions and the purgation, by star-chamber procedure, of anyone holding tenure, from before the new dispensation, whose words or beliefs offend the ministers of political correctness. Multiculturalism requires an endless supply of emissary victims, even as strategically it monopolizes the complaint of victimization.


IV. Alternating Worlds, the earlier novel, forecasts Kicker in several ways. Gladian subversion of Cyrus, Rohde’s home world, begins with a flurry of propaganda to discredit the planet’s defining civilized achievements. These are in part curatorial – Cyrus preserves a cultural tradition going back to humanity’s terrestrial origin – and in part novel. The technique of dis-accreditation is at first blatantly to reverse the known facts about the relation of Gladius to Cyrus: the liquidated Gladian culture, before AltCom, derived from Cyrian culture in the distant past. Now, however, “some professors,” who “have become fascinated with Gladian culture,” in collaboration with a Gladian cultural embassy presently active on Cyrus, argue the opposite of the long known truth. The curator of the Olympia Museum, the planetary museum of Cyrus, organizes an exhibition called “THE ROOTS OF CYRIAN CULTURE: NEW DISCOVERIES ON GLADIUS.” Rohde’s visit to the Olympia anticipates Blackstone’s visit to the Louvre in Kicker. An ancient golden unicorn, the Cyrian equivalent of a Greek statue, now stands accused of plagiarizing a Gladian model. In every case the running commentary attributes Cyrian artistic touchstones to “prototypes, found on Gladius.” This claim extends to the Cyrian parliament building.

When Rohde complains to Dragsted, the museum’s chief executive, describing the poverty and brutality of Gladian culture, Dragsted says nastily, “So it’s you who’s been spreading those rumors.” Shortly afterwards, Rohde learns that elements of the Cyrian avant-garde have commenced “their own experimental alternance cycle.”

After the propaganda of reversal comes the propaganda of execration. Rohde, we recall, is an aesthete, in the most responsible sense, and an art-historian. One character tells him, as the Gladian Kulturkampf progresses on Cyrus, that, “For every one of your Rembrandts, there’s tens of thousands of people who have lived horrible lives,” making Rembrandt a cynical freeloader. The same character has joined “The Society for Empathetic Substitution and Spiritual Reciprocity,” which, in addition to adulating all the non-Rembrandts as metaphysically equivalent to Rembrandt, asks its members “to sensitize [themselves] to individuals who have been betrayed by our society.” Of Picasso, another character tells Rohde, “how he abused women.” Next, the leader of the Empathetic Substitutionists proposes a campaign “to reveal the unsung heroes of Impressionism.” He asserts that “while Monet and van Gogh were basking in glory… an army of carpenters, framers, servants, maids, and cooks were toiling behind the scenes.” The campaign will elevate them above Monet and van Gogh, the aim being to drive the real artists and their work down the memory hole. It dawns on Rohde that the eagerness to embrace Gladian nihilism bespeaks “a certain weakness or complacency” that has stolen over Cyrian society.

Violence exerts perverse attraction on the bored and shallowly educated who inherit a bounty from previous generations that relieves them from having to struggle on their own to secure their lives. Infantilized, such people rarely understand, or even try to understand, the meaning of productive achievement. What Rohde sees as a Jihad by the Gladians “to extinguish every bit of culture they can get their hands on,” the newly, stupidly enthralled see as “the greatest wave of cultural refreshment… in a generation.” I shall not detail the calamity – interested parties should acquire Alternating Worlds. I do wish to call attention to a discursive aspect of the story’s denouement. Wolf has seen the swift pervasion of multiculturalism and diversity to all departments of Western society; he intuits how fundamentally anti-Western – ultimately, how anti-life – multiculturalism and diversity are. He finds profoundly disturbing the readiness, the eagerness, with which Westerners have espoused narrow antinomian codes that are profoundly inimical to freedom and dignity.

Rohde too wants to know how people can abruptly and deliriously surrender custom and tradition to brutal nullification. Rohde finds a plausible answer in a study written long before by his father, who concluded: “The mass appeal of ideology is directly proportional to the parsimony of its formulation. Thus we often find widespread support for dubious belief systems when they possess a condensed litany of simple axioms.”  Rohde himself judges that “Gladianism was also based on a small number of very simple axioms, backed by a quasi-mystical system.” The first of these is the relativism of truths, which is, of course, in contradiction with itself, as it cannot function axiomatically unless it partakes in truth. Why then do people rush to meld with relativism, egalitarianism, culture-negating multiculturalism, or any of the other totalitarian deformations that currently afflict Western society? The answer can only be that, in its current and perhaps its final phase, Western society has produced cohorts who recoil from truth, hierarchy, cultural creativity, and from the traditions in which such things have taken their nourishment to grow and mature. Affluence leads to acute ennui and to a perverse longing to cede one’s existence.

Submission to authoritarian power, relinquishment of individuality, avoidance of responsibility, and suspension of conscience and judgment: masses of people nowadays yearn for just this kind of moral suicide, some in drugs or the narcotic of consumerism, others in the sadomasochism of so-called popular culture in cinema and music, and others in the oblivion of the crowd, as adherents of doctrines that promise to liberate them from the obligations of their own selfhood.

These topics appear elsewhere in American literature, of course. Henry James took issue with the socialist denigration of creative artists as social parasites already in The Princess Casamassima, published in book form in 1886. Wolf restates the Jamesian, culturally conservative argument on the basis of the last fifty years of Western social history, and in clear terms using intelligently the devices of the popular genres. Readers should hope that Wolf, whose career as a writer is still in a formative period, will enjoy a robust lifetime of authorial productivity.

Readers of The Brussels Journal are a natural audience for Wolf’s novels. I hope that they will buy them and read them. They might also like to browse Wolf’s website, AWOL Civilization.


[i] I use the term Gnostic after Eric Voegelin’s usage – to designate the claim of antinomian radicals to possess special counterintuitive knowledge having no basis in experience or received wisdom, by virtue of which they arrogate to themselves the privilege to reconstruct, not merely society, and not merely the defective consciences of the unenlightened, but reality itself. In antiquity, Gnosticism appeared as militant world-rejection, organized in secretive brotherhoods with elaborate internal distinctions of rank. Augustine’s description of the Manichaeans in his Confessions is the classic account. In modernity, Gnosticism reappears first as Puritanism and then as revolutionary politics, the latter always characterized by counterintuitive doctrines that define the correct attitudes and positions on any issue. According to Voegelin, a salient gesture of Gnosticism as it attains influence is to prohibit questions that might cast doubt on the doctrine. In a contemporary context, we find that such ideas as global warming and the mystic meaning of race or gender are shielded from critical inquiry in just this way, under the intimidating strictures of political correctness. (See Voegelin, Science Politics and Gnosticism.)

[ii] Multiculturalism is therefore also much less than it seems, since it has no actual interest in the “diversity” that it purports to celebrate, its actual goal being severely measured doctrinal uniformity. The doctrine is specifically anti-Jewish, anti-Christian, anti-Philosophical, and anti-reality: it attacks and would undo every feature of the prosperous, open society that had developed, as of a century ago – that is, in the period just before World War One – out of the fortuitous mixture of Greek philosophy, Jewish ethics, Christian post-tribal morality, and Gothic feudal responsibility, that produced the specifically Western way of life. In the shaken vestiges of that optimal society, after countless new wars and upheavals, Westerners continue, dispiritedly, to live. Multiculturalism feeds on the démorale of the West. The program of multiculturalism entails the obliteration of the intellectually and morally autonomous individual on whose private judgments the operation of complex, large-scale, free communities depends; the same program entails the destruction of knowledge, on which private judgment is based, and its replacement by the nescience of epistemological relativism. In essence, multiculturalism is a form of tribal atavism and a form of puritanical totalitarianism all at once, which explains the tacit (sometimes not so tacit) alliance of multiculturalists and Islamists.

To: PR, atheling, KO

Pale Rider,


I reviewed the linked documents and am discomfited by the emphasis on spiritual corruption as opposed to physical destruction.  I would follow neither these medieval Christian leaders nor the ones of today into battle.  One might as well try to unite Europe under the banner of Romanitas


Best Regards






Despite appeals and references to God, Jesus Christ and Heaven, these conflicts were driven mainly by temporal concerns, and their commission contradicts the teachings of Jesus Christ.  I am not denouncing European campaigns against Muslims, however, I disagree that they are examples of proper Christian practice.




There is only one Christianity.  Liberalism and egalitarianism are both derived from Christianity.  That in the past, the Scriptures were wrongly interpreted and transmitted to believers in order to serve the temporal and personal interests of monarchs, aristocrats and clerics is unfortunate and certainly not ideal.


I am wary of American “Great Awakenings”.  Much of American Christianity is derived from disparate Anabaptist movements in Europe which were often “extremist” and were ejected.  By extremist, I refer to Anabaptist sects that allowed polygamy and/or polyamory, ran amok, etc.  I find sects such as the Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses disturbing and far from Christian. 


I am not sure if atheling might agree, but equally suspicious are the vast congregations presided over by tele–evangelists, whose private wealth and power make one realize the virtues of Catholicism.  Not only is it the organization – not the priest, bishop/archbishop or pope – that retains the wealth and power, but it also decides on interpretation of the Scriptures and communication with God.  Prosperity Theology is a mere aping of various New Age “gurus”…

@ Capitão André

Estimado Capitão:

I agree that these documents deal more with the spiritual dimensions of the conflicts between Christianity and Islam. I wanted to provide the link anyway because they offer an insight into the minds of the Reformers who, although virulently opposed to 'popery', did strongly oppose Islam and did support a defensive war against the "Turks" (i.e. Ottoman Caliphate).

So far I haven't quite figured out how people like Wycliffe, Luther or Calvin looked at the crusades. I bet they never addressed this topic since Islam was not their number one issue, for reasons well-known. I can only assume they would have been critical of the excessive worldly power of the pope with regard to the crusades and the theological implications the crusades had on the nature of the Church, although I believe their staunch stance in favor of submission to the local authorities would have lead them to support a defensive war against Islam, while at the same time preaching the Gospel to the Muslims. To be fair though, it has to be said that even during the Crusades, there were men who preached the Gospel to the Muslims (e.g. St Francis).

I am also rather wary of the spirit of Revivalism, and so were lots of conservative American Christians during those days. My overall view of the First Great Awakening is rather favorable (i.e. Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, etc) but I have little regard for the Second Great Awakening which I think gave rise to the highly individualistic American version of Evangelicalism with a very Arminian doctrine that - in my view - overemphasizes conversion experience and has a lot of Anabaptist tendencies. Whether these Awakenings were really that "great" as to the number of true converts they produced or as to their overall quality, is debatable.


Is non-liberal Christianity still possible?

I think KA views non-liberal Christianity as a thing of the past, with no potential to defeat the ascendant liberalism that is destroyng the West. (Cf. James Burnham: "Liberalism is the ideology of Western suicide.") Taking non-liberal Christianity by itself, that seems indisputable. But taking it as an element of the self-assertion of the Western peoples against their liberal masters, including their liberal priests and ministers, it is indispensable.

Perhaps the liberal Christian establishment is such an obstacle that invoking Christianity against liberalism appears self-defeating. But what flag can we better rally around than that of the Truth? The other liability of Christianity is the proclivity we have to yell heresy at each other. How comforting to fall back on the old schisms instead of assaulting today's deadly enemies!

If American history is anything to go by, a "Great Awakening" of Christian faith (perhaps it is happening now) can lay the foundation for asserting Christian liberty in the political sphere.

Check out the neopopulist theorizing at Popular supervision of government, enforcing the rule of law in ordinary language in accordance with the people's religion. Reason put in its proper place, which is not the throne from which experts rule the people. Religion is thus at a remove from politics, but it is part of the picture of renewal.

Moby Dick is a parable of Western suicide, but it ends in renewal.

No Compromises

The other liability of Christianity is the proclivity we have to yell heresy at each other. How comforting to fall back on the old schisms instead of assaulting today's deadly enemies!

So one is to allow falsehoods to propagate?

I'm sorry, but one cannot "assault today's deadly enemies" while permitting a watering down of the faith, or allowing false doctrines to permeate it. It is precisely that laxness which created "liberal Christianity".

I don't believe in compromising one's principles or faith just for the sake of a lame "can't we just get along?" mentality. It is precisely that weakness that has opened the door to the demise of the West and a growing Islamic menace. Religious multikulturalism. No thanks.

Tactical alliances

Conservative Catholics, Protestants,and Jews are the best possible allies in fighting the dragon of liberalism, which promises all men they shall be as gods. We don't have to accept the details of each other's theologies to carry on this fight together. There is greater danger in conservatives compromising with liberalism for the sake of unity within their denominations, parties, or families. I don't need to tell you about the compromises with liberalism your bishops are trying to sell you every day. And you don't need to tell me our mainstream Protestant denominations are 160 proof pure liberal. Surely we can help each other confront our respective liberal elites.

Theological details...


Sorry, but you're the one who brought up the theological details by decrying labels of "heresy", not me.

RE: Tactical alliances

I agree with your view. However, I also agree with atheling that one should not compromise on his personal religious or theological views. Nonetheless, I firmly believe that it is possible for Christians of various denominations to find common ground on political issues. It is already happening today and it has happened in the past.

I can think of French [Roman Catholic] Cardinal Richelieu who pragmatically though reluctantly supported the Huguenots (for some time at least), and of the Dutch Reformed and Roman Catholic parties that united against Socialism in the 19th and early 20th century, especially thanks to efforts of the Reformed thinker and Dutch prime minister Abraham Kuyper, who founded the Anti-Revolutionary Party in 1879.

From a Reformed perspective, reverence of the civil magistrates has always been important and it is defended in all Reformed confessions of faith as a biblical concept and duty. As long as a national policy does not hurt the communion of believers and the State does not ask of a believer to do things that are contrary to the Christian faith, a believer ought to serve the nation.

To illustrate what precisely I understand by this, see, for instance, Articles XXXIX and XL on Civil Government (i.e. secular authorities) and Civic Duty, from the French Confession of Faith which was sent to King Francis II of France, a Roman Catholic.

I'd be interested to hear more perspectives on this issue.



Some might find Melville's Moby Dick an interesting read.  I couldn't help but find some startling parallel between Captain Ahab's obsessive hunt for the great white whale and the EU's pursuit of power.

In the end, Ahab destroys the Pequod, and the only surviving creature clinging to the wreckage is the one called Ishmael.

RE: Culture wars

The Moorish penetration north of the Pyrennes took the form of raids, and even in the absence of the Carolingian Empire, they would never have been able to mount an invasion, much less conquer Francia.  The Carolingian Empire did rescue Catholicism, as Rome and Italy were hounded by Byzantines, Saracens and other Germanic tribes e.g. the Lombards.  Moreover, Carolingians not only ensured the survival of Catholic Christianity in Francia, but also expanded Christendom eastwards.


I think Christianity is the wrong solution in terms of dealing with Islam.  I fully agree with the benefits of Christian values in Western societies.  However, anyone who believes that Islam can be defeated without killing is as deluded as those pundits who are stunned by a single soldier dying in Afghanistan.


General agreement on everything else...


El Capitano


I think Christianity is the wrong solution in terms of dealing with Islam. I fully agree with the benefits of Christian values in Western societies. However, anyone who believes that Islam can be defeated without killing is as deluded as those pundits who are stunned by a single soldier dying in Afghanistan.

You have an incomplete view of Christianity. Remember the Crusades? It was Christianity, namely Catholic Christianity, which drove back the Islamic hordes in Poitiers, Vienna, etc...

Christianity was muscular then. What do you think led to its castration?

RE: Culture wars (2)

Señor Capitano:

Thanks for your reply. Since I don't think there's much point in getting into long and tiresome debates on this issue here, since we seem to be in agreement on a number of issues.

Still I would like share a few documents that will undoubtedly be of interest to you with regard to Christianity and Islam.

As you know, during the age of the Reformation, the "Turks" (i.e. Ottomans, Muslims) were invading eastern and central Europe. The following documents provide, among other things, a look into how Luther and Calvin viewed Islam.

I should add as a disclaimer that both documents are written from a conservative Reformed point of view. Nonetheless, I think they are offer valuable information to anyone, regardless of religion or creed, who's interested in researching the relations between Europe or Christianity and the Islamic world.

Luther on Islam [and the Papacy]
Calvin on Islam

Best regards.

Culture wars

I think we should not deny that the Germanic tribes played an important role in Western history. Although Germanic tribes are usually associated with nations like England, the Netherlands and especially Germany, the fact is that France would not have been France without the influx of the Frankish tribes from the beyond the Rhine. The Flemish people are largely a Germanic race, while the ancient Belgians were Celts. German tribes even made their way into Spain, where the West Goths ruled their Hispanic subjects (i.e. king Rodrigo). The Germanic tribes played in important role in the the development of Christianity as well. Most of the Germanic tribes, such as the Vandals in North Africa, were Arians, and actively spread this heresy across the ancient Roman empire. Other tribes, such as the Franks, were Catholic (i.e. orthodox) in that they believed in the Trinity. Were it not for Frankish unity, much of Western Europe might have been Islamic.

However, I am skeptical of the Kapitein's belief that Christianity is not the solution. It is true that it is wrong to force anyone to convert. But I suppose that Herr Kapitein would not disagree with me that Christian societal values are essential to the well-being of our civilization? If so, perhaps his belief that Christianity is not the solution is rooted in the belief that modern Westerners simply will not return to Christianity, and since force would be required to make them do so, that would be contrary to true Christianity. Hence, it logically follows that Christianity is not in itself the solution from a political point of view, as Christianity is a religious belief open to all rather than political philosophy. If that is what motivates him to believe Christianity is not the solution, I would tend to agree.

From my point of view, however, Conservatives should not abandon Christianity. If we denounce Christianity as a whole, we are essentially renouncing much of our own civilization. I think we cannot expect all Westerners to return to orthodox Christianity, but I do believe that - from a strictly political point of view - we ought to defend and return to Christianity's value system to counter Islam. This is of course not to say that believers should not preach the Gospel also. And this not only non-believing if not pagan Westerners, but to Muslims as well. I believe we need a return to Chrisitian values, especially family values, in order to create societal order. I believe these values have not become obsolete but offer the solution to a lot of societal ills, including our moral relativism and Islam apologetism. At the same time, I believe it would be wholly erroneous to bring our civilization back to medieval times in which the Pope and the clergy held great power. Christian values are essential in creating natural order, but so is limited government to keep various institutions and sources of authority in society in check. We should never allow the Islamic threat to justify totalitarianism and barbarism.

Having said that, I agree with KA that we should distinguish between Christianity and politics. A nation does not necessarily become stable, virtuous, free and prosperous just because it adopts Christianity as its official religion. And what Christianity would that be anyway, given the many divisions within what is commonly referred to as Christianity. What is needed is a true spiritual change of heart. Should Christians fight against infidels to protect "the Church", or should a Christian rather fight to defend his family and his people against foreign oppression, thereby perhaps also protecting his ability to freely practice his religion as a Christian and the survival of the local Church? I for one would strongly disagree with the former view, and I am opposed to those who, in the debate against Islam, simplistically call for a new 'crusade'.

These are just some thoughts I had on the issue. I know this is rather long but I did not want to disappoint Capodistrias. Who's best qualified to play the role of Parsifal will depend on the Kapitein's performance.

In Search of the Grail


The issue is not semantic, it's more chromatic. Let's get the word right. More precisely, at this moment, who shall play the role of Parsiful in the grand finale of our Wagnarian journey?

Pale Ride was a great Tristan and has been wonderful in the Ring Cycle. Have you ever seen a better solo duet?

On the other hand, Kapitein Andre was the perfect Alberich, a maker of rings, a master of the circular argument, a giant of a dwarf; but, alas I'm not just sure he is up to the role of Parsiful.

Maybe if he could expound on just how essential the German tribes were to the glory and greatness of the West. Maybe then the gods of Valhalla might be convinced, that a dwarf can play a fool.

Quiet please, I hear  a mighty dwarf clearing his throat.


Read the link Atlanticist provided.

Fim # 2

Who is "Dr Cherry", and what does "Fim" mean?

Are these questions "highly indicative" of ignorance or of inquisitiveness?


I regret wasting time on you.  My argument was not intended to impress you.  If you are so inclined as to accept Dr. Cherry's skewed historical timeline, when Dr. Cherry's bias and ignorance are highly evident, there is little anyone can do...

KA (2)

Perhaps I am in a minority of one here but I genuinely see no correlation whatsoever between your semantics argument and the known history of events which have taken place over the timeline alluded to by the author of the article in paragrah one.Consequently it should come as no surprise to you to learn that your semantics argument fails to impress.

To: Atlanticist RE: Judaeo-Christian

This issue is semantic.  One understands that Lutheranism is a Christian denomination guided by Luther’s teachings, that seceded from Catholicism and is a major branch of Western Christianity.  Yet, one does not refer to Lutheranism as “Judaeo-Christian-Catholic-Lutheranism”.  Moreover, Judaism – the religion of the Judah/Israel – does not acknowledge its influences and origins in its name, even though Judaism borrows heavily from nearby and pre-existing religions, especially Mesopotamian.  

Why?  Judaism is unique, irrespective of the influences of, origins in or similarities to other belief systems.  So too is Christianity.  Linking different religions on these bases is useful to agnostics who want to reduce major religions to a core group of values, or to politicians carving up a very complex world into “civilizations” e.g. Huntington. 

As I noted in prior comments, Western “civilization” is far from cohesive and homogenous; after all, ethnic, cultural, political and religious diversity is one of the main reasons Europe rose to global prominence after 1500 AD.  The contribution of Germanic tribes and successor states to the Western Roman Empire tends to be overlooked today, but this contribution was essential to British, American and Commonwealth legal and political systems.  However, I would not call English civilization “Anglo-Germanic”. 

@ KA

Thank you for the mild admonishment but my point was intended to be a much narrower one. In short (and with the knowledge of hindsight) perhaps I should have only quoted the first paragraph from the full artcle I posted, which makes it abundantly clear to the reader that the concept of Judeo-Christian values is, indeed, a valid one and that said values are perfectly compatible (for the reasons given) with what the non-religious/irreligious  Westerner perceives (rightly so) as core  "Western values". If  you and I  differ in this conclusion and I suspect we do, we are clearly at  what I trust is a mutually respectful if  irreconcilable impasse.


Dr. Cherry's ignorance of late antiquity and early medieval history is astounding.  He is representative of those Americans who want to forget that their intellectual traditions lie in Europe, and who will whitewash America's religious "credentials" and tarnish Europe's.


If you truly believe that Christianity permits ethnic and sectarian "cleansing", you are grossly mistaken.

Europe's Darkness

Christianity is not the answer to Islam.  Christians must believe that they are right, but practice their creed without forcibly imposing it on others.  This seems counter-intuitive to human nature, and unfortunately, most Christians have failed miserably.  Europe’s crusades and religious wars testify to the logical outcome of the conviction of a person or group that they possess the universal truth.  If that which applies to one, applies to all, then how can deviation from the “right way” or the “good life” be tolerated?  If deviants are permitted to undermine the correct way of believing and living, should they not be compelled – by force if necessary – to accept it?  A Christian who believes that he or she possesses one truth among many or a truth that is first among equals is not a true Christian.  However, neither is one that forces an atheist or pagan to accept Christianity at sword point.


Europe’s “darkness” is the lack of belief by Europeans in their countries and overarching civilization.  Before, such belief led to disagreements among Europe’s diversity of ethnicities, religions and sects, which were resolved through violence, culminating in the carnage and destruction of the early 20th Century.  Yet the efforts to expunge these traits have left Europe and the West on whole anxious, lost and vulnerable. 


I am reminded of the Japanese tale of the samurai who was banished by his king for killing a man in a fit of anger.  The samurai found himself tending to the horses at a far-flung outpost on the border of the kingdom, far from the capital.  For three years he fetched water for the horses of travelers and reflected upon his rage, unable to vent it on pain of death.  He endured condescension and disrespect from travelers who regarded him as a stable boy and not a warrior, and grit his teeth.  One day, a rider came to the border crossing.  He was clad in black and carried himself like a warrior.  He asked the samurai to fetch water for his horse, but did so in such a way that infuriated the samurai.  The samurai pulled the man off his black horse and killed him.  Having violated the terms of his banishment, the samurai was recalled to the capital, where he expected death.  Instead, he was made the king’s lifeguard once again, as the man he had killed had been a dangerous assassin dispatched from a hostile kingdom…


As the star and crescent begin flying over European cities, perhaps this bit of wisdom from a more judgmental past may be startlingly prescient.

Dark sun glasses

@ Dimitrik

For a "Ph D in chemistry", you seem to be wearing very dark sun glasses. Perhaps you should take them off  - or whatever laboratory protective 'glasses' that chemists usually wear - and let sunlight through to enhance your vision (or empirical powers of observation).  

In contemporary Western democracies, the number of "right-wing atheists" (and non-athests alike),  who advocate 'open borders', constitute a miniscule fraction of the right-wing. They can often be counted on 2 hands, and are usually multi-millionaires (some billionaires).  Although there are more 'libertarians' who fall into the same trap.

Now, as to the number of "left-wing atheists" (and non-atheists alike), you want to venture a guess as to the percentage that advocates 'open borders'?  It is a high number!  

Islamisation in the West is NOT primarily the result of people abandoning religion (after all, islam IS a religion!), but rather of 'unfettered immigration'.  Both the 'unfettered' part and the 'immigration' part are relevant.  If you cannot identify the problem, you certainly cannot identify the solution.  And if, in addition, much of the West has been abandoning its cultural values of the Judeo-christian tradition and of the European Enlightenment, OVER THE PAST HALF-CENTURY, that has almost entirely been a phenomenon of the political left.  


"They want additional arguments for their case. But islamization is the result of the West abandoning their religion, not culture. Culture is still here, but religion is not. Thus, the righ-wing atheists are as much enablers of islamization as are the left-wing atheists"

Excellent point and it does go to the heart of the matter, the heart of Europe's darkness.


I disagree. Islamization is not the result of revolution or leftism. Those are purely Western phenomena. Many on the Right want to connect islamization to leftism, because they are more interested in fight with the Left than with islamization. They want additional arguments for their case. But islamization is the result of the West abandoning their religion, not culture. Culture is still here, but religion is not. Thus, the righ-wing atheists are as much enablers of islamization as are the left-wing atheists.

Terrible system

After spending one hour typing a comment only to have my space marker suddenly freeze up on me half way through.I typed but no words appeared.?demoralising,What a shame.

To Mr Bertonneau RE: Culture Wars

The “prevailing condition” is very simple, and in this instance, perception is a reaction to reality, not a precursor.  Unfortunately, you are conflating multiculturalism with cultural relativism and political correctness, when in fact it is merely an alternative to assimilating migrants or forcibly preventing the entry of “undesirables”.


Multiculturalism, not unlike generative anthropology’s memetic crisis, defers violence.  It is common sense that non–Whites can be made to behave as Whites, which is why governments abandoned all pretenses of assimilation.  It is equally obvious, that polyglot countries lack cohesion, and that this disunity invariably will tear them asunder.


If you are examining the role of Marxism–Leninism in the commitment by Whites to multiculturalism, political correctness and cultural relativism, then you must also acknowledge the role of imperialism.  England and France have both striven to retain their global influence in the post–colonial era, which involves close ties with non–White countries in South and West Asia, and North and sub–Saharan Africa.  Ethnic or racial supremacism has given way to cultural, and at its most basic linguistic supremacism.


Unfortunately, the vast majority of Whites will use any excuse and endure any emasculation in order to avoid violence.  However, this will only delay the inevitable.  While science and technology has made great leaps over thousands of years, and generative aversion to violence has made peace a utopian ideal, human emotions and relationships remain relatively unchanged.  To believe that we are beyond the horrors of ancient and medieval times, the 17th Century or the 20th, is pure folly. 


As far as Latinists are concerned, gladiator translates to swordsman.  The gladius was a type of sword adopted from the Celts from either Gaul or Iberia, and became the standard issue sword of Roman legionnaires. 


All ideologies must have heroes, foes, quests, archetypes, etc., and while their adherence to objective facts and rationality varies, they all share a common rootedness in the mythologies of the past.  Indeed, the national socialist, liberal, communist and conservative all believe in their participation in a movement greater than themselves and indeed single person, in an unrelenting struggle and belief in a final utopian victory.