1. A friend alerted me to the suicide of “right-wing” historian Dominique Venner. i’d never heard of him as i have little interest in politics and usually find extreme left or ring-wingers unsettling and overly consumed by black hatred & fantasies of vengeance. It was, nonetheless, a striking act; i thought of Tolkien’s Denethor, who immolates himself as his city is under siege from the scimitar-waving orcs. He first attempts to burn himself and his wounded son:
‘He lies within,’ said Denethor, ‘burning, already burning. They have set a fire in his flesh. But soon all shall be burned. The West has failed. It shall all go up in a great fire, and all shall be ended. Ash! Ash and smoke blown away on the wind!’ […]
‘Authority is not given to you, Steward of Gondor, to order the hour of your death,’ answered Gandalf. ‘And only the heathen kings, under the domination of the Dark Power, did thus, slaying themselves in pride and despair, murdering their kin to ease their own death.’
Then suddenly Denethor laughed. He stood up tall and proud again, and stepping swiftly back to the table he lifted from it the pillow on which his head had lain. Then coming to the doorway he drew aside the covering, and lo! he had between his hands a palantír. And as he held it up, it seemed to those that looked on that the globe began to glow with an inner flame, so that the lean face of the Lord was lit as with a red fire, and it seemed cut out of hard stone, sharp with black shadows, noble, proud, and terrible. His eyes glittered.
‘Pride and despair!’ he cried. ‘Didst thou think that the eyes of the White Tower were blind? Nay, I have seen more than thou knowest, Grey Fool. For thy hope is but ignorance. Go then and labour in healing! Go forth and fight! Vanity. For a little space you may triumph on the field, for a day. But against the Power that now arises there is no victory. To this City only the first finger of its hand has yet been stretched. All the East is moving. And even now the wind of thy hope cheats thee and wafts up Anduin a fleet with black sails. The West has failed. It is time for all to depart who would not be slaves.’
Denethor was corrupted by using a palantír, a kind of scrying stone. It showed him only the vastness of Sauron’s armies, and so he despaired. Palantír means “far-seeing”: he saw too much.
2. A couple of days after Venner’s suicide, in London, a soldier was hacked to death by two followers of the religion of peace. i’m not surprised and only glad that i now live in Munich, where there are relatively few such folk. Most likely, there will be more Muslim attacks in England and eventually there will be Balkan-style genocide and everyone will die leaving nothing but rubble and ash and dead chavs and one half-eaten Greggs pasty. Most of this one could lay at the doorstep of New Labour, which encouraged immigration to pave the way for the Workers’ Paradise. The socialists were not interested in integrating newcomers into the native culture; they wanted to destroy the native culture (because, after all, that culture had mainly voted Tory in the past).
In general, socialists despise anything traditional, anything that took centuries to evolve, anything organic and not subject to State control. They fantasize about a revolutionary society which, because it has never existed, must perforce be radically new. Since the natural human instinct to manage our own affairs and work for what we have cannot co-exist with socialism, the socialists require a practically omnipotent State to crush human individuality and opposition. They require gulags and secret police, as has been the case in North Korean, Cuba, China, the USSR. If every society in the past has been hierarchical and involved exchange of goods, then for socialists everything about the past is damnable and evidence of Nazism. The past must be overwritten and replaced with a State-organised machine of production and labour and enforced equality; at least for those not in the Party – the good Party members will, of course, have special dachas and cars, and their own private lanes and shops. And if you don’t like this you must be a Nazi (as, in the past, one would have said “you are a witch” or “you have a devil”).
3. From my small but comfortable flat in Munich, i contemplate all this with some distance: i live in a conservative heartland; i can walk down the street without being hacked to death by Muslims. i like to keep a grim eye on things in England, via the Daily Mail, but i am not unduly agitated. i feel as might a European Jew who had escaped to England in the 30s, reading about the disintegration of his homeland under the socialists (National then, Global now). With the difference that most of the things i like about England pre-date me (old buildings, gruff old working class types like my stepfather) so there is in effect nothing i value about contemporary England. i feel loyalty neither for England nor Germany, much as i like the latter. i feel loyalty for the idea of Englishness – not, a chimera conjured up from P.G. Wodehouse, but rather an extrapolation from the older villages and people i knew. What i loved were the last embers of a spent fire.
In Tolkien’s book, Denethor is right to be appalled at the scale of Sauron’s might. But nonetheless, in the end Sauron is defeated. He is not defeated by armies, but by small human (or hobbit) actions, by ordinary decency and ordinary courage. Denethor’s vision is neither final nor wholly accurate – for example, the “fleet with black sails” is led by one of his own allies, under a false flag. The shitty films privilege action scenes over characterisation or plot, but in the novel the large battles are little more than a diversion. i don’t think military might and politics are irrelevant; but there seem other, subtler factors at work, and those interest me.
4. The historical forces – battles, armies, politics – are the surface manifestation of deeper causes. You can’t walk through an army with a haughty sniff; it does really exist; but the fundamental causes are not as we would suppose. i’ve come to see politics and so on as akin to a bullet: it exists and it is dangerous; but it doesn’t just fire itself. The first cause seems to lie within the human mind. This doesn’t offer itself to scientific investigation; it is too subtle and unpredictable; and much is to do with how people are between their lives, when they are unphysical (or dead, if you like). i’m beginning to feel that things can be determined by a surprisingly small number of people; that there are determining souls who naturally order those about them, both within & without physical life:
[…] that we should ride with seven thousands, scarce as many as the vanguard of its army in the days of its power, to assail the mountains and the impenetrable gate of the Black Land. So might a child threaten a mail-clad knight with a bow of string and green willow! If the Dark Lord knows so much as you say, Mithrandir, will he not rather smile than fear, and with his little finger crush us like a fly that tries to sting him?’
‘No, he will try to trap the fly and take the sting,’ said Gandalf. ‘And there are names among us that are worth more than a thousand mail-clad knights apiece. No, he will not smile.’
Denethor could not have believed that anything other than armies mattered. It is hard, looking at the daily disintegration of England, not to despair, and i’m sure that if i still lived there, crushed by minimum wage data entry, i would be permanently (rather than sporadically) enraged. i would be “full of passionate intensity“. Living in Germany, near some Roman remains, i try to disengage myself from all this, to instead concentrate on my own understanding of that which orders and gives worth to human life – to gods; and to deal well with those i meet, as best i can. i feel that there’s more chance of doing lasting and extensive good in private human-to-human encounters; far more than in Denethor-like fury and despair, or in propaganda and campaigning. This is why i habitually infuriate socialists, who believe that everyone should and must be political; they cannot tolerate abstention: they regard it as pusillanimity, because they cannot credit anything outside of politics and worldly affairs, capital and GDP and committees. They would sneer at the idea that a prayer – or sorcery – could accomplish more than standing on a box and shouting about capitalism till you’re red in the face.
But in the end, these matters will be settled by what one could call prayer, or sorcery.