The sense of betrayal – why dissidents must stop being ‘anti-Establishment’
No faith will give you pleasure, that takes away the pain
But hate will give you meaning, and make you feel again
You may have heard the late sir Roger Scruton recalling his experience of the soixante-huitard riots that took place while he was a student in Paris. The destructiveness of his fellow colleagues, their righteous indignation, the shallowness and irrationality of their anger produced such an impression on Roger, that he knew right then he wanted nothing to do with anything these pampered narcissists stood for, and decided he would oppose them in any way he could.
I had a very similar journey away from liberalism and the fashionable strands of thought forming the contemporary consensus. If you are a dissident of any kind, you certainly have your own tale to tell. A deep sense of betrayal is what unifies these experiences and since this is one of the strongest emotions humans can experience, it has an enormous destructive potential along with its promise of meaning and catharsis.
Anti-Feminists, Anti-SJW, Anti-Marxists
The first natural reaction against betrayal is the desire for revenge. Those who were wronged by the System(s) find fellowship and acceptance in newly formed groups that vehemently oppose and aim to punish the traitor(s). Revenge fantasies are an effective binding moral foundation in the short term. They go all the way back to archaic societies, where youth banded together for the purpose of ‘headhunting’ – killing members of foreign tribes and collecting their scalps or other tokens, which earned prestige for the hunters and strengthened in-group bonds. In terms of high instability, such as the Viking conquest of Britain, even warring tribes and kingdoms left aside their minor wars and dynastic disputes and found togetherness in opposing the foreign invaders.
The deep sense of betrayal experienced by young straight white men over the last decade certainly fostered a reaction to the accelerating ideologisation of the Establishment. What do you do when all educational and broadcasting institutions condemn you in unison for immutable traits or preferences that until yesterday had been considered benign or even positive? You become ANTI-. All of a sudden, opposing the traitor is your main priority.
The trouble is you must first be able to define the treason. Describe the traitor, understand his motivations, do a bit of ‘theory of mind‘ and delineate him from other non-harmful or non-involved entities. Here we find that the active trauma prevents the betrayed from successfully understanding and delineating their opponents. The immediate urge is to catastrophise and turn your enemy into a preternatural, all-knowing and all-willing malefic entity. You lash out in all directions, interrogating neutral bystanders and associating them with the enemy if their revenge fantasies are not as vivid as yours. This is where we see the limits of negative ethno-centrism or headhunting binding behaviours. All that unites you and your new buddies is the opposition to the traitor. Everything else is up for debate. And if your IQ allows you to perceive nuance, you soon realise the fight does not take place on an axis of villainy-to-goodness ranging from -∞ to +∞. Even the normie political compass posits the existence of two axes. What if reality is 3d or 4d? Your betrayal revealed to you a single point in 3d space, which we can all agree is nasty and despicable. Maybe we can identify a spherical orbit, gravitating around it – the wicked ideology and its acolytes, gatekeepers, volunteers and opportunists. We all recoil and move away from their presence, but soon discover away can mean almost any direction, and nothing is guiding you and your buddies to move in unison. Because you lack a positive binding ethos, a first principle acting as a common good guiding you in interstellar space, you drift apart and splinter in a series of unforeseen disagreements over issues you never knew would come up.
Only the Left can pull this off
If the NRX movement has unearthed anything of value, it is its description of the political left as a force of societal erosion and entropy. Being ‘anti’ has always been a thing of the left and one must acknowledge they pull it off with a certain degree of grace and talent. If being a contrarian is your thing, if you find meaning in unrelenting deconstruction, snitching and deboonking, if you find yourself always rooting for characters like Caesar in the latest Planet of the Apes, consider transitioning and coming up with a degenerate pseudonym or something.
The left are quite comfortable with drifting apart in a pleasant ecstasy; with loosening ties and denouncing bonds of every sort; with toying with revenge fantasies without ever healing the wounds that produced them. For a conservative to occupy this role is self-defeating. You must come to terms with your betrayal and find a positive meaning for it. If you fail to find a philosophy that will unite your movement, your mental energies will be drained by the same revenge fantasies, cynicism and hatred of your foes. And these very energies fuel the monster the left has created. I am not only referring to the top news outlets and social media platforms of our age, harvesting rage and divisiveness in the autistic interest of their CEOs; but more importantly, to the various activists and lobby groups that have come to predict the dissidents’ reactions so accurately, that they can press all the emotional pedals making you react in exactly the ways they want you to react. When you are ANTI – , you will do everything within your power to oppose your foes. Of this they can be certain. They want to associate you with the anti-vax or climate change denial movement? They will be pro vaccines and pro climate change. They want you to embrace the public school system? They will lobby for school lockdowns. They want you to LARP as their cartoon villain, giving them a good excuse to censor you? They will claim whoever opposes them is fascistic. In this way they can concern troll you endlessly.
Still, despite acknowledging these realities, the urge to monitor the foe and keep the outrage alive is unstoppable. The wound did not heal a bit, the act of treason is so fresh in your memory, it seems to have occurred yesterday. Letting go of it threatens to shatter life’s meaning, so you remain prisoner in this death grip.
Betrayal and its Psychological Reactions
James Hillman, one of Carl Jung’s close disciples, wrote an enlightening paper on betrayal in the Guild of Pastoral Psychology’s Journal, the issue of October 1964. I will try to sum it up in the following lines, listing what Hillman identifies as the psychological reactions to betrayal and what he thinks are the solutions to each of them.
First Hillman talks about ‘primal trust’ as a naïve state of childhood in which one cannot even imagine that their father or authority figure can betray them. This trust does not coexist with uncertainty (for children, their parents are almost god-like) nor can it tolerate the thought that parents are flawed and imperfect. After establishing this idea, Hillman lists the reactions to betrayal as they tend to occur over time:
a. Revenge. When refined into indirect methods, revenge fantasies can become obsessional, shifting and shrinking the focus from the significance of the betrayal to the betrayer and his shadow [nasty traits they may not even be aware of]. Remembering the act becomes petty, mean and loveless. To minimise this effect, Aquinas considered revenge to be justified only against the larger evil that has been committed, not the person of the perpetrator.
b. Denial. I notice the other person’s shadow and its horrible demons, compensating for prior idealisations of primal trust. My anima [feeling side] was previously silent and I chose to ignore it because I really wanted to trust the father figure (or religious / political / educational system). Before betrayal – the feeling judgments (anima) were not admitted into consciousness; after the betrayal, the anima awakens, becomes my dominant side, and thus the relationship with the traitor is denied by the anima’s resentments. ‘They were always horrible, we were never friends, there was nothing there to begin with’ etc.
c. Cynicism – all love becomes a Cheat, causes are for the Saps, organisations Traps, hierarchies Evil, mentorship, therapy or confession nothing but prostitution, brainwashing and fraud. ‘Keep sharp, watch out. Get the other before he gets you. Never trust anyone again. We live in a dog-eat-dog world.’ I cannot find a positive meaning for the betrayal, so I enter a vicious cycle, and the dog chases his own tail. I begin sneering against my own star, I betray my own ideals and ambitions as created by the puer [child] archetype. When the child crashes, everything to do with him is rejected.
We probably saw this manifested best in the New Atheism movement and in all cultural movements of the left, with their fixation on individualistic intuitions and a complete suspicion of everyone’s motives.
d. Self-Betrayal. My previous ideals and my highly charged hopes are now seen as pure sentimental rubbish. The alchemical process is reversed: I turn gold into faeces. My hardly earned pearls are thrown before swine – I have become the swine; I take my former ideals and deconstruct them through materialistic explanations, reductionism and dumb simplicities of sex-drive and milk-hunger. What I had thought to be the best was really the worst. I act in the same blind and sordid way as I claim my betrayer is acting, because I use an alien value system. I refuse to be what I am to avoid getting hurt again.
Hillman’s final advice is: ‘don’t let down the essential demand on the ego: to take up and carry one’s own suffering and be what one is no matter how it hurts.’
The biggest stumbling block in the healing process is no doubt finding a positive meaning for the betrayal, which can be seen as minimising its significance or ignoring the malignant aspects of the traitor. That is not what Hillman is arguing for. Rather, we must take everything life throws at us, good or bad, and repurpose it for some greater good. ‘What does not kills you makes you stronger’ and all that.
Going through the stages listed above can be extremely unpleasant for dissidents, especially when the so-called expert uses Hillman as an ideological weapon, arguing that society writ large is completely fine, and the problems we are attempting to solve politically or culturally reside mainly inside our head, as the effects of some irrelevant past trauma. This has been done to me and want to be clear I am NOT doing any of that. Society is NOT at all fine; in fact the past 8 years have led to an acceleration of all the corrosive trends of modernity, liberalism and Enlightenment lies. I fully believe we are witnessing an almost global phenomenon of mass hysteria among the wider populace and an attempt by various elites to engineer such destabilising experimental change that the 1st, 2nd and 3rd industrial revolution (to use the language of our foes) will pale in comparison.
In fact I believe the problems stem from an intellectual and psychological attitude that elevates the victim mentality and wants to immortalise every sense of betrayal – perceived or imagined – in our culture’s collective memory, so that the four types of reaction against it – revenge, denial, cynicism, self betrayal – sold as liberation struggles – become enshrined as the core virtues of our [post] liberal societies. All the cool kids will own nothing, eat the bugs and be happy, because being ‘anti-‘ some dead horse will occupy their entire mental bandwidth.
Being conservative or reactionary implies the obstinate refusal to succumb to this tendency. Their treachery must be given a positive meaning, and this can only be done in relation to a positive belief in a higher good. We were never meant to linger forever in a childhood state of primal trust; if betrayal was the means of taking us out of there, we must attempt to be grateful for it. This does not mean the establishment is not responsible for its ills, corruption or mendacity, nor that we should abandon our concerns about their acts of subversion. It means, however, that we have to take these strong reactions and ‘offer them up’ in some way or another; harvest the negative emotions under the guidance of some higher virtue, be it religious worship, grace and magnanimity, or dispassionate clear headed strategies that will help us live and even thrive under the continuous acts of treachery we are being subjected to. I believe Scruton managed to achieve this better than anyone else.