Readers of a conservative bent have probably felt a streak of satisfaction reading my former post on game denial, while the radicals and liberals have cringed and condemned me. So be it. If game denial was the only part of the story, conservatives would simply be right. Deep down they’ve always known, or so they think, that dreamy idealism isn’t quite “real”; that all those liberals are, in a subtle but pervasive sense, brimming with mendacities, filled with pompous self-deceit. There’s a real world out there, a practical world of real people, and real limitations.
Ahh. “Like ‘me’, the no-bullshit conservative. The good person is not whoever can dream up the nicest fantasy and have us drive off a cliff in search of it, but rather those who can look at the real world, be strong enough to face it—and from there on, try to do what’s best and most realistic given the circumstances.” The conservative mind seeks a darker, but soberer, point of departure: What to do with violent criminals? How should free-riding, cheating and loafing be discouraged? How do we get people to come out of their comfort zones and make sincere efforts for the good of themselves and others?
The following is a slightly edited extract from Hanzi Freinacht’s book ‘Nordic Ideology: A Metamodern Guide to Politics, Book Two’. This is the second book in a series on metamodern thought, a work of popular philosophy that investigates the nature of psychological development and its political implications.
So what are the “hard truths” that we must all relate to? Here’s a perspective from a “pickup artist”, i.e. a man who has become a professional at seducing women:
“There is a pride in being a pickup artist. It is a challenge. I have performer friends who can explode on stage like samurai and kill five hundred people, but they are afraid to approach a girl in a bar. I don’t blame them. Most audiences are horny to be fucked. They want it hard and deep. But the girl sitting on the bar stool is more difficult. She is scarier. She is the five hundred pound gorilla in a little black dress. And she can bust you up, if you let her. But she is also horny to be fucked. We are all horny to be fucked.”[i]
“Juggler”, as is the nom de guerre of this fellow, tries to “tell it like it is”. He tries to face up to the inherent challenges of life, ones that cannot be brushed aside with idealistic visions and wishful thinking. In short: he accepts the game of life (in this case seduction) and tries to take its consequences.
But it doesn’t sound very nice, which is probably why Juggler is part of a secret society in the first place, where knowledge about the games of seduction is spread and refined. Speaking one’s perceived hard truths often makes you sound like a douchebag.
This puts the conservative at a constant rhetorical disadvantage; you generally tend to sound less nice. Which is quite annoying—a tired and irritated look on the conservative’s face unmistakably presents itself when liberals and radicals go on, performing their moral braggadocio and “virtue signaling” in the media or at any given dinner party.
Conservatives generally talk less. They tell themselves they are practical, down-to-earth, realistic—doers rather than talkers. And in more or less refined manners, they resent the game deniers, these cheap fakes who take every opportunity to shout out their opinions and to shine their own politically correct medals; liberals who choose moral bombasticity over sober analysis.
This “conservative silence” is supported by research, which clearly shows that the farther left you are, the more you tend to voice your opinions in everyday life. If you’re rooting for the nationalist party, you talk the least about it. One such study was undertaken in Sweden by the polling company Demoskop: When asking over 4000 people, 56% of self-reported socialists were comfortable with voicing their opinions to strangers, while the same figure for nationalists was 27%—the other ideologies neatly arranged in order of left-wingness.[ii] Similar figures have been found in the US, as shown by a recent Cato Institute report.[iii] Ours is a world of liberal loudmouths and tight conservative lips (and quiet support of populist and conservative leaders).
And since nationalism and Trumpism are the least kosher and most difficult to publicly defend, people even hide supporting them when asked in polls (which, by the way, is likely a major reason that polling has begun to be less accurate lately). When they do support the Trumps of the world, they often add in small excuses, justifications, hedgings, accounts and disclaimers: “Well, I don’t like Trump, I just thought we should shake things up a bit” and so forth.[iv]
When rhetorical talents who understand the metamodern games of the media landscape—like the young, posh Brit Milo Yiannopoulos and perhaps, to some extent, Donald Trump himself—finally manage to break through and say the things that conservatives wish they could express, the response is huge. A sigh of relief echoes through many as what might loosely be termed the “Alt-Right” gains momentum. Even if Yiannopoulos and Trump may embody exaggerations of conservative sentiments, at least they rain some sweet vengeance upon the often so suffocating politically correct establishment, the smothering welfare state and perceived status quo. A mellow sense of satisfaction arises in the conservative tummy.
Don’t Hate the Player
But I have argued elsewhere that reality consists of more than “actuality”; that a deeper and fuller reality lies in the realm of what is possible. And the conservatives have a strong tendency towards accepting the games of life in their current, actual form in a way that disregards the very real potentials for alternatives and change.
I have said that crimes against reality are crimes against humanity. But crimes against potentiality are also crimes against humanity, and against all life on our planet—against all beautiful futures. Game acceptance also kills. In fact, these killing grounds are far greater and more brutal than the ones of game denial.
Game acceptance means to prostrate before the game and take it as a law of nature in its current form, denying that the game can and must evolve. Or, more often, the game accepter holds that real and substantial changes are only ever possible in a distant and irrelevant future.
This makes us justify illegitimate force and injustice. It makes us think the unfair sides of the game are somehow indeed fair, because someone, somewhere “deserved it”. And that injustice is all for the best in the long run because it serves the game. Game acceptance is the tune of political realism, “political theology” (Jean Bodin, Thomas Hobbes, Vilfredo Pareto, Niccolò Machiavelli…), neo-liberalism, conservatism. The game accepter quietly mumbles:
“It has to be this way! It’s how the world works. We have to let them starve, get screwed over, get stuck and crushed in systems that are not for them. If we only let the system play out and the game be played the way it is, it will turn out for the best for everyone. Besides, I can’t help I won. Don’t hate the player, hate the game!”
But game acceptance really loves the game and hates the player—correction—hates the player who happens to get the short end of the stick.
The billions of enslaved, tortured and murdered animals under global industrial farming find no heroic defenders among the game accepters. The unjust international order which keeps the global South exploited and subjugated is defended under the auspices of “free markets”. The losers of everyday life—the unintelligent, the ugly, the sickly—they all deserve what they get.
The central principle of game acceptance is hence: That which could be is not, and hence it should not be. As David Hume warned us already in the 18th century, this is a fallacy—deriving an “ought” from an “is”. That something is the case doesn’t mean is should be the case.
At its most extreme, game acceptance goes beyond the existing games of life to invent fictitious ones so that we may revel in what “necessary evils” these games demand of us: “Western culture is trying to destroy the Arab world and undermine all of Islam. Ergo we must stop them by ramming airplanes into buildings full of innocent folks!”—or “The Jews are plotting to destroy Germany! I don’t like it any more than you, but we must kill them! It’s either them or us. Race against race!”—or “Species against species! Humans must kill and torture billions of piglets, lest we all starve! It’s the terrible game of life. Alas!”—or “Men must be superior to women and make more money and be more respected in public life, or else—the impending collapse of civilization!”—or “We must have a schooling system which more or less systematically permanently breaks the souls of the less gifted and less privileged and lets them know their lowly place in society! And we need to beat the kids! I wish it weren’t so.”
But now that it is so, mumbles a voice at the outer fringe of your conscious mind, you might as well enjoy subjugating the weak and feel exalted with every proof of your own power.
And just as there is an embodied form of game denial, so there is an embodied form of game acceptance. Especially those of us who have had high social status during our upbringing and reflexively assume we can win out in any confrontation that shows up can be tempted to think all such confrontations are necessarily good and just. Losers get what they deserve; that’s not just an idea, but a felt bodily experience that sets our mind up for game acceptance.
Exaggerated forms of game acceptance lead to the most brutal forms of social organization. If you look at Nazi Germany, it killed less people than the communist experiment, numerically speaking. But if you look at the relatively small spread of fascism and its shorter period of existence, you notice the killing rate was much higher and the brutality much more an end in itself. Game acceptance, at its most extreme, murders a lot more people than does game denial.
But it doesn’t stop there. The worst crime of game acceptance is that it blocks legitimate, necessary and very possible change. If you look at the thousands of very preventable maladies that have been perpetuated by game acceptance throughout history, you see a silent, invisible death toll looming larger than any other crime in world history.
Of course we could end slavery. Of course we can end animal slavery. Of course the rich world can and should support sustainable global growth with a significant percentage of its GDP. Of course the trade system should be fairer. Of course most wars were avoidable. Of course everyone can have free basic health care. Of course we can live less wastefully and still be healthier, happier and have meaningful lives.
Crimes against potentiality are crimes against humanity.
Hanzi Freinacht is a political philosopher, historian and sociologist, author of ‘The Listening Society’, ‘Nordic Ideology’ and the upcoming books ‘The 6 Hidden Patterns of History’ and ‘Outcompeting Capitalism’. Much of his time is spent alone in the Swiss Alps. You can follow Hanzi on his facebook profile here, and you can speed up the process of new metamodern content reaching the world by making a donation to Hanzi here.
[i]. From Neil Strauss’ The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists, 2005: chapter 2.
By the way—I don’t mean to equate conservatives with pickup artists or vice versa. I am just looking for the general “let’s keep it real” sentiment, which they both share.
[ii]. Santesson, P. “Vem vågar prata?” [“Who dares to speak?”], Demoskop, September 14th 2015.
[iii]. Ekins, E. “The State of Free Speech and Tolerance in America”. Cato Institute Survey Reports, October 31st 2017.
[iv]. These concepts, excuses, justifications, hedgings and accounts are discussed in social-psychological research and the discipline called “ethnomethodology”.
See Scott, M. B., Lyman, S. M., 1968: Accounts. American Sociological Review, Vol. 33, No. 1: 46-62.
See also: Buttny, R., 1993. Social Accountability in Communication. London: Sage.