Kantbot is a smart guy with a bad attitude, but he wrote a good post today. I can tolerate a fair amount of sass and bad behavior from a person when they’re contributing, but that doesn’t mean that I endorse some of the snarky, Gawkerish behavior which he’s become known for.
Here’s an excerpt which I’ll respond to:
Retention of talent in Neoreaction is a serious problem. There has been a great deal of controversy recently over people like Hurlock and Bryce leaving. Beyond people directly leaving however there is also the (perhaps more serious) problem of Neoreactionary exhaustion. Many bloggers and contributors to Neoreaction stop producing content and material the longer they engage with culture. This is a serious downfall of Neoreactionary culture. Neoreaction must produce, and must reward production, both in terms of volume and quality of content created. If bloggers feel as if their writing isn’t having the sort impact or recognition that they would like, they become disincentivized to produce.
People enter into Neoreaction because they want to be recognized, because they want to have their writings and ideas disseminated and because they want to advance their own personal careers and brands. In my experience though Neoreaction is deeply opposed to allowing people to do this.
Culture is important, from a functional perspective, and right now, the state of Neoreactionary culture is quite dire. If anything this is problem the single most important issue the community should be working on right now and as I consider the issue more I’ll try to share my thoughts and analysis whenever possible in hopes of solving this problem.
This made me think of the children’s fable of the hen who prepares a bunch of food, asking all the other animals for help. All the other animals refuse except for a couple. Eventually, they’re all hungry, but only the hen and her helpers put in the effort to make anything. Only the hen and the few animals who helped get to eat, later on.
The moral of the story is if “any would not work, neither should he eat.”
This ought to be in the thoughts of people who prefer to lounge in the peanut gallery, yukking it up, while other people are working.
Anyway, most people who get into writing about politics and social issues tend not to realize how low the demand is for this sort of writing. The problems that most people have tend to have nothing at all to do with political theory. Most of the demand for political theory instruction is quite well-absorbed by the university system. It’s easy to get any student to shell out hundreds of dollars for ponderous textbooks which he’s not likely to even read, not to mention thousands of dollars per credit-hour in tuition.
It’s much more difficult to create demand for independent works of theory and opinion from scratch.
Just as an illustration of this point, the biggest seller by units (not revenue) on this site so far has been Mangan’s fat loss book. Losing weight is a real problem people have. Lack of a better political theory is not a burning problem that most people have. Jelly-bellies are a bigger problem for most people than a better critique of the zeitgeist.
That doesn’t mean that it’s not important. It’s just that it’s a bit tougher to make it immediately economically viable.
Someone like Athol Kay has become good at solving problems for people. Others who are more focused on abstract thought are not particularly solving many problems. Neoreaction tends towards abstraction and higher level thought, which means that it’s an expensive pursuit with low immediate returns and limited appeal.
Whenever I get around to publishing my first book, it will probably return less in revenue than a short project would, while absorbing far, far more hours in labor. Which is entirely alright, because my ambitions for this aren’t primarily financial, and I’m willing to invest the effort because I hope that it will generate far greater non-monetary results. Part of my motivation is that this site is good practice, in that it gives me a space where I can try things out on my own dime doing something that I already enjoy doing.
That doesn’t change the fact that I could earn more per hour doing almost anything, including dancing around waving a sign on a street corner for a hot dog shop or panhandling, much less my day job.
People who jump into this sort of thing expecting to be able to replace a primary income immediately, even for a basic job like being a truck driver, are mistaken. The stereotype about philosophizing being a road to pauper-hood is a stereotype because it’s mostly true. It also takes a lot of sustained effort, perhaps an insane amount, and most people are not dedicated and aggressive enough to keep that alive for the years that it requires.
The biggest difficulty in working on the cultural fringes is the crab bucket mentality, which is common on the fringes of neoreaction, but is really a sort of basic human behavior that requires a lot of moral instruction to counteract, having its roots in the sin of envy.
No one owes you recognition or attention or fame or anything for your effort. Most people in the peanut gallery have absolutely no idea how logistically complicated it is to keep large numbers of people coordinated and focused on achieving a task. It requires money, trust, leadership, and a shared sense of purpose. Logistics aren’t an afterthought — they’re close to the only thing that really matters, much to the consternation of all the dreamers of the world who think that the naked idea will carry the day by itself.
So it is good to see some positive discussion of cultural logistics in a way that isn’t whining about why pure magical good intentions, in which everyone holds hands and giggles about how intellectually pristine and uncontaminated by personal interest they are, aren’t getting anything done.
The other thing is that most writers have a lot more trouble handling success than handling failure. Yes, people will go after you personally when you become more prominent. Friends will stab you in the back. Your opponents will raise lynch mobs against you. Critics will piss on your face. Who cares? That’s just part of the job description, and the real reason why it’s competitively difficult. But that’s at least better than obscurity.
For what it’s worth, I think that ‘we,’ to the extent that there even is a ‘we,’ are better at that than most. In particular, I would caution people against seeking love from an audience. Always better to be respected, even better to be feared, still better to be both respected and feared. Love is for private relations. To tie your sense of satisfaction to the love you believe you receive from the crowd is to tie your heart to a cement block that can be kicked off a pier into a deep pool at any second, because the crowd is even more fickle about you and your work than they are about their favored brand of toothpaste.