When one goes to fight monsters, Nietzsche once wrote, one had best take care not to become the monster oneself.
Nothing illustrates this truth better than the case of the Oslo killer, Anders Breivik. In one horrific act, he annihilated and destroyed all the values he ostensibly held dear, values rooted in love of country and Christianity. This is the irrational psychology of the reactionary, which has been rightly called “the revolution of nihilism” with good reason.
A mind and heart consumed by hate eventually devours itself, and sometimes quite literally. A Norwegian police officer expressed surprise that Breivik had not taken his own life after his murderous rampage of slaughter on Utøya Island, as is very often the case with these types. No fascist regime has ever survived long without invoking the principle leading to its own self-destruction. Their hatred and enmity becomes an absolute and literally all-consuming nihilism… Nietzsche’s “monster”. The twilight of the idols.
This annihilating and self-annihilating dynamic of nihilism the reactionary often misconstrues as, and deceives himself as being, his own “martyrdom”, which it is not. He bathes himself in false glory. It is not martyrdom because the truths or values for which he sacrifices himself (and most especially others) he has already negated and destroyed by his act and example. In the case of Breivik, too, we have another real-life instance of that Jekyll and Hyde dichotomisation of the soul that meets like matter and anti-matter and becomes mutually annihilate. And there’s no doubt that Brevik, perversely, considers himself a martyr.
Ostensibly a patriot, he attacked his own country and people. Ostensibly a Christian, he acted from an all-consuming hate, which became for him a compulsive fate. He now describes what drove him as “necessity”, and that he was in the grip of this necessity even as he recognised his act as “gruesome”. But this “necessity” was only his own hatred become, in his mind, a supernatural guiding force. Indeed, it is. But it is demonic force.
Let us recall and remember the wise words of Omar Khayyam: “only a hair separates the false from the true”.
The same applies to hatred and love. Hatred is not the opposite of love. Hatred is love that has become perverted, demented, and deranged. Hatred is diseased love. I invoke again, here, what I’ve taken to call “Khayyam’s Caution,” that we do not misconstrue things that are related as being opposites. Hatred is the innocence and power of love that has been perverted and distorted beyond recognition. One might even say that all-consuming hatred is love that has become totally estranged from itself, and that implies that old problem of the human condition — narcissism. We’ve defined narcissism, succinctly, as the confusion of self with self-image or self-concept, or true self with false self. So, it’s no coincidence that Mr. Breivik is, as I’ve mentioned, an über-narcissist.
This (and what it means to be an über-narcissist) will become very apparent in due course. Even Brievik’s sense of martyrdom for his cause is deceit and self-deception, and arises from the self-aggrandising narcissism of the false self or ego-nature.
Narcissism is the source of all deceit and self-deception, as it is also of hatred, enmity, and malice.
An analogy from literature may help to clarify how hatred can be appreciated as deranged or perverted love. From Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings, we learn how the orcs were once elves, protectors and conservors, but having given themselves over to the ring of power they became perverted and deformed, becoming evil (or, perhaps better, sick). They are the image of nihilism and destructiveness, their physical deformities symbolically manifesting their spiritual perversion, being now lustful rather than loving. Tolkein himself referred to such displays of destructiveness and nihilism as “orcery”. The world of the orcs is a dark wasteland and a ruin, the physical manifestation of their inner spiritual deformity and nihilism, in which they even turn on that which they formerly loved, protected, and treasured — the forests.
We are far closer in our spiritual condition to that of the orcs than we are to the elves, in fact. And a conservatism which conserves nothing is falsehood; is, in fact, nihilism itself. Yet, Mr. Breivik calls himself “a conservative Christian” and probably truly believes it, even if his actions betray the lie and the deception he actually lives. For by his actions, rather than in his rhetoric, he destroyed, effaced, and devalued the very things he claimed to be “conserving”. His acts, in fact, remarkably mirror Nietzsche’s own description of nihilism: “all higher values devalue themselves”.
This dichotomisation of Being into radical dualisms is a delusion and is unsustainable. But it is now all too common at our “end of history”, and manifests as the present plague of hypocrisy. It belongs to sickness. It is the basic theme of Stevenson’s story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, which is somewhat the equivalent of Tolkein’s narrative of the elves and the origin of the orcs.
I’ve mentioned it before, and it’s worth mentioning again. We have our own “four riders of the apocalypse” at our end of history, and their names are Double-Talk, Double-Think, Double-Standard, and Double-Bind.
One of the things I wanted to mention above, but didn’t, is how “you become what you hate” is well illustrated in Breivik’s actions. “You are what you hate” or “you become what you hate” is the meaning of Nietzsche’s remark about going to fight “monsters”, but becoming one oneself.
Here’s how it plays out in Breivik’s case. His hatred of Muslims didn’t affect his declared admiration for Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda, and its effectiveness as a terror organisation. This he sought to emulate and mimic himself and for his new “Knights Templar” crusaders against all things wicked — Marxists, liberals, socialists, Muslims, feminists, etc — anything that didn’t resemble his own self-image (typically narcissistic). He appropriated as his own the very thing that he overtly claimed to despise and hate in the others, by which he became (or already was) that very thing which he despised and hated.
How, therefore, could he avoid self-hatred and self-loathing, too, except by hiving off that part of himself, denying its truth, and projecting it outwards — or vomiting it outwards — as being a psychic irritant? This “part” is what Jung calls “The Shadow” (the devil, or Dr. Jekyll’s Mr. Hyde). That’s where the scapegoat factor comes into play. What one truly is, but which truth must be denied absolutely to preserve the self-concept or self-image, becomes fixated and pinned externally onto someone who represents and comes to embody this hated and detested (but denied) aspect of oneself, and then liquidated as the very evil that one already is but now become “the Evil Other”.
I have found a copy of Breivik’s ridiculously long “manifesto”. It’s going to be a huge challenge for me to read a page of it and not be overcome with nausea.
Ah, well… I’m barely 13 pages into Breivik’s 1500 page manifesto and I’m already experiencing acute nausea and revulsion. The man is suffering from dementia, not that this is all that uncommon in our deranged times. A fantasist engaged (as reactionaries usually are) in a politics of nostalgia for an idyllic, conservative-style “politically correct” vice-free past that never even existed. In Breivik’s case, this was the 1950s (LOL). Brevik himself was born in 1979, so what he knows about the 50s can be only hearsay, rumour, what he’s seen in period movies, or his own fantasy — a time when people could walk to the ice-cream parlour without locking their doors. (Gee… how noble and profound a time!).
It’s a pathological politics of nostalgia, the return to which he willingly sacrificed as “necessary” the lives of 90 young people on his altar of human sacrifice, much like an Aztec priest cutting out the hearts of his victims to implore the return of the sun and to avert the end of the world.
He also claims that conservatism is not “ideological”, which is the biggest piece of bullshit and fraud being perpetrated on people today. Others are “ideological”, but real conservatives are not (so goes the twisted logic). It was the typical deceit and posture of the fascists, too, that their’s was also an ideology-free and transcendental politics, rooted in eternal and absolute values unsullied by a polluted worldly existence.
We can translate the meaning of that: reactionary conservatives have never felt obliged to be logically coherent or reasonable or to engage in dialogue. And it certainly shows in this piece of idiocy. It also shows in Canada’s PM Mr. Stephen Harper being charged with contempt of Parliament. No need to explain. No need for debate or dialogue. “I’m correct, and you’re not”.
Exceedingly difficult and powerful stuff you’ve been writing these last couple of days, and spot on. All I would add is a gentle reminder to take good care of your own spiritual hygiene while you go, in sufficient proportion to keep yourself healthy. I don’t want you to suffer.
don’t worry, misterdirk. But as you may know from this blog and the earlier TDAB, “counter-reactionary” is the one war-like and combatitive stance I allow myself, in lieu of any firm ideological commitments. Someone has to hold the ground and stand rear-guard while the future outruns “orcery” and the murderous vengefulness of the past. To be counter-reactionary is that task. Jean Gebser, in his own time, was constantly on the run from reactionaries, and with good reason, as the Oslo massacres demonstrate.
The path into the new structure of consciousness is no idyllic saunter through the park. It comes with grave dangers, like Dante’s journey through Hell. I’ve called that, earlier, “The Big Ugly”. I fully expected that something like Oslo would probably happen in due time, and I don’t think this is a one-off.
By the way… this “conservative Christian’s” gesture of slaughtering the children and the young at that summer camp on Utoeya Island was fully parallel to Harrod’s slaughter of the innocents, and for much the same reason. That’s becoming fairly clear from reading his manifesto. The intent was to “pre-empt” (he uses that word) the emergence of a future that was in contradiction with his reactionary nostalgic fantasies about an idyllic past destroyed by a collective conspiracy of Marxists/socialists/liberals/feminists/environmentalists/Muslims/homosexuals, etc. (I’ll have more to say about that seemingly mad conflation of existential threats later).
I absolutely concur. It’s imperative that we back-talk, even if they don’t understand the argument. That in itself carries meaning.
I can still hear W. I. Thompson, back in the 70s and 80s, foretelling that collectivization through terror would be the characteristic evil of our time as we experienced the phase shift to a planetary consciousness. His expectation was that the cultural transition from an amphictyony of nations to an enantiomorphic polity will not be peaceful or rational. As you observe, there will continue to be many for whom the transition is too much, and they’ll react violently. But the fact that these sort of catalytic reactions occur sort of serves to indicate that the phase shift is underway.
That’s interesting. I don’t recall having come across that aspect of Thompson’s thought before. Do you know if he set it down in a book somewhere? Evil and World Order perhaps?
My first encounter with it in written form was from Pacific Shift, and then various lectures and talks subsequently.