The term ‘chronic kinglessness‘ is apparently a coinage of Curtis Yarvin, better known as the NeoRx guru, Mencius Moldbug. In this thought-provoking post from Free Northerner, we are told that the idea of ‘chronic kinglessness’ comes from Thomas Carlyle, though I haven’t found that exact term attributed to him, but whatever its source, the subject is an interesting one, and very apposite to our time.
The blog piece quotes from a British MP, Rory Stuart, in an interview from 2014, in which Stuart says that the dire political situation in his country (and the rest of the world, apparently) is due to the fact that no one has any real power.
“But in our situation we’re all powerless. I mean, we pretend we’re run by people. We’re not run by anybody. The secret of modern Britain is there is no power anywhere.” Some commentators, he says, think we’re run by an oligarchy. “But we’re not. I mean, nobody can see power in Britain. The politicians think journalists have power. The journalists know they don’t have any. Then they think the bankers have power. The bankers know they don’t have any. None of them have any power.
[…]It’s like the wizard of Oz. This is the age of the wizard of Oz, you know. In the end you get behind the curtain and you finally meet the wizard and there’s this tiny, frightened figure. I think every prime minister has sort of said this since Blair. You get there and you pull the lever, and nothing happens.”
This, says the blog piece, is chronic kinglessness.
The blogger postulates that there really is no one in effective charge. The problem, he says, is not one of a world run by a cabal or an oligarchy of faceless men, a huge far-reaching conspiracy, as many of us believe, but of there being a vacuum at the center — insofar as there is a center.
It’s an interesting thought, especially for those of us who have spent so much time and who have written so many words over the years analyzing or opining or speculating about the cause of the rampant madness in the world.
It would be an almost comforting thought, in a way, to believe that to be the case. And I am willing to entertain that possibility if only because it would be preferable to believe that it is a ‘Wizard of Oz’ scenario, in which whoever is at the center is just a big humbug (as ‘Oz the Great’ said he was) or just an inept and insecure little man (or group of men) hiding behind a show of power and bluster. If only that were known to be the case.
I can’t say it might not be true. But let’s just suppose for the moment that it is true. What then? How do we rectify the situation, as we are about to careen off the cliff in a driverless, brakeless vehicle?
I can’t do justice to the essay here but I encourage you to read it in its entirety.
I will say that I agree with many points made by the writer, but I tend to agree with the commenter NZT, who says, among other things, that this apparent lack of power is often just a cover for lack of will to do certain things, whether for political or ideological reasons — or just for reasons of sloth and ineptitude, or even malice. The question raised about lack of action by the administration on behalf of the kidnapped girls in Africa, taken captive by Boko Haram, was probably an example of a show of concern being made for political (PC) reasons, but lack of real commitment to do anything. In our corrupt world, showing ‘good intentions’, or virtue signalling, too often stand in for actual caring and ‘compassion.’ What one does means less than saying the ‘right’ things, or the politically correct things. Even for presidents.
And in connection with this question of ‘who is in charge’, who holds the real power, and how does one obtain legitimacy to exercise power, I immediately thought of the writings of Étienne de La Boétie, whose work Discourse on Voluntary Servitude I excerpted years ago on the old blog. Among the main points of that work was that tyranny was always made possible by the acquiescence of the populace. Of the tyrant, he wrote:
“[H]e has indeed nothing more than the power that you confer upon him to destroy you. Where has he acquired enough eyes to spy upon you, if you do not provide them yourselves? How can he have so many arms to beat you with, if he does not borrow them from you? The feet that trample down your cities, where does he get them if they are not your own? How does he have any power over you except through you? How would he dare assail you if he had no cooperation from you? What could he do to you if you yourselves did not connive with the thief who plunders you, if you were not accomplices of the murderer who kills you, if you were not traitors to yourselves?
[…](Y)ou can deliver yourselves if you try, not by taking action, but merely by willing to be free. Resolve to serve no more, and you are at once freed. I do not ask that you place hands upon the tyrant to topple him over, but simply that you support him no longer; then you will behold him, like a great Colossus whose pedestal has been pulled away, fall of his own weight and break in pieces.”
It may be that Rory Stuart, the Tory MP who was quoted at the beginning of this post, is engaging in some deceit himself, attempting to deflate all the ‘tinfoil hat conspiracy theories’ that are out there, attempting — as we’ve read of paid operatives doing on the Internet — to discredit those who point to what is going on under our noses, and those who see patterns at work.
Who knows? It is certainly something to ponder, though it seems as if there is little time to philosophize, as things rapidly build to — what?