What is Civilization?

This morning while getting ready for work I listened to a fascinating discussion between Milo Yiannopoulos and “groypers” Steven Franssen and Vincent James.  I don’t know much about Franssen and James, other than that they are fairly prominent figures on the Dissident Right, but the discussion (which is available at Censored.TV to subscribers—I highly recommend forking over the $10 a month for a subscription) covered a broad range of topics, from 9/11 to the future of America and traditionalism.

Out of that far-ranging discussion came a brief debate between Milo and his guests near the end of the exchange.  The gist of it boiled down to the question “what is civilization?”  Milo’s contention—an interesting one—is that by abandoning our cities, we are, essentially, abandoning our greatest cultural products:  our art, our architecture, our institutions.  These cultural artifacts took the blood, sweat, toil, and ingenuity of the American people to build, so we’re capitulating to the Leftist mobs when we flee our cities instead of fighting for them.

In true Milo fashion, it’s a compellingly contrarian argument:  why surrender what we fought so hard to build?  I am a big advocate of normal, decent folks abandoning the cities in search of a better life in the country (to the point I think we should consider subsidizing families in rural areas), but makes a strong case.  If we want to preserve our heritage, we shouldn’t hand it over to looters.

Franssen and James, however, made a strong counterpoint:  yes, we built up the cities, but they stopped being ours—that is, heritage and assimilated Americans who bought into the vision of the United States and its ideals—decades ago.  The cultural products they create are not the works of God-fearing Americans advancing a people and a continent; they are the products of Third World migrants and limousine Leftists who hate America.  The various BLM “street murals” are a testament to this divide artistically.

In other words, Americans who flee violence, high taxes, racial strife, and godlessness in the cities aren’t just making a prudent decision for their own safety; they’re not really abandoning anything worth preserving.  Franssen and James used the example of modern art:  much of it is sheer garbage (sometimes literally), crass, postmodern, Truth-less ugliness.  The art cities produce and subsidize is intentionally “trangressive” (to the point that to paint something actually beautiful and worthy of the term “art” would be the real transgression), rather than aspiring to the ideal of Beauty.

It’s an exchange worth chewing over.  My own sympathies in this particular instance rest with Franssen and James:  the cities are a wash, and we might as well try building our own culture in our small towns and rural areas.

As I wrote in “Civilization is Worth It,” “get out there and compose some sonatas.  Civilization is worth it!”  What’s preventing us from doing so in small towns?  Many artistic geniuses started in rural areas.  Indeed, the greatest literary giants of Americas first two centuries overwhelming came from the rural South:  Thomas Jefferson, William Faulkner, Edgar Allen Poe, Tennessee Williams, Flannery O’Connor, and on and on.

But Milo has a point.  Many a rural genius—along with his work—has faded into obscurity and oblivion because the countryside doesn’t offer the infrastructure and opportunities of the big city.  Any musician really looking to “make it” will, at one point, have to go to—shudder—Los Angeles (although even that is changing, and musicians are increasingly able to earn a tidy sum simply plugging away from their homes).  New York City—wretched hive of scum and villainy that it is—is still alive with the energy of creative expression.

Ultimately, one miraculous (if double-edged) product of modern civilization—the Internet—makes it possible for anyone, anywhere to reach an audience and to build some small bit of civilization.  That’s the premise behind my essay “High-Tech Agrarianism” (additional commentary here).  With the ability to work and create anywhere, why suffer the turmoil and division of the cities?  The countryside makes for a welcome reprieve.

That said, Milo is wise:  at some point, we must “wheel and fight.”  Today, the Left dominates the cities, because we didn’t fight to protect them when we could.  Diffused across the vast stretches of rural America, it will take that much more effort to preserve our traditions and heritage away from the city centers.  The Leftists won’t stop until we all bend the knee—or we’re dead.

If we don’t resist them here and now, we won’t be able to resist it later.

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2 thoughts on “What is Civilization?

  1. […] “What is Civilization?” – This post dealt with a lively discussion between Milo and a couple of groypers, Steve Franssen and Vincent James, about the future of civilization.  It’s an intriguing debate about whether or not abandoning the cities to progressive destroyers represents an abandonment of civilization itself (my answer would be no). […]


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