Modern Nostalgia

One of the continuing projects of the Traditional movement has been the refining and synthesizing  of Tradition and the origins of it. One tends to find that this task is more easily accomplished apophaticaly, that is to say, it is easier to show what Tradition is not, then to establish what Tradition is. Part of the purpose of this site, and the related site Gornahoor, is to separate and identify genuine Tradition from half-traditions, imitation traditions, or even faux-“traditions.” As part of the initiation of this site, I am going to begin by establishing what Tradition, and thereby the Old Right, are not.

Tradition is not a nostalgic movement. We are not trying to revive the world prior to 1789 in accidentals, that is to say, we are not advocating the return of powdered wigs, bustles, and horse-drawn carriages. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with these accidentals, and people may pursue such pre-1789 endeavours as the recreation of the fashion and decor of the time. However, these accidentals are not themselves traditional, even if it was the principles of Tradition which may have in part inspired them. No, rather we seek to revive the essentials, the underlying nature of which inspired the foundations of Christendom and built the edifice shared by the Holy Roman Church and the Holy Roman Empire, which institutions were the shared progeny of the last Golden Age. The principles of this age were eternal, and all institutions were founded on the principal that they would endure until the end of time, or at least as far as they were expedient to the need of society. Such society was dynamic, with changes in institutions like the guild system, the nature of the economy, the nature of the Empire and the Church and their relations with one another. The institutions themselves, however, and the principles they embodied remained remarkably the same, principally changing in the degree of complexity and sophistication. The fact that the Holy Roman Empire itself endured for over 1,000 years indicates how solid of a foundation it had, enduring a slow decay wrought by the protestant revolt, the so-called Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and ultimately the French Revolution, dying in the advance of the counter-Empire of Napoleon. It is in fact significant that the Empire finally perished not by military defeat or conquest but rather by consequence of the fact that there were few left who cared to preserve it. The battle of Austerlitz and the Treaty of Pressburg merely emphasized the nadir of the Imperial idea in the eyes of Europe. The loss of the Empire is analogous to Tradition today, for unless we struggle in the defense of Tradition, and water the roots of this tree, it too will simply whither away for lack of interest, and the loss will be profound. The Empire’s “spiritual” counterpart, the Church (the Empire and the Church differ merely in primacy, the Empire temporal, the Church spiritual, but each are both) has likewise endured 2,000 years, faithfully bearing the standard of Tradition in greater and lesser degrees until the Second Vatican Council. The Church, however, remains an enduring institution, and will continue to do so until Her brother the Empire returns to Her side. Articulating the twin merits of Empire and Church are among the aims that the Right Hand Path will strive to fulfill, particularly as a contrastive response vis-à-vis current events.

Contrast this to present day institutions. The memory of most politicians, being the popular reflection of public ignorance, generally does not stretch back more than 30 years. We hear little today of how our present problems may date to Lyndon Johnson or Dwight Eisenhower, let alone reflecting back to Lincoln or even Adams. To a certain extent the entire country suffers from a certain degree of collective amnesia, resulting in what I call modern nostalgia. Never in history was the recent past romanticized to such a degree as today. One can peruse the Internet and easily relive the 1920’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, Victorian, Edwardian, Regency, Old West, or even Colonial era. Republicans wax romantic about Ronald Reagan, president of the United States a mere 8 years, and Democrats likewise William Clinton, again an endurance of 8 years. Comparing this with the nearly 60 year reign of the current Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain should give some idea of how shallow modern thought has become. The idea that something lasting occurs in 8 years of constant policy change indicates to what extent society lives in a state of unreality, it’s transience being the only permanent thing. Rather then longing for the transcendent, the enduring, society longs for passing and short-lived entertainments and solutions, and then becomes amazed when these things do not continue indefinitely!

So, we of Tradition do not therefore seek a return to 1950, 1900, 1850, or 1788. We seek, as Russell Kirk so well put it, to restore the “permanent things.” What those are, and what they are not, shall be the purpose of the Right Hand Path. Committing ourselves to the struggle, we ride to Camelot, knowing that we seek the Kingdom spoken of in the Pater Noster: “Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” So be it.