by karl x brown
In the past couple of years, we have seen a small outburst of creativity from Right Wing Internet, with a number of authors and content creators gathering around themes of beauty and atavism, speaking in spiritual terms, and generally displaying a hatred of gluten. All of this is necessarily illiberal. The trend here is not towards Reason, but towards Nature, transcendence—the diagnosis of a world conceived in error and rectifiable only with a great Promethean fire. With few exceptions, therefore, interesting thinking today comes from the so-called dissident right, which we might attribute to the fact that these are the ones who are oppressed. And we mean this not in the way that the impoverished modern mind understands this term, but rather spiritual oppression, which is more damaging and real, and the backlash therewith all the more lethal.
Use whatever term you like—one man’s oppression is another’s moral certainty—but free men do not generally feel the need to hide their identities. There is, moreover, no clear ideology at play here but the ‘eternal right,’ if you will, inevitably rears itself in spite of these onslaughts to the spirit, and in spite of an institutional antagonism that is total: even the current administration in the White House has been mum about the many rights violations handed down to its supporters.
But nevertheless, perhaps we tend to overestimate slightly the importance of politics and underestimate the power of fiction, and the need for heroic ideals to aspire to. Lacking this, we may become repetitive and boring, and unconsciously limit what we think is possible both within ourselves as individuals and as a collective. If the right is once again producing poets and artists, however, the coming generation stands to have a radically different set of creative influences than the previous one did.
Imagine a bunch of kids who grew up in ‘echo chambers,’ having been inculcated with the ideas, the many horrors, that some of us learned begrudgingly, and with some trauma, as adults. What will their politics look like? Out there somewhere is a teenager, a boy of great potential, who will read Harassment Architecture—what kind of books will he write? What if he becomes General?
If there be good things to say about the world at the present time, perhaps one of them is that we may be living at the right confluence of discontent and censorship that produces a certain kind of creative energy. For the second year in a row now, I have read an independently published book by a first-time author that is really unlike any other book known to man. Harassment Architecture has its obvious literary kin—mostly authors publishing under an internet handle—but it is stylistically unique, and is kind of genre in itself. Unlike others in this scene, Mike Ma writes under his name, but he is also kind of in his own world, perhaps on another ontological plane. To stand out in such a way among this crew is certainly noteworthy. The character Mike Ma is post-ideological and way less concerned with critique than with destruction. While this character makes many of the remarks and observations that we are familiar with, it is not so much to persuade, as for example Ayn Rand’s ham-fisted approach of using shallow characters as a vehicle for her twisted philosophy. Rather, from this character’s perspective we are resigned to the fact that ‘debate’ and ‘arguments’ are at this point no longer possible, and thus quite gay. This character is a powder keg; or like the planet Melancholia become flesh, with a sharp haircut.
This novel is for the man who still pays his taxes (maybe), and who has not yet rounded up a militia, but has in complete mental health made considerations for a future scenario in which it is necessary, even morally certain, to do so. It is for the man who missed out on all the good wars, who tears his muscle fibers in a garage gym and avoids touching receipts. It is for the man who lives on, partly because there might be a God after all, and partly out of pure spite and disgust: suicide only means the ‘worm-brained faggots’ won.
The author makes no attempt at a cohesive story, and is upfront about this. I recall reading him describing this as more of a ‘mental breakdown’ than a story (based on the title, I would have expected non-fiction). The opening has the protagonist in aviators, intimidating a cute and nubile girl at a stoplight with Wagner blaring from the stereo, before rear-ending a Toyota Prius and fleeing the scene. ‘She truly is a bitch,’ he says after she failed to ‘reply to his courtship.’
The ‘narrative’ is composed of micro-chapters, steering violently from such moments of absurd comedy, to vivid terroristic daydreaming, and at times towards nostalgia and introspection. In a weird way, this is an effective and accurate portrait of the psychic life of the man who knows that he is surrounded by a subtle, metaphysical evil, and surrounded by masses of people who either do not know this or, for whatever reason, choose to justify their indifference. One can perhaps relate to this book on a few different levels. It is pretty existential as mentioned, and adroitly done in that regard. It is also a kind of manifesto: included in the back are a few propaganda posters that would look pretty nice on lamp-posts, or pasted over the band stickers on the bathroom walls of urban dive bars.
The reader may be left wanting early on by the quasi-aphorisms and interactions that are abruptly cut off as if to tease, or perhaps to abandon hope of there being ‘teachable moments’ in a world that is so far gone. Our world is one where the disagreements lie at the paradigm level—not political but visceral, anthropological. Nevertheless, one can see flashes of brilliance at times which show to the unfamiliar that there is a real writer here, who has a knack for cinematics and establishing mood (‘Lacrimosa plays inside me...’). The protagonist at one point doubts the morality of his actions and descends into Hades, a powerful scene for the reader who is well acquainted with the folly and fraud that characterizes revolutions. In so few words, an uncanny depiction of hell is put forth, at once darkly funny and terrifying. It almost compels one to pray for the likes of Robespierre, Lenin, Trotsky and other historical dreck. Almost.
In terms of worldview, Harassment Architecture is apparently theistic but also nihilistic, if that is possible. And today, why not? The world, such as it is, destroys the theophanic significance of things. It takes Romans 1:20 and Proverbs 1:7 and inverts them, making all but certain God’s non-existence, which may be doubted, just here and there, with the all-too-rare glimpse of a desert sky that is free of light pollution, or with the first look into the blue eyes of a newborn. If the classical man was certain of Creation but unaware of the elemental properties of things, the modern man is the exact opposite, possessing reams of Data and rote facts, but necessarily kept with his head pointed downward, in accord with the ‘downward pointed Earth.’
On the modern man, he writes:
He glamorizes the ugly, the destruction of any meaningful values, the greatness we could aspire towards. He calls himself and his tribe ‘outcasts’ but they live comfortably, never knowing real conflict. He destroys art, he destroys music, he destroys good taste—all the while calling it beauty.
The resulting ‘anti-beauty’ rears itself in the world at large and in the psychic life of individuals. Such themes are dealt with heavily throughout the book. The true artist of the spirit is too often misguided, through little fault of his own, or he is simply suppressed and censored—shut it down! There are many memorable lines and passages herein which must be kept for virgin eyes, and suffice it to say that many of these would be denounced by Polite Society, the enemies of all that is true and beautiful. I for one denounce none of it.
‘Imagine how powerful it must have felt … to wake up under towering pieces of architectural greatness, things that we still have trouble understanding and replicating to this day.’
It is easy for some of us, knowing what we know and seeing what we see, to feel cheated in some way—you will never see Byzantium at its peak. That expression, ‘may you live in interesting times,’ comes to mind here. The truth, however, is that all times are interesting. As humans, we appear on the scene when we appear. Fate’s revolver ordains that some of us will show up in the time of ascent, some in the decline, and others in times of uncertainty and possibility. Some humans first open their eyes and find themselves surrounded by marble and olive trees, and others find themselves in a world that is inhospitable to those who have a strong soul, surrounded, as we are, by aliens, diet soda fountains, and Netflix. Perhaps it is our job to begin the great shift, a volte-face towards a future where little blond kids can play in the sun again, out of the shadows of centuries-old lies, towards a ‘world removed of sin.’
Our world is also to some extent removed of wonder and mystery. The protagonist yearns: ‘I want to know what it’s like to not understand a single thing about the universe; to look at the stars in the sky and be absolutely floored by the possibilities.’ That old historical window, where myth and legend arises organically from people who saw gods in the stars, who had no idea just what lied beyond them-there mountains, is closed. We did miss out on certain things, the age of exploration and the age of innocence and ignorance. But Harassment Architecture, in spite of its darkness and difficulty, strikes me not as a mourning but an exposition of possibility. We can demolish all the glass skyscrapers, those monuments to finance and granite countertops, which stand at the symbolic center of civilization. We can take jackhammers to the interstate highway system. We can rebuild every crumbling bridge. We can take bulldozers to every brutalist city-hall. We can have jubilee every seven years on the button. We can end Hollywood. We can put every Google and Amazon executive, and every rapist movie producer and international financier, in handcuffs.
This is a very concise, but pretty fucking raucous book. It no doubt takes some balls to put out a book like this, politically speaking, and to some extent even stylistically speaking. And to be sure, one hopes that no one should get any bad ideas from it. In spite of its darkness and difficulty, at least we know that the will that is necessary to rectify this giant mistake lives on in some of us, most evidently in those who are willing to share their madness with the world and move people.
Karl X Brown
is a romantic: a reactionary, reacting irrationally to rationality. He is a lifelong Chicagoan and Northwestern alum; an essayist from the perspective of transcendental realism, classical metaphysics, Orthodox theology, and most of all, the absurd.