Addendum to Dragon Day
I graduated from Cornell University in 2017 with degrees in philosophy and English. My honor’s thesis was a dialectical reading of Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. Joe Biden gave the commencement address at my graduation. We sat on the football field as he talked a bit about ice-cream and the importance of our accomplishment before launching into what even then sounded very much like a campaign speech. I share these auto-biographical details not as some appeal to credentialism, but because they inform my experience of the 2010’s deeply. Certainly, they totally inform my novel Dragon Day, and anyone with a familiarity with Cornell would be able to tell that the novel’s setting, Lockden University, is all but a stand in. When considering what degree of anonymity I should publish my novel under this past year, my primary consideration was whether aspects of my real-life experience would add relevant context to the novel and I think the answer is yes. Perhaps this shows that I’m insufficiently committed to the novel as a form, but I’ve always thought the fact behind the fiction in Dragon Day was as important as anything else, even featuring some questionable, “metafictional” flights in previous drafts.
The summer I began writing Dragon Day in earnest—the summer of 2016— was a summer during which it felt like I woke up to new notification of horror or calamity on my phone every morning. It was the summer of the Pulse Night Club shooting, and a plethora of terrorist attacks abroad—in Europe, the Middle-East, Bangladesh. It was the first big summer for Black Lives Matter, climaxing with the Dallas cop-sniper incident, not to mention the summer of Brexit, and Donald Trump’s rise. As a staunch political “moderate” at the time, I didn’t understand the dynamics behind what was happening politically and was opposed to all of it.
In 2016, I was certain that the year was my generation’s 1969 and that I’d look back on it throughout my life as a singularly chaotic year. With the hindsight of 2020— no pun intended— I no longer believe this to be the case at all, and instead think that what happened in 2016 was not singular, but just the first ushering in of “a new normal”, to use the cursed term: a sense of slow-moving disintegration, or perhaps “hypernormalisation” as Adam Curtis called it in his docuseries from that year, himself referencing a concept introduced to describe an uncanny feeling during the fall of the Soviet Union.
That summer I worked at a dining hall and lived in one of Cornell’s cooperative houses. It was an Alsatian style house just off West Campus which— just as a strange aside— was named at a donor’s behest after “a lieutenant in the 16th Panzer Division of the Wehrmacht who was killed by a Soviet grenade in Ukraine on October 6, 1941.” I’ve heard that current house-members are lobbying to change the name, and who could be surprised in a world where elsewhere the name “Abraham Lincoln” is deemed racist?
But that is neither here nor there, and in fact the house I lived in has less to do with my book than another cooperative house just a few blocks away, that I drifted through from time to time. The house is that of Cornell’s branch of the Telluride Association: a non-profit organization founded by intriguing American entrepreneur, educator, and occasional scholar of Christian mysticism Lucien Lucius Nunn. Telluride’s mission, according to it’s website is “to prepare and inspire promising students to lead and serve through free, transformative educational experiences rooted in critical thinking and democratic community.” As will be immediately obvious to anyone who has read it, Cornell’s Telluride House is the inspiration behind my novel’s “Yellow House''. Like the house in my book, the house was and is occupied by students deemed highly gifted via high-school recruitment. During the years I was at Cornell--and still now, I’m sure-- the house was a hot-bed of leftwing student activism, and many of the organizers of different progressive initiatives and protests on campus called it home. The specific brand of leftism that seemed prevalent in the house, had a strong anarchistic, by-any-means-necessary bent. This is encapsulated in my memory by a certain Comp Lit major explaining to me the thesis of a recent house alumnus which held that all activism needs to achieve a “point of rupture”—some genuine infliction of disruption or violence—in order to effect change, and that all other activism will inevitably be co-opted by “respectability politics” a la the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King. The prime example cited in the thesis, according to the Comp Lit major, was Cornell’s own 1969 Willard Straight Hall takeover— another piece of Cornell’s history well worth reading for anyone interested in the history of left-wing social change and its intersection with Academia.
But Telluride House had, earlier in its history, been ground zero for a decidedly different politico-intellectual current: Straussian neoconservatism. This was instituted under Allan Bloom’s tenure as House Faculty Fellow from 1963-1970. During this time so many budding neo-conservatives lived in the house that it was once described in The Nation as “a designated breeding ground for conservative intellectuals in their larval state.” In my opinion, the fact that Bloom, end-of-history theorist Francis Fukuyama, and American foreign policy architect Paul Wolfowitz all lived in the house over the course of the same decade makes Telluride at least as worthy of tin-foil-hat-wearer attention as Cornell’s better known, Skull & Bones, equivalent “Quill & Dagger”. Other Telluride house alumni include Physicist Richard Feynman, US Labor secretary Francis Perkins, novelist William T. Vollman, Queer Theorist Eve Sedgewick, and leading Derridean scholar Gayatri Spivak.
I can’t have spent more than 10 hours strung together in the house, but it captured my imagination from my first encounter with it. The reason for this was that—while I privately found the radicalism of its current inhabitants repulsive— I was aware of the house’s neoconish history, and was something of a burgeoning neoconservative myself. For me, the house was haunted by the promise of “the end-of history”— to put it in bombastic terms. Certainly, it was haunted by the ideas of Leo Strauss.
What attracted me to neoconservatism back then? It fulfilled a need for me. Of a conservative, Catholic background, I nevertheless spent my teenage and college years immersing myself in the hyper-liberalism of elite, urbanite, American culture. I was hungry for an outlook that synthesized the contradictions of my own life: a baseline liberal outlook and a belief in progress, that nevertheless catered to my more conservative hankerings—general ideas about loyalty, commitment, and a sense of rootedness. The contemporary neocon position with its quasi-messianic sense of America as a force for progressive good in the world offered exactly this synthesis, so much so that during the summer of 2016 the notion of a “conservative for Hillary” made perfect sense to me. I was sure she’d win.
In my defense: my views on this didn’t last a day passed November 8th of that year. My tepid “conservatism” was shattered by Trump’s victory, and I allowed it to be so: didn’t try to piece it back together, but accepted how naïve I’d been. My views have loafed around quite a bit since 2016, but never have I reverted to any kind of appeal to establishment centrism, predicated upon a faith in the basic goodness of the status quo.
There had been preliminary moments leading up to the change in my views, of course. The night my housemates burned a book they found upsetting, for instance. Attempting to find covenant with the prevailing trends of progressivism on campus had always been a matter of attempting to fit a square peg into a round hole, and I was irked to no end by the excesses of progressivism surrounding me-- the rise of political correctness etc. I’m sure if I’d come across someone like Jordan Peterson in those years, I would have been hooked. But it was Trump’s victory-- and the disintegration of a relationship I was in shortly thereafter-- that were the final straws.
Though I will never consider myself a neoconservative again, my interest in Leo Strauss has persisted through all my years of immersion in the online, dissident sphere. Indeed it is worth noting: Strauss’s relationship to the neoconservatism of his successors is a matter of debate, with some positing that Strauss’s intentions were significantly afield of the neocons who would later claim his influence.
For the best wholesale dismissal of Strauss from the right, one could do no better than Paul Gottfried’s Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America. Gottfried argues— here and elsewhere—that Strauss’s project was not conservative so much as the project of creating a quasi-mythic, quasi-religious foundation for liberal democracy, so that it might have the vitality to survive and assert itself on the global stage. This is not dissimilar to the view one finds, from a more leftward perspective in Adam Curtis’s “The Power of Nightmares” docuseries, which well-encapsulates the popular perception of Strauss as purveyor of “noble lies”. It also, admittedly, would have jived well enough with the understanding of Strauss I’d established in college.
For a moment in time, it looked like Leo Strauss’s legacy might go down with the ship of neoconservatism wrought by the errors of the George W. Bush administration, yet more recently, Strauss seems to have come back into focus for a relevant few. He is a figure of interest to Peter Thiel, for example, and is the patron saint of the Claremont Institute, which of all institutions associated with mainstream conservatism seems to have made more honest inroads into the Trumpian and even dissident right. Also of note: Strauss, along with Carl Schmitt, is supposedly one of the most widely read Western political thinkers in China.
I myself came back into contact with Strauss through the work of rogue PHD Michael Millerman—author of Beginning with Heidegger, one of the foremost translators of Alexander Dugin into English, and perhaps first and foremost, an expert on Leo Strauss. I took Millerman’s course on Leo Strauss offered via Justin Murphy’s Otherlife.co and was brought back into contact with a number of ideas which initially attracted me to Strauss’s work, and which, I believe, make him relevant to our present times and political situation.
What role did the Straussians play in American academia and the American Conservative movement? According to Professor Gottfried it was to stifle out any academic political thought to their right: to focus all would-be conservative energies and resources upon a not-truly-conservative end—the extolling of liberal democracy as a universalist project. This may well be essentially true, and I know it is not merely a belief of Gottfried’s, but a lived experience.
As for my own lived experience of Straussians— which in the context of 2010’s academia, I only received second or third hand— I saw things from the opposite side. In college I had no concept of what the Straussians might be stifling on the right, but a clear sense that they represented an intellectual bulwark against the progressive left, especially in the unhinged manifestations flourishing around me. Perhaps this was best exemplified for me by Allan Bloom’s 1987 NYT best seller The Closing of the American Mind: a book which thrilled me in college and which I still find charming and relevant.
Whatever alternative the Straussians had at one point offered to progressivism, it had dried-up by the time I went to college, and even before seriously engaging with political thought-- much less discovering Strauss-- I felt its absence, surrounded as I was by progressivism. To put it in the romanticized terms characteristic of Bloom and certain other Straussians: I yearned for a teacher like Strauss for a good two and a half years before I found him, basically as a mere footnote in a political science course I was taking during my junior year.
One of Michael Millerman’s great Straussian insights pertains to Leo Strauss’s 1941 lecture “German Nihilism”, in which Strauss describes the cultural and intellectual climate he experienced in pre-war Germany. Strauss here describes the pitfalls inherent to the sort of “progressive education” one could expect to find at a German University of the era. This, according to Strauss, was an education steeped in those three frequent targets of his ire— historicism, relativism, and positivism— offering no space for dissent, or the development of meaningful alternatives. Millerman has pointed out the obvious parallels between the milieu Strauss describes and our own ultra-progressive, academic milieu in 21st century America. Allan Bloom made a similar argument in Closing of The American Mind, of course, but Millerman focuses our attention on the state of the academy since the 2010’s, and especially since 2015, which—as I hardly need to explain to anyone who has spent time on a college campus recently—is a great deal more abject than what Bloom delineated in 1987.
Speaking in “German Nhilism” about the generation of disaffected young German students who would later be considered the vanguard of the pre-Nazi “revolutionary conservative” movement, Strauss recognizes in their protest against progressive education—and modern, liberal, society— a positive instinct preceding the anti-civilizational “nihilism” they would later come to embody. This instinct, Strauss argues, was essentially moral— a sense that morality, and the serious, moral life, were endangered by, or incompatible with, the pacifistic, borderless, “open society” toward which progressive education pointed. Such a moral protest, in Strauss’s view, was analogous to such high-minded examples as:
“Glaukon’s, Plato’s brother’s passionate protest against the city of pigs, in the name of noble virtue... Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s passionate protest against the easy-going and somewhat rotten civilization of the century of taste, and... Friedrich Nietzsche’s passionate protest against the easy-going and somewhat rotten civilization of the century of industry” (359).
“It was the same passion, let there be no mistake about that, which turned, if in a much more passionate and infinitely less intelligent form, against the alleged or real corruption of post-war Germany: against ‘the subhuman beings of the big cities...against ‘cultural bolshevism’ “ (359).
In other words: Strauss defends and justifies as moral the intellectual spark behind the initial protest of the followers of those “professors and writers who knowingly or ignorantly paved the way for Hitler.” These professors and writers he names as “Spengler, Moeller van den Bruck, Carl Schmitt, Ernst Junger, and Heidegger” (362). Their protest, Strauss tells us in a memorable passage, was wrought initially by the prospect of communism:
“The prospect of a pacified planet, without rulers and ruled, of a planetary society devoted to production and consumption only, to the production and consumption of spiritual as well as material merchandise, was positively horrifying to quite a few very intelligent and very decent, if very young, Germans... What they hated, was the very prospect of a world in which everyone would be happy and satisfied, in which everyone would have his little pleasure by day and his little pleasure by night, a world in which no great heart could beat and no great soul could breathe, a world without real, unmetaphoric, sacrifice, i.e. a world without blood, sweat, and tears. What to the communists appeared to be the fulfilment of the dream of mankind, appeared to those young Germans as the greatest debasement of humanity, as the coming of the end of humanity, as the arrival of the latest man” (360).
What these students needed, Strauss argues were “teachers who could explain to them in articulate language the positive, and not merely destructive, meaning of their aspirations” (362). But no such teachers were to be found. Rather, the young Germans structured their thinking within the confines of the progressive education they’d received, and this, Strauss argues, was perhaps the most dangerous thing, for by thinking in such progressive terms, the young Germans thought themselves into a corner in which the annihilation of modern civilization seemed the most desirable path forward:
“...[t]hey simply took over the communist thesis that the proletarian revolution and proletarian dictatorship is necessary, if civilization is not to perish. But they insisted rather more than the communists on the conditional character of the communist prediction (if civilization is not to perish). That condition left room for choice: they chose what according to the communists was the only alternative to communism. In other words: they admitted that all rational argument was in favour of communism; but they opposed to that apparently invincible argument what they called ‘irrational decision’... “(360).
Once such lines of thought took off in Germany, according to Strauss, they had a natural advantage over the established lines of dogmatic progressivism: the old guard was put on the defensive, arguing “in the manner of conservateurs, what in the meantime has been called the wave of the future”(362). They were not great teachers, in Strauss’s estimation, and so were unable to counter the protests of the young “Nihilists” effectively. This was because they never truly understood them—never “earned” their would-be-counter-position in the way of superior teachers, by seeking first to truly understand those yearnings and passions beneath the ardent negation of the present.
In our modern “progressive education” it is not the threat of communism, per se, that we are presented with as the inevitable outcome of the tides of rational history; It is something I can only describe as posing less of an obvious threat of material revolution, while posing even more of a threat to the viability of a serious, moral, life. What might we call this? The radical, egalitarian, no-borders, no-genders, universalism that gets umbrellaed under the term “wokenes”: a sort of socio-cultural communism, subsidiary to—and perhaps, at times, in the service of—global capitalism, though we should not discount the degree to which “harder” revolutionary rhetoric lies waiting within the wings.
Any serious attempt to counter the progress of—for lack of a better term—wokeness is met in most sectors of academic and college life is with unconsidered dismissal at best, outright hostility and public shaming—”cancellation”—at worst. This is, of course, not just a problem in the academy but one that is quickly spreading outward to all corners of “polite society” influencing policy makers and real-world powers-that-be. Still: academia has been and remains one of its chief breeding grounds.
How might Strauss respond to this state of affairs? Perhaps he would have recognized in it a great danger akin to that which existed in pre-war Germany: the danger of an under-spoken opposition, growing increasingly starved and desperate in the intellectual wilderness, with every motivation to counter radicalism with radicalism. This is the food-stuffs of accelerationism or that last-ditch desire to burn it all down in hopes of something better coming up to take its place. On this note, it is easy enough to see how something like Straussian, soft conservatism— the moderate alternative he might offer to the progressive status quo— could play the cynically establishmentarian role Professor Gottfried ascribes to it on the one hand, but also have something pragmatic to offer during tumultuous moments in history in which many of us are not quite ready to put our money where our mouth is with regard to rampant “center-cannot-hold”, revolutionary talk. Even if Strauss’s political ends did boil down to little more than the effort of applying retardant to progress rather than reverting it— which I’m not entirely convinced of— than that would still be a noble enough goal if it were informed by a genuine understanding of the full political spectrum, and the motivations underlying it, that is reflected in Strauss’s scholarship.
One aspect of the academy’s closed, “progressive” slant important from the standpoint of the study of political thought, according to Millerman, is this: our academic milieu will not acknowledge the existence of “right-wing anti-liberalism” as a valid, intellectual tradition. By right-wing-anti-liberalism, we of course mean rightward outlooks situated significantly to the right of “classical liberalism” or liberal democracy of the sort inherited from the nation’s founding, and tacitly endorsed by both major political parties. We do not mean mere right-wing criticisms of “liberals” in the pedestrian sense. This is right-wing-anti-liberalism as embodied, for example, by those thinkers dubbed earlier by Strauss the young, German, “Nhilists”.
The academic treatment of right-wing-anti-liberalism could not contrast more starkly with the academic treatment of left-wing-anti-liberalism. Expressions of leftwing-anti-liberalism— critiques of the free-market, of free-speech, of freedom of association etc. motivated by a concern for equality— are commonplace on college campuses, and have always been defended on the grounds that one should be able to consider extreme ideas without necessarily agreeing with them. Why, too, should we not learn about right-wing-anti-liberal ideas in such an apparently controlled setting?
A non-perceptive student could leave college having gleaned from his professor’s sneering comments that the right-wing—aside from thuggish abstractions of “nazism” and “fascism”— begins and ends with Fox News, Donald Trump, and the Republican party: the province, in his estimation, of low-intelligence or low-information voters. But such a student might be surprised to learn that right-wing anti-liberalism is a towering tradition in modern intellectual history, and embodied prominently by two thinkers he has likely read, albeit in decidedly non right-wing contexts: Heidegger and Nietzsche. The irony that the thought of these two unequivocally right-wing philosophers has been made foundational to several ostensibly far-left currents of postmodern thought (notably the Derrideans, the Deluzians, and the followers of Foucalt) is not exactly unknown, but certainly warrants further attention than it has received. The phenomenon was of notable interest to Allan Bloom, whose Closing of The American Mind contains a chapter titled “The ‘Nietzscheanization’ of the left or vice versa” and was well-summarized more recently—albeit in a hand-wringing way I don’t endorse— in Ronald Beiner’s book-length warning against the “alt-right”: Dangerous Minds: Nietzsche, Heidegger, and the Return of the Far Right.
In a video with “Students for Western Civilization'', on which much of the preceding few paragraph is a gloss, Michael Millerman and his interlocutor discuss the ironic role played by Nietzsche and Heidegger on the syllabus of modern “progressive education”, and speculate on if the occlusion of the rightward dimension of Heidegger and Nietzsche’s thought—and right-wing-anti-liberalism in general— might have an unintended consequence: the creation of right-wing students. Millerman’s interlocutor recalls how, having the sense that his education in political thought and the political spectrum was only half-complete, he sought to fill in his understanding of right-wing ideas online, through “right-wing, alt-right, white nationalist websites''.
It is easy enough to imagine the scenario and the motivations behind it: young, philosophically curious, men— young men increasingly demonized for immutable characteristics by the prevailing progressive trends— are drawn towards an underspoken and therefore powerful opposition, in a way analogous indeed to what Strauss described in pre-war Germany. Such young men have already been habituated, thanks to the far left ideas they’ve been taught, to open their mind to radical politics, and maybe they’ve even tasted the forbidden fruits of right-wing-anti-liberalism through their decontextualized readings of Nietzsche and Heidegger. Certainly, they do not have any teachers who understand their concerns and passions enough to play a moderating role.
There is a tremendous poetic justice in imagining these young men—abandoned by an academic culture, and ever-increasingly, the broader culture—turning to sites like Countercurrents to formulate a new world view, ardently opposed to the modern world. It has been the singular “may you live in interesting times'' type pleasure of my young adulthood, since some time not long after graduation, to be a fellow-traveler of this generation. As for the scenario in which a young student picks up on the right-wing elements of his education in Nietzsche and Heidegger and follows them to an extreme: well, truthfully, I’m not sure how common this is, but it forms a basis to the plot-line of Dragon Day.
Tremendous poetic justice, and my own romantic sense about it aside, there are obvious dangers to far-right flirtation. As Strauss might put it, recalling the plight of Socrates: there are dangers which philosophy poses to the city, and dangers which the city poses to philosophy. Both should be properly mitigated, Strauss would argue, through a practice of the virtue of moderation. Philosophy in Strauss’s view, is an inherently immoderate activity— how can one temper the quest for truth?— but moderation is a necessary practical virtue in the pursuit of a fruitful life. Indeed it has been said that the positive core of Strauss’s sprawling and sometimes enigmatic thought is the promotion of a properly balanced interplay between the fire of philosophy and the virtue of moderation. From the perspective of the pursuit of truth it is imperative that we consider ideas—such as those of the far right—no matter their potential political consequences, and no matter the fact that public exposition of them can have disastrous consequences to one’s livelihood. And yet: from the perspective of day-to-day life, it is imperative we do so smartly— with an eye toward moderation.
In terms of defending oneself from the consequences of the pursuit of truth: Strauss famously advocates the adoption of a certain form of writing “between the lines”, along with just plain old prudence (knowing your audience, etc.). In this era of online discourse, writing under an alias is another technique. So as not to obfuscate, I should note: Strauss, of course, was not always—or perhaps ever, in fact— talking about right-wing-anti-liberal thought when discussing the sorts of ideas that one ought to apply a moderate approach to exploring, but his teaching, in my opinion, applies well to this matter. More famously, Strauss claimed to have delineated the manner in which advocates of reason (philosophers) presented their ideas in the context of societies founded upon revelation (religion), or elsewhere the way those seekers of “knowledge” of the whole (philosophers) ought best to express their views to those living under the influence of mere “opinions” about the whole (the very substance of society, in the Straussian view). Nevertheless, it is worth noting that Strauss once admitted that in his 20’s he “believed every word” that Nietzsche had written, though he later came to wonder if Nietzsche “should have written any of them down”, and on several occasions went against his reputation for opposing 20th century German thought to express his respect for, and intellectual indebtedness to, Martin Heidegger. At the very least we can conclude this: Strauss held it important to study right-wing-anti-liberal thinkers as expositors of a genuine and serious alternative to his own thought, even while acknowledging the potential danger in their teachings.
In terms of the other reason for which Strauss advocates moderation, defending the city from philosophy, there are some on the right who would reject this on the grounds that “the city” is not worthy of protection: that precisely the destruction of civilization is a desirable political goal. For reasons previously described, I can understand this reaction to a point, and yet it is not my own. It strikes me as prudent for anyone not totally ready to put their money where their mouth is with regard to revolutionary or “burn it all down” banter to take a healthy stock of what is good in the status quo— what in it might be redeemable—and also to really consider: would we really benefit from revolution? Or are there not one thousand ways this could go wrong, leading only to catastrophe?
Maybe this reveals that I’m still a pussy moderate the way that I was in college; maybe my attraction to Strauss now, like my attraction to neoconservatism then, is just another way that I have sought to synthesize the contradictions of my own life which have only multiplied as I’ve continued into adulthood. But I can only see as highly useful the bridge provided by Strauss between the “fire” of philosophy—propositions ardently opposed to the status quo—and day-to-day life within that status quo.
Putting myself aside, I am also compelled by Strauss’s take on moderation as a proper goal of education: that moderation is a noble thing for an educator to seek to instill in his student, if for no other reason than because a stable society is a pre-condition for the very existence of education in the first place. This sort of reasoning can also be found in Socrates.
By word of conclusion on Strauss: I came out of college thinking about Strauss as a thinker whose project was to ground liberal-democratic society in something more stable and serious, even if only through the implementation of a “noble lie” or spiritualizing mythology. This would also seem to be Professor Gottfried’s gloss on the matter. I left Millerman’s class thinking about Strauss as a thinker whose project was to defend the philosophy from the city and vice-versa: a “friend not a flatterer” of liberal democracy, who was aware of the pitfalls of progressive thought, and yet nevertheless affirmed the necessity of his position as a refugee within a liberal democracy, and sought to create and defend a space within it through which the serious, moral life—the life of philosophy—could be pursued. It is possible that this more “based” reading of Strauss is something I have arrived at through a selective consideration of the evidence, and yet it is the reading I find more useful and inspiring. I would, and will have to engage in more reading to make my final call
In his own “creative misreading” or appropriation of a thinker, “Based Deleuze: The Reactionary Leftism of Gilles Deleuze”, Justin Murphy reflects on his project as being similar to that of Deleuze himself, encapsulated by the maxim if there exists a true claim for which no audience yet exists, develop the claim until you produce its audience (Murphy, 65) “Deleuze and Guattari first discovered this mechanism,” writes Murphy, “through the lives of artistic figures such as Franz Kafka... Not properly Jewish, German, or Austro-Hungarian, Kafka’s ‘people’ were missing and his literature sought to produce them”(Murphy, 65) .
It is tempting to think of Strauss’s project— himself not properly Jewish or German, and certainly not properly a liberal democrat— in a similar light. Strauss is a thinker who wrote his people into existence. Likewise it is tempting to apply Murphy’s Deluzean notion to my own reading of Strauss: one undertaken by and for we who are not properly neocons, and certainly not liberal normies, but who lack the ethno-social commitment to be paleocons, much less ethno-nationalists. Might there be something in the experience and thought of the displaced “German stranger” that speaks vitally to the fragmented, post-modern, American, moment?
To finally bring this all back around to my novel, Dragon Day: Strauss opens his famous essay Persecution and The Art of Writing with the following quote from W.E.H. Lecky:
“That vice has often proved an emancipator of the mind, is one of the most humiliating, but, at the same time, one of the most unquestionable, facts in history.”
Strauss knew the importance of engaging with ideas dangerous to the status quo in the pursuit of truth. Knowledge of such "intellectual vice” can in fact lend itself to the preservation of whatever there might be worth saving in the status quo. Michael Millerman cites the Lecky quote in his defense of the study of Alexander Dugin: one of the most serious and singular living Philosophers, and an outspoken enemy of Western Hegemony.
Dragon Day is not a political book per se so much as it is as a descent into vice—intellectual and otherwise—aimed toward the goal of greater understanding. Aesthetically, I view it as the processing of perverted and dark thoughts inspired by, among other things, the work of such filmmakers as David Lynch and Brian De Palma. Intellectually, it is a willful transgression against the sentiments of the present time and place with philosophical, emancipatory potential. Its also a novel about the unsavory side of pedagogy, and the figure of the Professor as prophet— like Strauss to the neocons, and Heidegger at Freiburg, 1933.
I value the education received at a top tier university, but Dragon Day, in the spirit of Bloom’s Closing of The American Mind, is a statement about its hollowness and where it failed me: all the needs it left unmet, and all that it left repressed, or unsaid.
Dragon Day will be released on Terror House Press on May 14th or May 28th, 2021. TBD