Yeats' line from The Second Coming, "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity" is interesting to ponder in our current situation. How often do moral certainty and authentic moral substance coincide in human history?

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Apr 18, 2022Liked by Angela Nagle

Your discussion of moral confidence magnifies a tension in my own thinking--seemingly caught forever between belief and non-belief.

You state "Maybe the Nietzcheans are right and this is all some Christian bug that entered the software a long time ago." A part of me thinks this might be true.

There was a group of comments after the Kingsnorth essay "Kill all the Heroes," that have stuck with me and relate to your essay. Jack Leahy argued that, he, in some important ways agreed with decontructionists like Nietzsche that a fatal decision of the ruling intellectual classes of the West was the adoption of a will-to-power ethos--rather than the teachings of Christ.

To what extent can good intentions (what I take as a portion of moral confidence) also be a will to power?

On the other hand to what extent, if any, can human beings arrive at spontaneous moral judgments? Is there anything like a pre-cultural conscience independent of conventional morality or religion along the lines of what thinking appeared to be for Kant.

Are cultural checks and balances forever fleeting and fragile?

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I think what you're describing on the right in the U.S. is a counter-fervor that was predicted passively since ~2014 ("all this PC stuff is going to trigger a backlash one day" etc. etc.)- but never took shape in a decisive way. Even Trump was more of a generalized, personality-driven phenomenon. Cults of personality are one thing, but movements centered on genuine conviction on something like protecting kids- that's another story. And unlike the mostly fabricated Satanic Panic, people like Chris Rufo and accounts like LibsOfTikTok are just constantly providing actual examples from classrooms, boardrooms, textbooks, and on and on and on.

It certainly has the potential to become its own fanatical force, even after a decisive electoral victory this November and probably in 2024. In which case, like you, I'd get uneasy and uncomfortable as well.

But it could also lead to the very period of peace and cultural detente you refer to. We've already been dealing with moral fanatics for the past decade. Perhaps the only thing that could wash them away was oppositional fanaticism around a particular Achilles heel that more measured, careful types wouldn't have found or exploited.

Besides, after years of "Come on guys, we're going too far, you're only hurting the causes you care about!", very reasonable articles and books, and very concerned letters in Harper's Magazine that have done...almost nothing... maybe this is what needed to happen. I'm resigned to it at this point. Let's get it over with.

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