This article is going to serve as something like the theoretical fleshing-out of a fictional piece I’m planning on adapting from a Twitter thread called “The Blacksmith and the King.” The idea behind the thread (and the fable I’m turning it into) is effectively a narrative version of my article The Desert of Nihilism and the Throne of God, specifically as it pertains to ideology in the modern age. On that note, today we’re going to be looking at the idea that “all memes aspire to the position of God,” as well as the effects of the absence of the highest-order value in the culture and how that leads to the rise of ideology and justification.
I’ll assume you read the Twitter thread (link here) and jump right in. Obviously, the King here represents God, but not in a theological sense. What people fail to understand is that in the context of the broader culture, the notion of “God” is the ability to draw values from an external source. If I’m a peasant living in a 1400s village in Europe, I can’t be expected to understand the mechanisms that cause rain, thunder, and lightning, since:
A- I’m uneducated
and B- my lifestyle is not so complex as to require me to know that.
As a result, it suffices for be to say it rains because God is sad, or that thunder and lightning come from Thor striking his anvil with his hammer Mjølner. Beyond that, there’s the simple fact that a lot of farming comes down to chance, so it’s easy to understand that faith (in God and the harvest) plays a large role in the dice-roll of life in that time. Thus, the Death of God is not a literal death, nor a theological argument- well, it may be, but that’s never how I use it, as I generally suggest leaving theology to the individual seeker.
It’s a statement about where we can derive values.
Let’s say you’re that 1400s peasant, and you and I are bartering over the price of a cart. I could make all sorts of statements to persuade you that this cart is of high value like “the Lord has blessed me with a talent for building and so this cart is truly a work of art” or “God has brought you here today to buy this cart as an act of divine providence,” and while that may or may not be bullshittery of the highest order, the metaphysical/epistemological framework to refute that easily isn’t readily available. Basically, society as a whole has a belief system that wouldn’t rule such possibilities out.
Fast forward to modern times, and you’re buying a car from me. I could say similar statements like “I’m God’s favorite mechanic so this car is amazing,” or “God himself wants me to sell you this car,” and you’d know, right off the bat, that I’m full of shit. Beyond this, you’d also likely want to look at the car, or get the Carfax, or take it for a test run.
While people may have private faith (and may extend that faith to many areas of their life), they’re no longer capable of the holistic, overarching, blind faith that was not only possible, but encouraged (slash likely inevitable), in the pre-Enlightenment era. In modern times, faith is reserved for areas we feel powerless- like in the medical field. This is why we blame doctors when things go wrong and thank God when things go right.
Now, the people who are reading this and (despite my clarifying earlier) think I’m making a theological argument will start getting mad around this point.
Whether or not God exists or is now dead is not the point of this concept.
The point is that in most cases, everyone acts like he is, anyway.
In the past, you could use God, the external source of values, and say that things were the way they were simply because God ordained it to be so. The divine right of kings draws from this- “God wants me to be king, I wouldn’t be born a king otherwise,” and despite America’s feelings about kings in particular, we still have “In God We Trust” on the money. This is particularly ironic in a modern light if you understand how a fiat currency works, but if you don’t, just mention it to a bitcoin dude on Twitter and you’ll learn all about it.
Fundamentally, the issue comes not from a place of theology but a place of pragmatism. It’s simply more useful to use science and a focus on evidence when dealing with other people, and it’s not that there isn’t a place for the private religious experience, it’s that you cannot function effectively with a completely faith-based worldview. You can deny this all you want, but I guarantee you do not apply that faith to the government (and if you apply it to the current government, you certainly don’t apply it to the prior administration), or to your boss, or when buying a car.
This brings us back to the thread- the King has disappeared. In essence, the King represents the highest rule of the land. I could say God here, but then it wouldn’t be much of a metaphor, would it?
When the King disappears, the Blacksmith rises to power.
Why the Blacksmith? Well, swords, in particular, are a very easy tool to use poorly. They’re primarily instruments of killing, even when used in self-defense. If the person wielding it is immoral, or misguided, it’s going to escalate very quickly into a bad time. This is, in a roundabout sense, why knights had the code of Chivalry (a similar thing existed for Samurai with Bushido in Japan)- you need something to guide the guy with the sword.
This is because, like all tools, the sword does not have an inherent purpose, though it may look like that’s the case. If you’ve ever seen an episode of MacGuyver (or MacGruber, for all intents and purposes), you understand the (perhaps not always obvious) fact that tools can serve a number of purposes- the use is determined by the user.
Thus, the sword is a metaphor for a worldview (which has limited utility in and of itself), and the blacksmith is a metaphor for an ideologue. If we were all rational people all the time, we’d understand that “hey, maybe this dude is trying to scare us into buying swords because he sells swords,” right? However, because the King is gone, the basis for us to feel secure in the world is also gone.
The baseline of society moves from order to chaos.
It’s exactly this social chaos that makes the field ripe for ideologues- look at the circumstances that led to the rise of National Socialism, Bolshevism, Communism, and other derivations of the core Marxist philosophies. We have the fertile chaos of the Death of God, coupled with the emergence of early industrialism’s particular brand of brutal working conditions, and enough public education to make people understand that faith isn’t sufficient to justify why we’re all miserable as a result.
More simply- the King isn’t there to tell us why things work the way they do, and now that everyone is scared, it becomes very attractive to have a sword.
Thus, the Blacksmith begins his rise.
At first, he’s simply doing what he’s always done- making tools that people need. Then, he realizes that the people are hungry for the thing he’s selling, so he starts to paint a picture of the kind of worldview that he has. The meme of the sword moves to the position of God- a complete (but not necessarily completely coherent) worldview emerges defined around the sword. This implies a number of things- everyone distrusts each other because everyone has a sword, there’s a violence in human nature that we have to be prepared for, and the social cohesion that the King and his laws provided no longer exists.
These are all (more or less) true statements, but the problem lies in the change of context that the ideology creates. For example, in nature, everyone distrusts each other, but in a society where we agree on the rules (and more importantly, the basis of the rules), we can build enough trust to function- which is evidenced by the relative peace of the world. Yes, there’s violence in human nature, but lots of that is actually violence springing from fear- it’s usually the more scared person in a fight who throws the first punch.
We start to see that it’s not so much that these are insurmountable issues, but that it’s an issue of raising a tool to the level of a philosophy, or, in the metaphor, a toolmaker to the position of King.
If you can understand this principle, you will begin to understand almost all of the ideological conflicts of the modern age. Feminism was a tool for women’s rights that has now become something approximating a complete philosophy (but because it started as a tool, it’s forever an ideology), and the same can be said for the Red Pill (which began as a tool for getting laid- re: Pick Up Artists).
This also explains the rise in religious fundamentalism, which is like making the argument that “we should just do what the King would do until he gets back.” The problem is twofold- since the King represents the underlying principle, we can’t guess what the King would do. Thus, you get religious schism after religious schism, because the people will pick stupid, petty things to fight over.
There’s an Emo Phillips joke that explains this perfectly:
Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!” He said, “Nobody loves me.” I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”
He said, “Yes.” I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?” He said, “A Christian.” I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?” He said, “Protestant.” I said, “Me, too! What franchise?” He said, “Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?” He said, “Northern Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”
He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.” I said, “Me, too!”
“Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.” I said, “Die, heretic!”
And I pushed him over.
This may be hilarious, but the many hundreds of religious conflicts in history make it a bit darker than it should be. Some fun examples of this are the mental gymnastics required for those insane Westboro people to say “God hates fags” when “God is Love” is a literal gospel quote, or that people try to justify killing in a religious context when many other sayings of Jesus contradict them, like “but I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” (Matt 5:44, KJV).
I could actually do this for basically every single religion, by the way, but you’re probably more familiar with Christianity if you’re reading this in English.
Why are people such insane hypocrites? People gravitate towards an ideology that does two things:
justifies their current feelings
and does not require them to change anything they’re doing.
This produces the effect of making them feel righteous without doing anything to deserve it.
Here’s some examples:
“I’m mad at women for rejecting me so I discover a philosophy that says women are the problem.”
“I’m mad at men for not acting like men in modernity so I create a philosophy that says that everything men ever did has been to oppress women because they’re malicious.”
“I’m mad at my wife for divorcing me so we should move to a culture where that’s illegal and she’s conditioned to submit to whatever I say so I don’t have to solve the problems in my marriage.”
“I feel powerless and don’t understand the world so I’m going to pay a degenerate gambler an insane amount of money to teach me about secret number magic that will explain in basic terms the entire complex structure of reality somehow.”
“I’m not good with chicks so I’m going to ignore them completely and create a philosophy that says that I should just do my own thing and that relationships are stupid, anyway.”
“I’m uncomfortable with the fact that people have other beliefs than I do because it makes me consider the possibility that I’m wrong so we’re going to take the ‘one true religion’ on a world tour and kill/rape/torture/convert everyone who disagrees with me because I’m obviously confident that I’m right and I’m not overcompensating for anything.”
“I’m not secure in my masculinity because my dad didn’t teach me how to act like a man so I found a group of similarly insecure dudes online who are actually slightly worse off than me and I realized that I can act like I’m extremely confident by doing things like arguing with women online and making fun of easy targets and now people look to me for advice on acting like a real man.”
“I grew up with insecure attachments and was never exposed to criticism by my cowardly parents so I need to be protected from any outside ideas because I’m developmentally a toddler and cannot handle criticism of any sort and need you to remove the first amendment because words are violence unless of course those are the words I learned to recite when I joined this cool social movement that makes me feel like I’m a part of the proper family experience I never had.”
“I was never good at physical things as a kid but I was good at school so I’m going to continue to study shit that has no bearing on the real world for the rest of my life and then get mad at people who provide a valuable service or get paid more than me without ever considering the possibility that I’m completely useless outside of a classroom environment, and I’m going to extrapolate those same impotent ideas into a form of government that also does not work in reality, which I’m going to advocate for.”
“I can’t get my life together and can hardly manage my own finances so of course the only way you could run a business is by being manipulative because I can’t consider what a functional, profitable enterprise would look like, so I’m going to do drugs all day and smoke pot and continue being a victim who simultaneously knows well enough to decide how other people should manage their lives without a hint of irony.”
Eventually, you come to realize that basically everyone has adopted some variation on this ideological problem. No one wants to take risks, or change, or improve, or really question anything at all because they’re all victims (though not in the way they think) of a culture that produces childish narcissists and manipulative sociopaths (the child and adolescent stages, by the way).
This, as always, is remedied by this site’s motto, “Save the World– Master your Self.” However, it’s not just as simple as that, we also have to understand why it’s important to do this stuff. Ultimately, as I’ve covered a number of times and have attempted to provide a basis for with my Theory of Everything, we need a new foundation that allows us to trust each other and society again. Whether people will actually be able to recognize this, or do anything about it is a different set of questions entirely, but I’m still pretty optimistic.
I think this is inevitable.
Chaos submits in time to the ordering force that is Life.
To quote the song I titled this article after-
“Weaker begets weak begets strong begets stronger,
All born equal shall remain as such no longer.
Stronger begets strong and the stronghold, it is weakening,
Traitors in the palace now make way for the king.”