The wind blew out from Bergen from the dawning to the day,
There was a wreck of trees and fall of towers a score of miles away,
And drifted like a livid leaf I go before its tide,
Spewed out of house and stable, beggared of flag and bride.
The heavens are bowed about my head, shouting like seraph wars,
With rains that might put out the sun and clean the sky of stars,
Rains like the fall of ruined seas from secret worlds above,
The roaring of the rains of God none but the lonely love.
Feast in my hall, O foemen, and eat and drink and drain,
You never loved the sun in heaven as I have loved the rain.
–GK Chesterton, The Last Hero
This is a developing discussion, of which I feel a great need to take part. As a reactionary-without-portfolio I often find myself in between differing extremes in Outer Right opinion. On the one hand, the concept of Exit is sometimes considered to be “post libertarian” ephemera, which is just a byword for “crypto libertarian” or “insufficiently reactionary”. This is a way of saying it is an idea that does not belong to our Thede or Folk or Religion; foreign and verboten. In this case, we have more of “being in the service of the ideas of foreigners.” Given the recent history of information warfare (Alex Jones’ Infowars site specializes in creating poisonous rumors to insinuate their worldview into the common consciousness) it is not an unwise criticism.
On the other hand, we have among actual Libertarians such an extreme position on Exit as to view it a good over all other goods (see Slate Star Codex’s archipelago.) That logic may lead to a perverse place: A world of quasi-sovereigns that cannot prevent people from leaving their own borders, but where no one can exit the greater entity. This issue is typical of monomania – without another balancing principle, trying to maximize the desired thing often results in negating it. Take for instance the current movement for sexual liberation: in order for some to maximize their own sexual liberation they must by definition restrict the liberation of others (in this case, women->men.) It is the strange idea of ‘guaranteeing’ exit that creates the distortion; this is like if Gideons put Bibles everywhere thinking they could guarantee each person access to Jesus Christ. Even if this were true, this access might be to their condemnation, not to their salvation. Imagine a man who has just murdered someone going into a hotel and finding the bible, then reading Revelation. Maximizing one good at the expense of others decreases overall goodness.
Exit must be rationalized in relation to other principles, or it becomes insane. The former position (of Exit as foreign idea) is treating exit as a form of groupthink – groupthink is notoriously opaque and useless to members outside of the group. Indeed, even higher versions of this kind of base parroting in the form of traditional mythos and ideals are often incompatible with other systems. The safest position is to regard all foreign objects with suspicion and maintain a clear distinction of identity between them and similar — possibly identical — objects that are not foreign.
The latter is another step along the line of ‘everything is my new love’ style of thinking. This is a notoriously R-selected style of thinking, where instead of trying to figure out how to maximize one’s overall understanding of the world, where it is going, and what one’s experience and knowledge already possessed mean, it searches for the new way to satisfy an urge. This urge may be the ‘a hah!’ (relief of puzzlement, per Polanyi) urge, the urge to be correct, to reify or reverse certain others and so on. For a civilizational form of thinking, one located far from the world of TED talks, new things do need to be approached cautiously. As my mother puts it, “You must protect your experience.”
Before we even begin further discussion of exit, it is safe to say that any view which does not seriously view it as a necessity for any kind of future reactionary regime (both Don Colacho and Julius Evola implicitly acknowledge this in their apolitea in regards to the current socio-political order) is not being realistic. What kind of exit we mean, however, is the whole point of this discussion. Exit does not merely mean, “my human right to take my capital somewhere else,” though that is not excluded in principle. (We may end up discovering however, that that idea, as the particular most-libertarian concept of Exit, turns out also to be the most untenable and useless.)
Exit is first a foremost the concept of renunciation. At its heart, it means to leave; the surest way to establish boundaries is to withdraw to a defensible point. Note that from a position of strength, exit is unnecessary; but reactionaries are NOT, and have not in a long time been in a position of strength. This was recognized by both Don Colacho and Julius Evola, and aside from populist strains of reaction, it is acknowledged that a form of withdrawal is essential to a reactionary sensibility in the Modern world.
On the one hand, Exit is feared by the Cathedral because it knows that if enough reactionaries gain strength, they will indeed take back what they believe is theirs (this was part of what got the CSA in trouble and why Eurasianism is so demonized) and this is not an impossible option. Exit itself does not preclude the exiting party from later on deciding that it wants to annex its now weaker neighbor in some fashion. The Amish (who are not, in general, reactionary) preclude this possibility through pacifism, and so they are able to operate somewhat freely within the Cathedral despite having disconnected themselves from its cultural ephemera. The basic Amish approach is ‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the land.’ Their religion overall is not unlike other Judaized forms of Christendom (Anabaptism, Mennonitism, Quakerism, etc) and is so on a basic level very compatible with the Cathedral. Despite this, they have also taken some very reactionary social positions that would, if they were much larger in population or substantially right-wing (like these guys) cause the Cathedral to step on them hard.
There are some that argue that I cannot call what the CSA did ‘exit’ – but in fact it was nothing other than that. The South renounced the North and went home. Now exit itself does not, as I said, preclude the exiting party from engaging in state-to-state geopolitics, and a wise exiting party will use political pressure to prevent its enemy from acting on it when it is weaker, and to prevent its enemy from defending itself when it is stronger. Russia has been very wise in this regard (so far) in realigning parts of Ukraine with itself over time. Ukraine having a rather open policy towards Russian immigration during that period sealed its fate in this soft power war. (Note: this means we have probably, realistically, lost segments of the United States for a time to Mexican demographic warfare. But Exit does not preclude us from later taking them back.)
On the other hand, the Cathedral fears Exit because outside of Slate Star Codex’s ‘benevolent universal exit daemon’ (Let’s call him Choronzon) it has no way of digesting it (and even his formulation is mostly indigestable.)
In theory, to exit means to admit weakness in some fashion. Not merely to say one is weak, in a show of humility, but to actually display behavior patterns revealing weakness. From the perspective of a certain warrior ethos this is completely unacceptable; this warrior ethos of course was unable, historically, to prevail on its own and was eventually overcome by superior tactics that, for instance, allow you to make a strategic retreat when in an inferior position. In this case, to retreat in this fashion shows a greater strength – the strength of the mastery over action. Great battles were not won merely by refusing to retreat against impossible odds; those battles were lost, albeit memorably.
Mastery in action then, would be displayed by knowing when to retreat and when to attack; or when to exit and when to enter. It is not the case that a superior group is omnilaterally superior, but a wise or lucky enemy may get that group in a position which favors it despite its general inferiority. The Art of War is much concerned with the practice of gaining advantage against a superior foe on the one hand, and on the other, ensuring advantage is preserved against an inferior foe. At the root of the philosophy of strength alone is a form of fatalism: if we are in a situation where we must retreat to not be defeated, it was our fate to be defeated for to retreat is to falter in our courage. This form of moral rectitude is important but is not everything; an ethical principle that excludes any kind of withdrawal also precludes genuine self-reflection in the same way a greedy algorithm cannot retrace its steps to possibly further maximize its value. In short, the bullheaded warrior may miss his greatest chance at courage by refusing to strategically retreat. This determination is an essential value and its elucidation in works such as Beowulf are of immeasurable value; but its fatalism must be tempered with discretion. Life does not exist only for me to attain glory. This position does, however tell us how to behave when there is no exit; the position beautifully described in Chesterton’s poem The Last Hero. (above)
That being said, exit is not itself a virtue or a religious principle. (If anything, it is a facet of freedom of action/will) Thus we do not hold to the idea that ‘exiting to enter’ is perverse, where we might say that ‘being courageous so you can later be cowardly’ would be. Entering to exit is also acceptable, but like other geopolitical strategies, you would wish to ensure it was not used against you, as Mexicans have been using it against us at the behest of various deep-pocketed members of the demos.
The ideal situation would be one where no one needed to use exit to enter or enter to exit at all, but your position regarding these things is and should always be that you wish to be the one employing them and not being on the receiving end of them. Kant’s world of morals which can be known by universal application is not itself a universal world; it is a world that can only exist in a world that was once pacified from war, secured from banditry and insurrection, established in a predictable form of law, and relaxed from the mindset of unrelenting conflict. In short, in places where Christendom had been most successful (though other examples exist). Outside of this world, Kant’s rules do not apply; and neither strength nor cunning can avail but a combination of the two. Asymmetry is the rule, and order begins with orderly asymmetry.
To this end, Exit is a utility belt of options, all of which obey the principle of strategic retreat from a weaker position to a stronger position. A protected Twitter account follows this basic principle; exiting from public discourse and thus the ability for anyone to catch wind of your words and try to persecute you on account of them. Anonymity on the internet is another form of Exit, in which you have strategically retreated from being connected with your online actions, and thus putting you in the position to better protect your physical and fiscal assets, as well as your family and friends. One needn’t do all of these things, but almost everyone you know does at least one of them. An internet without Exit better be in your control and better stay in your control; and if you can’t get off the internet if it isn’t… well, you see what the nightmare of No Exit is.
The key principle or idea which connects us to Exit is Exit over Voice. Exit over Voice says, more or less, that you should value your ability to Exit in some fashion over your ability to decide or influence decisions within an order by voice. More specifically this formulation applies to sovereigns, but it is already implicitly respected elsewhere. The idea is that – in terms of affection – if people almost universally prefer exit over voice, it is the end of democracy, and a world such as Moldbug’s patchwork becomes possible.
It should be recognized that some things cannot be exited from (or not without enormous cost.) One reason Exit is not itself the goal is because unlimited Exit is untenable. Consider that water can be moved easily from location to location by flowing. Either the case where the water is totally boxed in (no exit) or completely uncontained (spilling on the ground) is unuseful and loses its freedom of action. The water must be contained but also be able to flow. Exit is that flow.
So for example, one cannot Exit from one’s sex or race or species. But like the pipe, the principle of it being fixed in one direction is what allows it to give the water a means to escape in another direction. Foolishness about freedom develops from seeing water flow out of an enclosure for the first time and mistaking water being unrestrained itself being the principle which allows water to be moved about. If one may exit in all directions, one can either do nothing, or be totally dispersed. The Enlightenment, in removing some restrictions on people imposed by tradition, found it productive, but proceeding generations tried to repeat this experiment with diminishing gains and increased negative externalities. Simply looking at freedom as a metaphysical species of physical flow is sufficient to disabuse one of this error.
Thus in recognizing freedom to exit we also recognize a restraint from exit – in the form of tradition and existential constants. It would appear, therefore, that in trying to liberate men from ‘all’ restraints, what is really happening is an attempt to completely curtail man’s freedom entirely, as pouring a cistern over an empty space would not permit the water keep moving with strength but disperse it and make it of no effect. You will notice that the same people that promote free immigration and libertine policies are very intolerant of the degradations which their altruism engenders among their own communities. Feminists are all jumping to create ‘safe spaces’ for their own preferred set of restraints and freedoms. Each realizes that restraints are necessary, but Progressive ideology prevents them from sanely formulating these restraints.
The principle of political level Exit resolves this contradiction by either leaving (if it does not have the power to do otherwise) or offering the other a choice: conform or exit. Secession and reorganization are fair ways to implement this, though those in power (big money, academics, G8 members) will be fain to let their power go. However, many of these aspects of the Cathedral are in some fashion paper tigers, since democracy favors over time the appearance of power over the realization of it. The latter (real power) cannot change with the winds of opinion and is often messy and ugly in execution. This means that even as major exit is not possible now due to disorganization or lack of capable fellow travelers, it is also not yet possible as many of these forces still have strength in them. If they do not turn their ideology around quickly they may still have technological advantages (drone armies) but little will to make great use of them. Both processes are not inevitable, but seem likely provided people pursue the paths they are currently pursuing, even barring fairly significant changes. Therefore, even as major exit will become a possibility on the ground, in the air (or so to speak) it will as well.
Even further, Exit as a way of thinking is determining ways in which one can in effect stop contributing to a system one abhors. In this, even the ultra-liberal hippies had a reactionary idea; it is telling that few of that generation held to that value but instead quickly modified their thinking to allow themselves to join back into the society they supposedly found abhorrent. Right-wing tactics do not work for the left.
To that end, the more valuable you are (to the system), the more likely it is that your exit will be resisted. This value exists only in perception, therefore it is of utmost importance to make oneself appear worthless (to the system). The final measure of this perceived value is this: If you decide to leave, will they let you go? The American left talks about flyover country like it is worthless, but would they allow Texas to secede if it wanted to? No. So don’t trust their words, look at their actions. And if you are only using your exit as a threat to gain more voice, you’re not using exit, you’re using voice. In that case, you’ve already lost The Game. In the United States, to exit the highway means, in nearly all cases, to turn right.
This article was originally published at The Mitrailleuse.