America Beneath the Asphalt

To get where you want to go, you have to come to grips with the reality of where you are and more importantly what you are. Such must be the starting point of any truly Post-Liberal project. The initial point of embarkation (and central problem) for the American of a reactionary stripe is the realization that he is an American. Thus, he is, by definition, a de facto enemy to his own sensibilities. This is an unpleasant and disquieting truth, yet it is a truth nonetheless.

There is no past (which is not a Liberal past) that the American can romanticize, no holy redoubt to retreat into. America is the only nation without a past; only the future lays before the American. Its ethos is the eschatology of the road, of the continual unfolding and violent conquering of a fertile frontier. When the American seeks the solace of a sacred grove he finds only the shade of the strip mall. The American Reactionary may set his spade to work in hopes of finding fertile soil somewhere beneath this endless superficiality, but his quest will only yield him asphalt. In America there is no soil to find beneath the asphalt, there is only more asphalt.

The United States itself was founded as an ideological laboratory experiment. The North American Continent, after its original inhabitants had been exterminated, served as the ideal blank canvas upon which to impress the violent fantasies of the European intelligentsia. Its endless natural resources and geographic impregnability served as a kind of blank check to the utopia builders of the Enlightenment, a Zion for the Godless.

Latent in the founders’ vision is the concept of Jean-Jacques Rousseau‘s “primitive man”: a creature born free, but everywhere enchained. For Rousseau, Society itself is ultimately evil and an imposition on and degradation of the individual’s inherent freedom. Which this individual had enjoyed in the dreamy, pre-civilizational fantasy Rousseau called “the state of nature.” In order to circumvent the “evils” of traditional society, with all its complicated pre-voluntarist allegiances and bonds, the Social Contract is devised. The Contract served as the framework from which individuals could maintain their personal freedom while also engaging in a new “Society,” one which would be entirely different from the old one.

The Contract is the lubricant which allows individuals to remain individuals while still enjoying some level of association. A mechanized caricature of actually existing, organic societies. The decaf coffee of social relations, a “thing” deprived of the very essential traits which constitute its own definition. It is the primary Utopian delusion, the desire for the “Object” (Society) minus the very characteristics (familial bonds of affection, pre-rational loyalties to place, or clan or God) which define the “Object,” in short: magical thinking.

It is this Rousseauian individual, enjoying the pre-fall liberty provided by the “state of nature” which animates all Liberal thinking, and thus by definition all truly American thinking. The individual, the atom, the irreducible remainder, is the prime symbol of American consciousness. The Master-Signifier of the American symbolic order. Whether manifested as Jefferson’s self-sufficient yeoman farmer, the romantic vision of a High Plains Drifter, an isolated prairie homestead, a heroic “up by his bootstraps” Randian entrepreneur, or the existential desperado embodied by James Dean. At bottom though, it is the ideology of Ferris Bueller, sage philosopher of modern America, who stated aphoristically that: “A person should not believe in an ‘ism,’ he should believe in himself.” There is no more succinct articulation of the base American ethos than this one.

This individual is the essence of the American project. To think otherwise is to practice self-deception. The virtue exhibited by the American people (chronicled so well by the likes of Alexis de Tocqueville) existed in spite of the American project, not because of it. Leftovers from a deeply ingrained European communitarian culture which tended to fade slowly over each successive generation. The truth, as the Leftist author Morris Berman pointed out while criticizing the self-delusions of his own side, was that:

The crux of the problem remains the American Dream: even “progressives” see it as the solution … when it’s actually the problem. … Endless material wealth based on individual striving is the American ideal.

This “American Dream” of ever increasing and unconstrained individual freedom, for which no price is too high to pay, is the heart and soul of American “civilization.” In this sense the American dream equates to a full embodiment of what Oswald Spengler called “the Faustian prime symbol” of “limitless space.”  The utter erasure and eradication of limits of any kind upon the sacred “liberty” of the individual. Is this not the driving force behind so many of our modern American pathologies? Manifested perhaps most clearly today in the Gnostic violence of “Transgenderism.” A movement which finds even the limits of biology itself as being unacceptable, limits it loathes and seeks to annihilate.

Furthermore, going beyond the standard critique of America as an intrinsically “Protestant” nation, is it indeed a coincidence that the only truly and fully “American” form of “Christianity” is not the faith of Martin Luther, John Calvin or the other Reformers, but rather that of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. Mormonism’s ultimate Telos isn’t salvation through Christ and unification with the Holy Trinity (which itself is united through bonds of self-giving love), but rather the exaltation of each individual into their own personal and isolated divinity. The eschatological hope of Mormonism is the transformation of each individual entity into an individual divinity, a divinity which knows no limits. In this strict sense, the faith held by the Mormon people explicitly is identical to the one maintained implicitly by the American people.

This Individualism is the asphalt of the American Spirit, which like the turtles of the unmoved mover paradox, go “all the way down.” Thus there is no going back to some pre-Liberal  “constitutional republic,” dreamt of by so many naive conservatives. There is no soil beneath the asphalt of the American Spirit, only more asphalt… all the way down. We are, as Spengler so eloquently described us:

The mad Lear between fool and reckless outcast on the heath, in the night and the storm, the unutterably lonely ego lost in space — here is the Faustian life-feeling!

Having arrived at the truth about ourselves which, however unpleasant and problematic, still remains the truth. We now can begin the task of moving forward with the project of reclaiming and inhabiting a living tradition. Surrendering our vicious Gnostic fantasies of individual transcendence and instead embracing the soil of immanence. This feat can only be accomplished after the negation of its opposite: the American Dream and the Faustian Spirit which dreamt it. Any Reactionary or Post-Liberal future will by necessity, even if it is still geographically located in North America, cease to be truly “American.” To be Post-Liberal is to be de facto Post-American, whether one wishes to be or not. No other way forward is possible. There is no soil beneath the asphalt.

P.T. Carlo

14 thoughts on “America Beneath the Asphalt

  1. I really enjoyed this article as it is line with many of my own views of my country. However there is a real pessimism that I don’t entirely agree with.

    The idea that “there is no soil beneath the asphalt” is ludicrous, America’s roots are in its agrarian social order that existed prior to World War II. The statement may hold ground in the case of urban and suburban dystopias scattered across the nation, where most of the news is focussed on. But the reality is that huge swathes of America are rural and there is lots of uncultivated land held as collateral by the Federal government.

    There is much “soil” so to speak and America can only realize the potential of a post-Liberal society by returning to the land. You seem to think this is a Faustian ideal of limitless space, but in fact we still have lots of space! If people were incentivized to cultivate land and raise a family where they could pass the land on for generations, only then would a serious cultural identity be formed. The true problem lies in nomadic individualism, the idea that one can just pack up and drive on the highway until they find another city then repeat the process every few years.

  2. Indeed, the greatest problem for 3rd/4th generation Americans is that we have neither the traditions of our immigrant predecessors nor significant bond to the land. Despite my “American” ancestors all living and settling in the same area, it still does not feel like home beyond a superficial level. If you add the immense size of the continent and the seeming necessity for people to move across the country to work, few of us have meaningful roots. The ones who do (the descendants of the early settlers) only have a Liberal and Revolutionary past as you mention. The only refuge is religion; that has also been Americanized/Liberalized for the most part, and you have to dig quite deep to unearth the tradition therein. I hope for Balkanization and the development of various “ethnicities” since that seems like the only way to redeem America from its terrible history.

  3. It is sad how the descendants of many of the European immigrant ethnicities have lost their heritage in the melting point that is America.

    I think one of the ethnicities that have not done this are the Poles. They still preserve a great deal of their culture–as anyone who has been to Chicago can attest.

  4. Read the first paragraph, and didn’t see any sense in reading further. America wasn’t designed to be a mixed-race, hedonistic, communist state. It was founded on Godly principles, by virtuous men seeking self-rule. They had become disconnected from England and in need of their own country.

    The democracy experiment failed, which many of our founders feared that it would. That doesn’t mean that there is nothing about America’s heritage to salvage. Our founders’ vision of a free nation composed of virtuous men was good. The problem was allowing the mob to determine governmental policy and leaders. In time, the base, materialistic values of the masses overtook the nation, and is now destroying it.

    An American resurgence is possible. We don’t have to erase our history and heritage. In fact, that would be traitorous and disgusting. We need to revisit our founders’ vision armed with the knowledge that democracy leads to what those noble aristocrats feared.

      1. Actually i suspect there is a foundational problem with America at its origins. It allowed for each man to rule by his own lights thus the idea of logos derived from tradition, natural law and scripture was logically going to be rooted out over time. Toqueville saw the materialism in the country in its earliest stages, having stated he had never encountered a people of such a materialistic bent. What we see today is only the logic trajectory of Americas founding assumptions taken to their extreme conclusions. America is actually founded on heresy.

  5. I think when it comes to ‘Liberty’ in the American context, it was originally largely to do with the individual’s connection with the state rather than a sense of all encompassing ‘individualism’ in a cultural sense. I think Dubbi is rather correct in his assertion. I feel as if this article is throwing out the baby with bathwater

  6. This article sure raises some tough questions- so tough they’d be fully worthy of some esoteric mystic of old to contemplate.

    I think a key point of Spengler’s was that, however paradoxical or even ludicrous it might seem, asphalt *is* the true soil of Faustian man, who is at his most perfectly rooted when trying to uproot himself, and would be so radically alienated from his own true Nature if he tried to do anything else that he would necessarily sink to the level of a brainless vegetable as a result. Any “post-American” culture will entail descent into a White negritude (what Spengler called a “fellahin” culture); arguably, the beginnings of this are appearing already.

    1. Now this is a great comment! The Roots of Faustian man, much like the asphalt of the American spirit, run all the way down. Unlike many others in the Reactosphere, i’m much more skeptical of the entire Western project in general and question whether there is any future for it that is not inherently Faustian. Dugin’s take on this is the best (and was my inspiration for the article) and can be found here:

      The solutions he proposes for Americans are probably the best place to start as far as i’m concerned.

      1. In light of Spengler and Dugin, it’s probably a good idea to emphasize that North Americans are Faustian first and foremost, not liberal or reactionary or whatever; on this continent, we are all Faustian now. It’s an irony of history, for example, that Canada was actually founded by a coalition of throne-and-altar reactionaries who rejected the American Revolution, but today has nothing to show for its anti-liberal heritage other than the Gothic architecture of the Parliament buildings and a few less criminal homicides each year, and in some ways is even more far gone than the USA. And it does seem that a lot of what’s being proposed in the Reactosphere would, if implemented, take society even farther down the modernist and Faustian road instead of taking it back, e.g. if the new Reaction succeeds in formalizing all political relations and abolishing the last vestiges of Brahminism- and we all hope it will- then the society of the future will be even more estranged from its Indo-European roots than it is already. Again, all of this raises the toughest of tough questions.

        1. Yes to all of this. While I do admire a lot of what NRx has done and is proposing, frequently what many are proposing is doubling down on the Faustian project (the emphasis on Techno-Futurism for instance, the rhetoric of returning the West to Greatness etc). I understand this and even respect it. Spengler himself was, in a way, quite fond of the Faustian Man. But ultimately, I am convinced, the self destructive nature of his quest is untenable and will lead (is leading) to self annihilation. A Post-Faustian future will require either a kind of conversion to another Tradition, or attempting to start over literally from scratch. No easy answers, but important questions

  7. Great, except that you got your Mormon theology wrong; Mormonism’s individualist bent is a symptom of its American origin, not of its theology. One of the great projects of Mormonism is the “sealing” of all mankind to Christ, and to each other.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s