Monday, October 24, 2016

In praise of Milo Yiannopoulos

Dear Hannah,

I'll admit upfront that I hated Milo at first.  Something about the way he treated fat women.  He made himself too much of an ass, taking the issue too far and turning it into something personal -- something regrettable by anyone who has an overweight mother or a sister.  I'll admit the people against "fat shaming" are really against health and beauty and taste, and thus deserve every ounce of what they get from him.  But the overweight? They're only overweight; and if they look terrible in bikinis, they often make up for it with what we refer to as a personality*.

This obvious fact needs to be said simply because it's controversial to say; and the truth is men like Milo come across as extremists because we are the extremists.  In fact all of us think the things he says and he's the only one who says it.  We came up with a rule and the rule said "everyone should feel good about the way he looks."  Milo looks horrible but the truth is we're all liars.  Fat people don't get laid and they die early but we feel good about ourselves -- for lying. 

But when a man says something both horrible and true, he still runs the risk of being told that he's horrible; and each of us, even if we agree with the things that he says, still find ourselves cringing as if we had said it.  And when we take a deeper glance at ourselves, we begin to realize that the horrible person like Milo, trashing gingers and Muslims and overeaters, is really more like us than we wanted to admit.  What we don't admit about this ugly side of ourselves is that if we were any other way, we wouldn't have survived long enough to be here in the first place.

We like to think of the two sides of ourselves as the angel and the devil on our shoulders, but the truth is that both sides are the angel.  What we refer to as the devil was never an evil force rebelling against our saintly side, but the side of us that judges things as they appear so that we can do what we need to survive.  And the other side of us, more commonly referred to as the angel, isn't actually an angel, but a herd instinct; the thing that knows we need people to survive, and asks us what we have to do to survive around people.  The former says fat and fit and ugly and gorgeous and brilliant and stupid and stylish and tasteless, and the latter says if you say fat or ugly you might lose some good friends.  Without our "bad" side we could never pursue our happiness.  We need it to avoid terrible people and terrible things.  Without our "good" side, we'd never know what we have to hide or sacrifice so that we can pursue it in a group.

It's almost needless to say that society has a difficult time balancing the two forces within us, and that the complex arrangements we make for ourselves, and the innumerable webs of do's and don'ts we know as our culture, may oftentimes run too far one way or another**.  And it's the job of our intellectuals and social critics, above all, to let us know whether we've let one part of ourselves run too far over the other.  Too much toward the herd instinct, and we end up killing ourselves in an attempt to fit in.  Too much toward the side of inner judgment, and we end up killing each other with baseball bats.

Milo's place in the world is with the side of our inner judgment.  For dozens of years we've swung further and further toward our herd instinct, until the things we thought were sociable were not only suffocating but dangerous.  And in this respect he serves as a liberator; as the voice that everyone needs to assert their self-worth and their taste, and a refuge against the endless tide of things we said would be nice to a few, and were actually cruel to the most.  Milo isn't a saint, and thank God he never intended to be.  But he's a savior all the same, putting himself on a cross when the rest of us were stuck in our "sociability."   He's taking our beating when we should have been manly enough to take it ourselves.

What we can also appreciate about Milo is that he's actually interesting.  He's handsome.  He's brave.  He's funny.  He's stylish and original and dangerous.  And if you read someone modern like Mises or Hayek you might end up thinking they're brilliant (I dare anyone to read Human Action or The Use of Knowledge in Society and not feel like he's taken the red pill), you'll never quite feel like they were fun.  Hayek is on your bookshelf like medicine is in your cupboard.  Following Milo on Facebook is much more like taking drugs.

The majority of aging conservatives will never understand this.  Simply put, they're dying, and the remaining carcass of their movement, whose only trajectory as of late has been downward, has already long ago died before them.  The National Review is no longer run by Buckley; and its pages, despite being informative like many other modern works of conservatism, are boring, and sexless, and uninspired.  Milo will cover himself in pigs' blood like Marilyn Manson to get your attention.  He'll say ugly things to get you to think about beautiful things.  And although at the end of the day he reminds us that our judgement needs judgment to judge it, and that even truth requires some tact, he reminds us of a day when conservatives were known as liberals, and all the artists, all the rebels, all the people who terrified parents and started revolutions were talking about things like freedom of speech and unalienable rights, and turned the world over in search of their liberty.

I won't even pretend for a moment to endorse everything Milo says or the way that he says it.  But I'm glad that he's saying it.  And if I'm not willing to say he's a sage or a saint or a scholar or even a great writer, he represents something much different from these and yet equally vital.  He represents the will to live freely and loudly and proudly in the face of oppression.  His shamelessness may be too shameless.  But in an age when respectable men are cowering beneath the shadow of the ugly and tyrannical SJW, what we need are not always polite and political men.  Sometimes, like even the Puritans rallied around the rascally Monmouth, and the Protestants rallied around anyone as uncouth and ugly as Luther, what you actually need is more of a bastard.

Your father,

*Your mother and I were not only obese when we were teenagers, with my weight peaking somewhere around 280lbs, but were heavily influenced by what's commonly known as awkward teenager or ugly duckling syndrome.   Because of the teasing we got, we ended up fighting to be liked; and because we both fought to be liked, both of us ended up likeable.  To be cool or especially good-looking in your childhood is a disability -- especially for women.  To be laughed at by strangers while you're running at the pool may leave you with a complex -- and the complex may lead you into a lifetime of fitness.  

**As one example of cultural development, Persian boys in the days of Cyrus the Great were taught to ride a horse, shoot a bow, and tell the truth.  If he wants to get ahead, a modern American teenager is trained to drive a car, brush his teeth and hide the truth. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your thoughtful essay. I have been so taken by Milo after I started following him on Facebook, and have been slightly horrified at myself for being so impressed. You articulated very, very well what he represents and why we should thank the people who are willing to put themselves out there to call out the Emperor's who have no clothes.