If you haven’t noticed, I find that viewing the struggle between traditional and modern society through the lens of the established versus the pioneering spirit to be a useful exercise which can highlight commonly lost or forgotten aspects of the conflict. Here I will try to expound a little further on the concept of established society, which as far as I know was first introduced by John Crowe Ransom in his excellent 1930 essay Reconstructed but Unregenerate (compiled in the Southern agrarian manifesto I’ll Take My Stand). I’ll start with Mr. Ransom himself:
“I have in mind here the core of unadulterated Europeanism, with is self-sufficient, backward-looking, intensely provincial communities. The human life of English provinces long ago came to terms with nature, fixed its roots somewhere in the spaces between the rocks and in the shade of the trees, founded its comfortable institutions, secured its modest prosperity-and then willed the whole in perpetuity to the generations which should come after, in the ingenuous confidence that it would afford them all the essential human satisfactions. For it is the character of a seasoned provincial life that it is realistic, or successfully adapted to its natural environment, and that as a consequence it is stable, or hereditable. But it is the character of our urbanized, anti-provincial, progressive, and mobile American life that it is in a condition of eternal flux. Affections, and long memories, attach to the ancient bowers of life in the provinces; but they will not attach to what is always changing.”
Ransom posits that when the New World was settled, the Virginia and Carolina colonists built their new culture based on European cultural principles, transitioning from a pioneering society to an established society as soon as it was practicable. English, Scottish, and Irish, they recognized the quality of the land for agrarianism and tailored society towards achieving a peaceful balance with nature, taking cues from the homely English farming communities from which they came. Ransom goes on to say:
“It is the European intention to live materially along the inherited line of least resistance, in order to put the surplus of energy into the free life of the mind…
In most societies man has adapted himself to environment with plenty of intelligence to secure easily his material necessities from the graceful bounty of nature. And then, ordinarily, he concludes a truce with nature, and he and nature seem to live on terms of mutual respect and amity, and his loving arts, religions, and philosophies come spontaneously into being: these are the blessings of peace.”
As history shows, the early Southern colonists were quite successful. By the time the War came, the South was in many ways more Southern than ever before, as pressure from the North hardened and insulated the fledgling nation rather than splintering it. Economically, the 1860 South ranked fourth in the world despite an almost anti-capitalist economic system. The South alone produced the majority, and the best, of the early US political leadership. Serious internal turmoil was almost nonexistent. Perhaps the War was the best testament to the strength of Southern society, as in a matter of months a population of six million built a government and fed and mobilized an army in the midst of a powerful blockade; and in a exceptionally violent struggle against a nation of 22 million impressed the world with the sacrifices its soldiers and civilians made in the name of their way of life.
Of course, up North things turned out a little differently. Mr. Ransom again:
“But the latter-day societies have been seized-none quite so violently as our American one- with the strange idea that the human destiny is not to secure an honorable peace with nature, but to wage an unrelenting war on nature. Men, therefore, determine to conquer nature to a degree which is quite beyond reason so far as specific human advantage is concerned, and which enslaves them to toil and turnover. Man is boastfully declared to be a natural scientist essentially, whose strength is capable of crushing and making over to his own desires the brute materiality which is nature; but in his infinite contention with this materiality he is really capitulating to it. His engines transform the face of nature – a little – but when they have been perfected, he must invent new engines that will perform even more heroically.”
To put it plainly, the pioneering spirit was not simply used and then put away in the North. It was declared to be an end in itself, instead of only a means to an established society. Any good Rightist should be able to recognize this plant – or at least the seed which produces it:
“Deracination in our Western life is the strange discipline which individuals turn upon themselves, enticed by the blandishments of such fine words as Progressive, Liberal, and Forward-looking. The progressivist says in effect: Do not allow yourself to feel homesick; form no such powerful attachments that you will feel a pain in cutting them loose; prepare your spirit to be always on the move. According to this gospel, there is no rest for the weary, not even in heaven.”
We know now, as Mr. Ransom postulated, that the everlasting pioneering society ends up simultaneously chasing its own tail while grinding down any opposition in its path. Leftism cannot flourish without the pioneering spirit. Progressives need a mobilized populace to accomplish their aim of destroying the bonds that hold societies together. They introduce ethnic and cultural diversity, class warfare, and give political power to as many as possible. They take away a person’s role and give him a purpose. A great mass of people who feel they have a purpose can then be gently “guided” to charge any hill the puppet master wishes. Very few people in America today can even fathom what living in an established society is like, because the pioneer spirit has been in control of mainstream American society in full since 1865. Even the few pockets of the established culture left must exist as ever-diminishing holdouts, isolated and constantly under siege.
Clearly, the pioneering spirit isn’t bad in and of itself. Pioneers are necessary to explore and settle new areas, overcome obstacles, and defeat enemies. Indeed, those of us on the Right should feel free to consider ourselves pioneers; we are pioneering with a specific end goal in mind, pioneering as a means, rather than as an end. Herein lies the difference between Rightist and Leftist positive action. To protect ourselves from crossing this line, we turn to Julius Evola’s concept of the “worldview”:
“In every civilization but the modern one, it was a ‘worldview’ and not a ‘culture’ that permeated the various strata of society; where culture and conceptual thought were present, they never enjoyed primacy, for their function was as simple expressive means and organs in service of the worldview…
‘Culture’ in the modern sense ceases to be a danger only when those who deal with it already have a worldview. Only then will an active relationship toward it be possible, because one will already have an inner form enabling him to discern confidently what may be assimilated and what should be rejected—more or less as happens in all the differentiated processes of organic assimilation.” [Emphasis added.]
In crushing the Southern agrarian worldview, the Yankee pioneering spirit removed the major obstacle preventing its spread into the South, and thus we see more clearly the necessary antidote. We can work either to replace the current pioneering culture with our deposed but surviving worldview, which is uniquely suited to our people and our land; or come up with an entirely new worldview and somehow effectively promulgate it among a people renowned for being resistant to new ideas. I believe the former is our only viable option for the survival of our people.