Are some Catholics coming around to paganism?

In December of last year, the New York Times arch-Catholic Ross Douthat wrote an article about what he believed was an ongoing pagan revival, entitled The Return of Paganism. Some time after this Robert Barron, an American Catholic bishop, uploaded a clip from his Word on Fire podcast to YouTube, in which he and a man named Brandon Vogt discuss the article and paganism in general. The video was originally uploaded on January 28th of this year, but I had only just discovered it, and I believe it is worth commenting on.

You would think that, being devout Christians and all, they would be very dismissive of paganism throughout the video. But upon watching the video, you may find yourself quite surprised to find that these Catholics are actually very open-minded and even positively curious about the subject of paganism, even if it’s quite clear that they have reservations about paganism for obvious reasons (their rejection of polytheism). Barron in particular offers a positive assessment of paganism despite his Christian faith, saying that there was something true, deep and noble about paganism. He at one point also refers to a man named Robert Sokolowski, a monsignor of the Roman Catholic Church who he considers his intellectual hero, who many years ago told Barron and others something to the effect of “if you want to stop being Christian, I’d recommend you become pagan”. He particular characterization of paganism is also deeply fascinating to me. He describes paganism as, in his words, “the great religion of the natural necessities”, meaning of course that it is the religion of nature, worldly life, and everything that makes it work. This is in stark contrast to the Christian faith, whose God is palpably supernatural in the sense that he exists outside of the natural universe (whereas the gods of paganism are part of and often, as per Hesiod, born out of the natural universe). In fact, when Vogt tries to understand paganism as another expression of the longing for a transcendent, supernatural realm, Barron counters this by saying that the gods and goddesses of paganism were believed to be realities within the framework of the natural universe, and that the Biblical framework distinguishes itself from paganism by its assertion of a God who is totally distinct from nature. Included in the pagan framework, some reason, is the concept of pantheism (which is essentially the belief that the universe itself is God), which Barron seems to believe positions God as being in his fullest sense and within the framework of paganism. He even describes pagan religiosity, in terms of the reverence of ancient natural forces albeit personified as gods, as a healty spiritual outlook. All told, this is quite high praise for paganism coming from a Catholic Christian. As a side-note, I find it interesting that he notes that the Catholic title Pontifex Maximus, used for the Pope, was originally a pagan term referring to the chief high priest of the College of Pontiffs as part of the pre-Christian Roman religion.

Barron’s altogether naturalistic assessment strikes at the heart of how I’ve very often related to paganism, as I presently do, and might be how I always sort of “go back” to it even though I’m not what you’d call a practicing pagan (I still consider myself a Luciferian for now). Although the historical form of paganism can’t be said to be without supernaturalism and certainly not without theism, at the center of the ethos of paganism is indeed the natural world, and mankind’s relationship to it. Although it would be very ahistorical to treat the old pagans as essentially the kind of hippies who were “above” manipulating their environment for the purpose of facilitating human civilization, they certainly did not see themselves as the masters and owners of the world in the way that the Biblical God told his foolish believers they were. There was, in a sense, a sacredness to the natural world, and within a natural world with forces within it represented by gods mankind was part of a whole in which his fate was connected to the natural forces that were represented and controlled by these gods – in this sense, the ancient belief was that man could feasibly attain some mastery of his environment, but not without the aid of the gods. It is the pagan centrality of the natural world that distinguishes it not only from Abrahamism, but also from the Dharmic religions. I once thought when I was younger that Hinduism could be seen as much like paganism, indeed the Indian equivalent of it, but thinking about it this comparison is remarkably shallow. Whereas classical paganism centers on the world and man’s role within it, post-Vedic Hinduism (that is, the Hinduism you know today) ultimately places man as part of a struggle to escape the world, or rather the cycle of reincarnation, in order to unite with a God that exists beyond the material universe.

Worth note also is their treatment of the idea of paganism as a civic religion, which is part of the argument of the Ross Douthat article that they initially addressed. They understand this too to be a part of the interweaving of the human social order with the natural order, although I find it very annoying that Vogt (and I suppose Douthat by proxy given his article) shoe-horns some spiel about “social justice theology” and transhumanism for no discernible reason. These two have nothing to do with paganism, and in fact whatever could be determined to be “social justice theology” is easily the product of Christianity, not paganism (the very term “social justice” originates from a Catholic intellectual).

Now all of this is not to be dismissed as something minor within Catholicism. Although I don’t know how just how prevalent the curiosity for paganism is within Catholicism, I do know that Robert Barron is a major and influential figure in the Catholic movement. He’s one of the most popular Catholic bishops in the world, and especially on the internet. His Word on Fire website and his YouTube videos reach tens of millions of people, and his following on social media is so great that he’s been dubbed “the bishop of social media” and “the bishop of internet”. He’s also a frequent contributor on the subject of religion within the old guard of mainstream media, having worked for NBC and made appearances of CNN and Fox News, and he’s even given talks on religion for major multinational corporations such as Amazon, Facebook and Google. So here we have one of the most influential Catholics in modern times seemingly giving praise to paganism. To me, that’s a gift that I never imagined I would receive, because it potentially might help rehabilitate the idea of paganism and enable it to evolve into a force for modern times.

And if his opinion reaches as many people as it does, it leads to the question: how many people listening to him might come around to a modern take on paganism? I suppose only time will tell. But, in the meantime, I invite you to take a look at the video at the end of this post.

The Pantheon in Rome, just one of many pagan temples that the Christians converted into one of their churches.

The darkness of the way

Within the last week I have begun a path of considering Taoism (or Daoism), as an avenue of exploration . Such pursuits began with my discovering the Xuanxue school of Taoism, also known as neo-Taoism or “Dark Learning”, which seems to draw from aspects of Confucianism and bears a strong focus on the concept of Ziran (which variously means either “nature” or “spontaneity”, but is often translated as “self-so”). The concept of Ziran is a rich aspect of Taoism that I intend to cover in a separate post, but for now let’s begin the excursion into Taoism with a different subject: darkness.

We don’t immediately associate Taoism with darkness, except in Western attempts to discuss yin and yang as referring to darkness and light (which in reality is a grotesque over-simplification of the concept of the Taijitu), but darkness has a profound role to play in Taoist philosophy. The Daodejing (or Tao Te Ching) itself opens with a passage that establishes the darkness of the Way. From the public domain translation:

The tao that can be described
is not the eternal Tao.
The name that can be spoken
is not the eternal Name.
The nameless is the boundary of Heaven and Earth.
The named is the mother of creation.
Freed from desire, you can see the hidden mystery.
By having desire, you can only see what is visibly real.
Yet mystery and reality
emerge from the same source.
This source is called darkness.
Darkness born from darkness.
The beginning of all understanding.

Of course, the version of the Daodejing published by Penguin Classics, which anybody can purchase at Waterstone’s, has a somewhat different translation (the D C Lao translation), one that nonetheless gives a very interesting complimentary perspective on darkness:

The way that can be spoken of
Is not the constant way.
The name that can be named
Is not the eternal Name.
The nameless was the beginning of heaven and earth;
The named is the mother of the myriad creatures.
Hence always rid yourself of desires in order to observe
its secrets
But always allow yourself to have desires in order to
observe its manifestations
The two are the same
But diverge in name as they issue forth.
But being the same they are called mysteries,
Mystery upon mystery –
The gateway of the manifold secrets.

Darkness in Taoism is not tied to evil. In fact, in Taoism darkness has the quality of mystery, not of evil. It is the character of the Dao (or Tao), profound, mysterious, numinous, and yet very much fecund and complete in its nature as the whole. Perhaps in a manner befitting the name, Xuanxue Taoism has a bit more emphasis of this. The Xuanxue philosopher Wang Bi (who lived a short life during the troubled Three Kingdoms period) especially seems to have been known to emphasize this. Darkness for Wang Bi was just a way of saying that the Dao is unknowable by virtue of the content of its mystery, . It is said that this is also in reference to “nothingness”, the Dao being nothing. But such is not the actual teaching of Daoism, or at least not Xuanxue Daoism. What seems like nothingness in Daoism is actually everything, the sum total of the way and the universe. It is perhaps nothing to us because we cannot comprehend it, or perhaps because we implicitly experience it without our knowledge of such experience.

Darkness is the Dao, darkness is its source, its character, and that character is not cognate with evil. Instead it is cognate with the law of the universe, its hidden order, the numinous character of life and freedom. This darkness is not chaos, either. That “chaos” is only “chaos” in your mind because you do not understand it. It is the Dao, and it cannot be understood except as the Dao.

We get another picture of the darkness of the Dao in Chapter 21:

In his every moment a man of great virtue
Follows the way and the way only.
As a thing the way is
Shadowy, indistinct.
Indistinct and shadowy,
Yet within it is an image;
Shadowy and indistinct,
Yet within it is a substance.
Dim and dark,
Yet within it an essence.
This essence is quite genuine
And within it is something that can be tested.
From the present back to antiquity
Its name never deserted it.
It serves as a means for inspecting the fathers of the multitude.
How do I know that the fathers of the multitude are like that? By means of this.

There are those who tend to accuse Daoism of ontological as well as moral nihilism, and the Confucians of old were especially fond of this accusation (which may explain how Daoism ended up becoming marginalized as time went on), but this such accusations do not reflect the the reality of the Dao as presented in the Daodejing. Just as Guo Xiang and other Xuanxue schools had observed, the “wu” of Daoism, that supposedly means nothingness, is not in fact nothingness per se or as we understand it, but instead contains an inherent essence, and essence that thus becomes common to the universe, and thus all beings.

The understanding of the Dao as darkness easily allows a pipeline between Daoism and the Left Hand Path more broadly (whether to or from). For Luciferians, for example, darkness is the beginning, even though the light is important. Once again, we may hark back to Ben Kadosh, the world’s first Luciferian, to spell it out for us in Lucifer-Hiram as he attacks Gnosticism.

Demiurgon of the Gnostics is usually pictured as “Ildabaoth” of the Ophits, or as Eblis of the Manicheans, equal to Samael of the Cabbalah, whose image again can be transferred to Pan, on one side, and on the other to that of “Satan” which is an alien element in Christianity.
This is the exoteric account derived from superficial considerations.
By this, Demiurgon – in his original capacity of creator must have been and is: the first – has been turned into a second-rate principle, and Light has been put before Darkness.
This is absurd and a delusion! It has never been so! Never has any secret science taught such a thing!
If the Light was created before the Darkness, then this is due to the superficial, and by Christian thought influenced, illusion of manipulated men. Look closely into the ancient esoteric writings and you will find that the Darkness, the Source and Abyss of Matter, still – as it is now – was before anything else.
The Light, the Glory and Root of Fiat, can only be sought in the created nature!
Logically speaking, this is the only true concept. To consider it as an enemy seems to me both wrong and dangerous. The Dominion of Darkness – when considering such through the ages – tends to make dark Creatures shun the light – rather than making any Creature shun darkness.
From an esoteric point of view Demiurgon is the “fallen soul of the world”, the true title of Pan in his ability as the creating force and principle. He is to be considered as a first-rate principle, who’s outer and inner add up to Darkness, Darkness in its duality, in which it touches life in its primitive and invisible form.
The dark first-rate principle is – although only manifest through one outer appearance – a principle of duality. Only the dualistic form has the ability to create the Light, as creating in general.
Further can be said: the One Darkness is the absolute reality, while that of Light is only deceptive and illusive.

Remember that, for Kadosh, “Demiurgon” and all of his cognates are in fact Pan, who you will remember Kadosh establishes as cognate with the natural/physical universe. He also frequently identifies Pan with darkness throught the Lucifer-Hiram. If darkness is the absolute reality, and Pan as the eternal some of nature is the matrix of reality, then Pan represents natural reality which is darkness, and that darkness is the Dao, whether Kadosh realized it or not.

Kadosh does hold there to be a unity of opposites in the whole, or as he refers to it “dualistic unity”, but that unity is a character of the darkness, much as it is with the Dao.

That Darkness can have this dualistic nature must be explained by having – as it has – a material fill or grossness, enormous and heavy in the outer and with an immaterial spiritual depth, that equals the other, but inward, and which constitutes our bodies and the Darkness in them. Or more clearly: The estimation and justification of the value of something. The estimation that – briefly speaking – it needs a tool – not entirely but close to – of dissimilar principles.
The inequality and yet entirety of the mentioned tool makes that tool appear Dark, its surrounding nimbus becomes Darkness and itself: The Principle of Darkness.
In order for something to be produced, this dissimilarity must be doubled, as something only exists due to this double inequality, not only in the material, but also in the immaterial and spiritual concept.
In this consideration, wherein one differs or diverges from another, the Nimbus of Darkness will always be dwelling.
Thus Darkness becomes the Nimbus of the dualistic Unity.

The origin of the unity of all things is the principle of darkness, as it is with the Dao, which is darkness. There is no such wholeness and unity in the realm of light that is imagined by Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and other more soteriological religions. Only in the untrodden realm of the darkness, of the Dao, may we find said harmony.

I also think that this would be an interesting way of looking at the ninth constituent, “Be loyal to our common taskmaster who has many names.”. The darkness is that common taskmaster, and that darkness is in fact the Dao. That at least is one way to look at it, and to be honest I think I’d like to see that take off. Daoism invariably positions us as part of a larger whole, that whole being the Dao of course, and the struggle for harmony and liberty is a part of that, and as such I hope that more Left Hand Path guys embrace Daoism because it will demand a framework that is superior to the egoism we have typically associated ourselves with, as I will eventually demonstrate when I discuss the concept of Ziran.

Cloudy Mountains by Fang Congyi

What are the Labour Party afraid of?

There’s something I forgot to touch on in my previous post, so I may as well do it here being as it’s being propelled into relevance. Throughout the last two years the Labour Party has been clamoring for a new election in order to replace the Conservative government on the grounds of their increasingly apparent failure to govern. Yet, now it appears they are increasingly averse to the idea of contesting a new election, even as the Conservative Party appears to be in the weakest and most shambolic state I’ve ever seen. I mean I thought Theresa May was bad, and indeed she was horrible, but Boris Johnson has only been in office for over a month and already it looks like his government won’t last for very long. He has as of yesterday lost his first vote in the House of Commons by a majority of 27, thanks to a contingent of rebel Tories (all of whom have since been stripped of the whip and are no longer sitting Tories), and before that vote another Tory MP named Phillip Lee defected to the Liberal Democrats, thus costing the Conservative Party their majority in parliament. The conditions are ripe for Labour to begin clamoring for a new election, and it just happens that as of today Boris Johnson is opening the opportunity for them to do so.

In today’s Prime Minister’s Questions, Boris Johnson threw down the gauntlet and challenged Jeremy Corbyn to back his call for an October general election if the Benn bill successfully passes. This is him essentially inviting the opposition to have their moment to contest an election with him. In theory, Labour might be in a semi-decent position to take advantage of the Conservatives’ shambolic state and defeat them in an election by pushing forward a strong social-democratic campaign, so you would expect them to be fully supportive of the prospect of a new election. Instead, however, a lot of the Labour Party were adamantly opposed to the idea. They fear that the election will just be a trap that will allow Boris to enact a no-deal Brexit without opposition. Really? OK, granted, if the Conservatives are somehow able to generate a majority then Boris will be able to undo some of the amendments designed to stand in the way a no-deal Brexit, but it doesn’t seem to me like Boris is capable of winning an election. Despite his relative popularity compared to many other politicians and the fact that the Conservative Party remains ahead of the polls in terms of voter intention, the cards are set against Boris in terms of the way he can run his campaign. All he can do is go on about Brexit and accuse Corbyn of being an anti-British communist. That strategy could have worked for Theresa May in 2017 if she actually bothered to run an effective campaign, but there’s no guarantee it will work this time, given that he’s already flailing and he’s barely even held the reins for a month. You only get one chance to make a first impression, you know, and Boris won’t get that chance again. But for some reason Corbyn and the Labour Party don’t seem to think they can be in a good position to fight Boris despite all that.

They are so lacking in confidence that it seems they helped to ensure that Boris loses his bid for a new general election. Just tonight, parliament tabled a motion for a general election to be held on October 15th. It lost, having failed to garner the necessary 434 votes (a two-third majority of parliament is required to approve an early general election under the Fixed Term Parliament Act of 2011). Now I’m not entirely sure if it was all Labour voters who opposed the motion, but I think it’s safe to assume Labour played a large role in its defeat either by voting against it or in abstaining from voting, which proves to me that they don’t actually want the opportunity to contest the Tories.

Labour is a party utterly without confidence and ambition, on top of just about everything else wrong with the party (whether from a left or right standpoint).

The proroguing of parliament is (in large part) a nothingburger

Much has been made of Boris Johnson’s decision last week to suspend parliament until October 14th if MPs attempt to block a no-deal Brexit, and, to be honest, for a while I’ve had very little say on the matter. But there is something that, perhaps, is worth saying on the subject. Though, to be honest, the best way to summarize my own thoughts on the subject is simply this: I don’t care, or at least I can’t say I care too much.

A lot of liberals and the left (much as I dread to call them the left) in my country have rallied behind the sentiment the proroguing of parliament represents a blatant attack on the British democratic system, and to be fair the fact that Boris Johnson invoked the monarchy in order to do so would seem to be the greatest symbol of this, and as a republican I do have big problems with the fact that we have to have our affairs decided by a monarch rather than, say, a president. But, in the long run, this critique is riddled with problems, for it is in practice hypocritical. Prorogation is certainly not a normal process, but there are a few instances of it having happened before, and to relatively little fanfare. Clement Atlee, the prime minister under whom our beloved NHS was established, prorogued parliament in 1948 in order to pass the Parliament Act of 1949, which was intended to curtail the power of the Lords over the government. And most crucially, in 1997, John Major, who is now one of the leading opponents of Boris Johnson’s prorogation, himself prorogued parliament in order to avoid a debate over the cash-for-questions scandal and a report related to the subject. But now that Boris Johnson is proroguing parliament in order to enable a no-deal Brexit without being impeded by opposition, let alone with royal support, this is being treated as a threat to democracy, on the grounds that the will of parliament (not the people, conspicuously enough) is being denied. Really? This is what we’re running with?

Furthermore, to say that democracy is under attack is a rather foolish point to make because by now the idea that we have a democracy has been shown to be an illusion. Just the fact that a monarch can be invoked to exercize authority over popular government should already tell you that our democracy is hollow, fake and even fraudulent in character, but the fact that our democratic will as regards the original 2016 referendum can be so brazenly disregarded by our elected officials in the first place, namely the MPs who have fought to cancel Brexit since 2016, tells you that our democracy is a joke. And really, let’s touch on that. Why are the same people who argued that the democratic will of the British people should be negated because the people were misinformed by racist propaganda, thus bringing democratic exercise under the heel of the elite, now suddenly whining that democracy is being undermined by the elite? They never cared about democracy to begin with, they didn’t want it as long as it meant people voting against their desires, and now they’re going to tell us how much they care about democracy? What kind of fool do you take me for?

So in sum, I don’t care about the prorogation of parliament as it stands.

 

Religion and revolution and Fire Emblem: Three Houses

As something of a change of subject, I’d like to revisit the world of video games, and video game stories, in the manner that I often did in the early years of my blog. I’ve had a Nintendo Switch for over a year now, and recently a game came out that my brother told me about wants to play himself. That game is Fire Emblem: Three Houses, the latest in the line of Fire Emblem games, a series of tactical role-playing games and one of the most popular role-playing hame series’ in Japan. In this game, unlike in previous installments, you can choose between three houses within the land of Fodlan, and the one you choose is the one you will teach as their professor and carry its students to victory in battle. Not being particularly enamored with the series, I didn’t care at first, although it was amusing to think about considering it kind of reminded me the Three Kingdoms period of China, and from there the Dynasty Warriors games (incidentally, Koei Tecmo, the company that makes the Dynasty Warriors games, was involved in the development of Three Houses). But then my brother told me that, in one of the factions, you can fight the church. That’s when I became interested in playing it.

The reason I decided to write this post is because, after playing the game, I became very interested in the storyline the game had to offer, and the many narrative quirks that presented themselves. Those who have followed my blog since its early days know that this is the kind of thing I sometimes like to talk about. For example I talked in the past about not only Shin Megami Tensei in particular but also games like inFamous and Dynasty Warriors for anything in the plot that inspires me to write about it here. In Fire Emblem: Three Houses, it’s probably the first time in a long time that I felt that I had a lot to say about a video game.

But before I go on, a plot summary is in order. You’re the son or daughter (per your choice) of a mercenary named Jeralt, who works for the Church of Seiros, a religion that in many ways resembles Christianity but centers around the worship of a goddess (referred to in universe as Goddess or The Goddess) rather than God. After saving some students from the Officers Academy at the Garreg Mach monastey from bandit attacks, you find out that these students are also the leaders of their own respective houses – The Blue Lions, The Black Eagles, and The Golden Deer. Each of these houses represent different territories in the world of Fodlan. The Blue Lions represent the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus, which seems to be a religious monarchy where the nobles and the royal family are devout believers in the Church of Seiros. The Black Eagles represent the Adrestian Empire, the largest power of the three which also has a tenuous relationship with the Church of Seiros. The Golden Deer represent the Leicester Alliance, which is perhaps the most curious of them all in that it’s not an empire or a kingdom but instead a league of noble families ruled jointly as a republic, governed by a council of the five most influential families, and is apparently neutral towards the Church of Seiros. Anyways, early on in the game, after being introduced to the Officer’s Academy and its students, you become enlisted as a professor of the Officer’s Academy and you’re asked to choose which of the three houses you take under your tutelage. The first part of the game consists of you teaching your students the ways of battle, and the second part sees the three main powers at war with each other, and you will end up fighting for one of them based on which of the houses you picked at the beginning.

From this point on, expect quite a few spoilers for this game.

So anyways, I mentioned earlier that one of the factions has you fighting the church? Well, that faction is The Black Eagles, representative of the Adrestian Empire, led by the Adrestian princess Edelgard von Hresvelg. At some point in the game, she confides in you about her beliefs about the Church of Seiros and these things called Crests. Crests are these weird sigils you see in the game’s story that are supposedly blessings from the Goddess. They seem to confer special abilities and exceptional strength and power to those who bear them (that is, those who are either born with Crests or have Crest Stones implanted into their bodies). In terms of gameplay, these Crests are basically combat buffs that confer various effects upon a character’s abilities during battle, and allow certain characters to wield unique weapons (referred to as the Hero’s Relics, or just Relics). It’s also very tied to heredity and nobility, as the Crests are often prized after by noble families, even, as shown in the game’s story, to the point that they disown their own children if they lack a Crest. But for Edelgard, the Crests are to blame for what is, in her view, a brutal and irrational social order. And, if you think about it, this makes sense.

The world of Fire Emblem: Three Houses is very obviously based around medieval Europe in large part, and the time frame within the game even suggests the story taking place in what is Fodlan’s version of the 12th century, albeit with noticeable anachronisms. In real life, medieval society was intensely aristocratic, being ruled by a hierarchy of lords and their servants, with of course the royal family at the top of that hierarchy. Their systems of government were characterized by the idea of divinely-ordained hereditary rule (or “the divine right of kings” as you’re told in history class), wherein the head of state derives authority from being the member of a special aristocratic family and lineage, this authority often secured by religious backing and ceremony. Now imagine that sort of society, but then add to the mix the ability to inherit special abilities via the Crests. Or hell, the Crests don’t even have to be real. You could just have a religious belief system or superstition that has something like that, and the nobles act based on that system of thought. It would indeed seem like an irrational place, and a fairly hostile and cut-throat one too, with the nobles competing for who has God’s favour as signified by the inheritance of supernatural powers. Why would you not want to get rid of such a social order? Not to mention, the Crests in-universe essentially damn you into just being an object of the desires of noble families, who seek prestige and glory from members who have Crests. And in some cases having the Crests can also turn you into a literal monster. Also, it’s possible to artificially implant crests into a person – through horrible, agonizing and for all I know illegal experiments and surgeries (referred to in-game as blood reconstruction surgery) that also tend to fail and result in either insanity or death for the subject. Even successful surgeries tend to have terrible side-effects, such as reduced lifespan in the case of Lysithea, one of the characters. And if that’s not enough, these experiments are often explained as having been carried out on unsuspecting children, and the only two “successful” subjects of these experiments mentioned in-game are Edelgard and Lysithea, with other subjects being shown to have either died as children or lost their sanity. So Edelgard’s stance on the Crests in the game is completely rational and justified, especially given she and her siblings have gone through those same experiments, in which her siblings lost either their lives or their minds.

The Black Eagles path is seems to be as thrilling as I hoped. The archbishop Rhea, when you defy her will and side with Edelgard during Chapter 11, declares that she will rip your heart out and transforms into a fearsome white dragon, who seems to have been lampshaded earlier in the game as “The Immaculate One”. After this, your fellow Black Eagles students join you, Edelgard and her loyal bodyguard Hubert, and declare war on the Church of Seiros, and their allies of course. What fascinated me deeply was that Hubert and Edelgard reveal that they have a whole manifesto lined up, in which they say they’re going to expose the evils of their enemies and the Church, presumably as part of a new ideological mission. That moment, to me, was more epic than I expected, although I didn’t see much come of it in the game’s story. Chapter 12 was pretty exhilirating in that sense, I got the real sense of excitement of actually fighting the ordained “good guy” organization. The rest of the path is basically you carrying on Edelgard’s mission of unifying Fodlan by defeating the Church of Seiros and its allies (the other two lords), until finally you fight Rhea, who turns into the dragon you saw before.

One of the “good” guys, a murderous dragon!

Now, here’s the thing, take note of how this game seems to demonize those who oppose the Church of Seiros. The only time the game wants you to think of a character as a malevolent force, for some reason it’s mainly people who oppose the Church of Seiros. This is typically Edelgard and Hubert, although for all of that the game actually manages to do a good job of making them actually likeable, leading to a bit of confusion as to where they actually stand on those two character. There are also “those who slither in the dark”, the only characters in the game who can technically be counted as unambiguously villainous. Although their actions are decidely evil, there cause is a rather curious one: supposedly they want to, as Myson (one of their agents) puts it in the Blue Lions route, “return this world to mortal hands”. Although it is possible to interpret that as wanting to free the people of Fodlan from the control of the ruling goddess or more or less her people, unlike with Edelgard they seem to be more motivated by vengeance and hatred than any liberating vision for humanity, and are revealed to have been responsible for the murder of the goddess Sothis and the genocide of her offspring at Zanado. This lends itself to the real conflict buried beneath the war between the three main powers: that is, the conflict between the draconic children of the goddess, including Rhea who controls Foldan from the shadows via the Church of Seiros, and her ancient enemies, the Agarthans, who murdered Rhea’s kin and talk about Sothis as a false god. This aspect of the conflict is somewhat important in the Black Eagles path, where Edelgard and Hubert and their allies are among the only people who talk about liberating Fodlan from divine rule and bringing it under the control of its human population. If you engage in support conversations with Hubert you eventually get a sizeable hint of this emphasis: he talks to you about how he believes the goddess failed to govern the world, how the human species steps up and take the lead where the divine fails, and how the human species should fight to preserve what makes itself human. On the whole, it’s all very interesting how the designated villains of the game all want to put the human species first above the gods. I wonder why that’s supposed to be evil. But evil it is according to the game, or at least that’s implied to be the case considering most of the available routes in the game have you defending the Church of Seiros and opposing Edelgard, with no real justification as to why you should support the church.

It’s almost like the game wants you to side with the Church of Seiros. In fact, even if you take the Black Eagles path, the game still basically wants you to side with the Church of Seiros no matter what, even if it means betraying Edelgard. Even though you agree to teach Edelgard and side with her faction for the rest of the game, you don’t actually get to side with Edelgard unless during Chapter 11 of the story you talk to her in Garreg Mach monastery and agree to accompany her to the city of Enbarr for her coronation as the new Adrestian emperor (or empress, rather). You also have to get a support rank for Edelgard of C or higher, which you can do by talking to her, fighting alongside her, giving her gifts, inviting her to tea etc., like you would for any of the other officers in the game. You have to do this before the Chapter 11 mission starts. If you don’t, you’ll miss the chance to see that event, and if you miss that event you won’t be able to trigger this path, and be locked into the Church of Seiros campaign, which has you and the other Black Eagles (except Hubert) fighting against Edelgard and the Adrestian Empire in the name of the Church. If you suceed in unlocking that event, then after you defeat Edelgard in the Conflict in the Holy Tomb mission, Lady Rhea orders you to kill Edelgard, but you’re given a choice as to whether or not you want to kill her or protect her instead. Choosing to protect Edelgard sets you on the alternative route where you fight alongside Edelgard against the Church of Seiros for the rest of the game. To be honest, when I playing the game I didn’t assume that was the case at all. I just played the game and encountered that event, and while there was a choice indicating you could alter the story in this path, I assumed that I was actually doing the Black Eagles path as it was supposed to play out. But nope. In the main playthrough, you’re actually supposed to try and kill Edelgard after defeating her in the Conflict in the Holy Tomb.

And you know, through all this I think it’s worth visiting the question, “just what’s so great about the Church of Seiros anyway?”. Let’s think about this in terms of the main character’s life. It’s implied throughout the game’s story that the Church of Seiros has been trying to manipulate you for whatever purpose they have in mind, and Lady Rhea seems to have some mysterious plans for you. Early in Chapter 10, after your father Jeralt dies at the end of the previous chapter, you discover his diary in the room where you would once find him. In the diary, it’s revealed that Jeralt had developed mistrust towards the Church of Seiros after his wife died (which was also around the same time the main character was born), and the baby protagonist developed very bizarre behaviours, such as never laughing or crying as a normal baby would, and most bafflingly of all not having a detectable heartbeat despite having a pulse (which really confused me when I saw it because, usually, if you don’t have a heartbeat, that means you’re dead). Perhaps thinking that Rhea had plans for the child that he wanted no part in, Jeralt decided to start a fire in Garreg Mach monastery, spread false rumours about his child having died in the fire, and fled from the monastery with the child. Eventually you figure out that Rhea, and the Church of Seiros, was using you as a pawn for their plans to preserve their dominance over Fodlan. It turns out that the main protagonist possesses the Crest of Flames, which is the Crest of the goddess of this game’s universe (identified within the game as Sothis), and since by the end of Chapter 10 you’ve awakened that goddess’ power by having her merge with you, Rhea seizes the opportunity to try and use you to revive the goddess, who apparently is the mother of Rhea. That’s why Jeralt initially left Garreg Mach and took you with him, because he realized that Rhea saw you as essentially a vessel for her own power, a pet project of sorts, and wanted nothing to do with. Of course that didn’t stop him from coming back in the beginning of the game, but I digress. Regardless of what side of the story you play for, you eventually figure out one way or another that Rhea has, all this time, been using you as a vessel in order to revive the goddess Sothis, who is implied to have died at some point in the events prior to your arrival in the game’s story (even though you can see Sothis in the game in the form of the green-haired sprite who greets you at the very beginning of the game). To that end, it seems Rhea initiated an experiment through which you inherited the Crest of Flames and through which Sothis’ spirit entered your mind and body, so that eventually you will become one with Sothis’ power, which Rhea believes will signal the return of Sothis to the world so that she can rule Foldan once again. Essentially, Rhea is using the protagonist as a puppet to re-establish divine rule over mankind. The sting in all this, however, is that this Crest is apparently the main reason the protagonist is still alive. But there’s a problem: after defeating Rhea in the Black Eagles route, the protagonist loses the Crest of Flames and, while it at first appears that the protagonist is dead, it soon becomes clear that you actually survive and live to see Edelgard establish her dominion over all of Fodlan.

It’s not just what the Church does with you that makes me think that maybe they’re not the good guys here. Just look at what they’re seen doing in the first part of the game. The Church of Seiros makes it very clear at an early point that if you oppose them, you end up dead. An early example of this is in Chapter 3, wherein the Church orders you to suppress a rebellion by Lord Lonato, in which civilians are also slaughtered by Church forces. Most of the cast reflects on this as a tragedy if not an outright atrocity, even if they ultimately see their actions as necessary, but Rhea has no qualms about the whole thing. To her, even the civilians were just more sinners “pointing their swords towards the heavens”. There is also Chapter 4, where you’re introduced to a faction known as the Western Church. The Western Church appears to be a breakaway organization of the Church of Seiros, believing in ultimately the same goddess and having similar teachings (at least seemingly), but at some point it diverged from the central Church and broke off in order to become its own sect. This sect considers the central church to be a heretical organization, perverting the true teachings of the faith of the Goddess, and consequently considers Lady Rhea, its archbishop, to be an apostate. Think of the Lutherans in their attitude to the Catholic Church, only with goddess worhsip. Anyways, some mages apparently affilitated with the Western Church attempt to steal the Sword of the Creator from the Holy Mausoleum during the Rite of Rebirth ceremony. After you defeat the mages and acquire the Sword of the Creator, three men who are identified as followers of the Western Church are summoned before Lady Rhea, and her underling Seteth and a mercenary named Shamir, who inform them that they are to be executed for this transgression, as well as for the rebellion fought by Lord Lonato and the fake assassination letter that was spread afterwards. The men insist that they are not affiliated with the Western Church, and that Rhea is making a mistake, but Rhea and her underlings are not inclined to listen to the men or give them any sort of court hearing, and instead simply give the order for them to be executed. Interestingly enough, one of the men remarks that Rhea has already slaughtered many members of the Western Church, and calls her a monster for it. Of course, later on it would seem he turned out to be right in at least one sense of the word. In any case, strict punishment is how we’re shown the church enforces its rules and its authority. This of course makes the students of the Officer’s Academy begin to feel more than a little afraid of Lady Rhea, and rightly so. In addition, some time after this event, there is a side-quest that requires Catherine or Ashe being in the party wherein you kill more of the Western Church members for no real reason. It’s explained that it has something to do with the assassination attempt, but other than that it’s not too clear what the Western Church is doing that could justify attacking them, let alone executing them as Rhea is said to be about to do.

This also makes itself all the clearer towards the end of the Edelgard playthrough. Once you defeat Seteth and Flayn, she vows to condemn you to eternal torment of being chained to boulders in the desert until your skin rots, and during the final chapter, she orders Catherine, one of the Knights of Seiros, to set fire to the city of Fhirdiad – a move so callous and desperate that even Catherine objects to it. To make matters worse, setting the city on fire would only really make strategic sense if it was to trap the advancing army after it had already advanced into the city, but the fire starts before Edelgard’s forces even enter Fhirdiad, and it’s never suggested that the intent is to trap the invading army. So this was a massacre of Fhirdiad’s citizenry that was undertaken as a desperate show of force. Rhea makes it painstakingly clear that she will slaughter as many people, whether innocent civilians or enemy combatants, as she deems necessary in pursuit of her goals. And it’s not just Rhea who is prepared to slaughter just about anyone. The Church of Seiros has in its ranks a knight named Catherine, who seems heroic at first glance until you see support scenes featuring her where she argues in defence of the killing of innocent people, not just in hypothetical scenarios but also in relation to real (in game) scenarios, such as the execution of Christophe (the son of Lord Lonato) by the Church of Seiros. She also mentions to her friend Shamir that, if she weren’t her friend, she would cut her down on the spot for saying that she doesn’t understand or identify with the Seiros religion or Rhea.

One of the “good” guys, who candidly talks about slaughtering children!

Rhea’s tyrannical regime isn’t simply limited to how many people she is willing to kill either. At some point in the game, it’s revealed that Rhea’s enemies, the Agarthans, somehow managed to develop technologies similar to technologies that exist in the modern world, or sometimes even more advanced than our technologies. For example, this appears to be the first Fire Emblem game in which there’s talk of ICBM missiles existing in-universe. The reason you don’t see it in the game for the most part is basically that technology was mostly destroyed by Seiros. At some point in Fodlan’s history, the Agarthans decide to go to war with Sothis, which is apparently interpreted as them being corrupted by power and thinking themselves as gods. In response to this, following the War of Heroes in which Seiros emerged victorious, Seiros forcibly prevented any sort of advanced civilization from being able to interact much with the people of Fodlan, as well as preventing the people of Fodlan from advancing technologically past the medieval stage. The remnants of Agarthan technology still exist in Fodlan, however, in a hidden underground city known as Shambhala (wait, as in that Shambhala?), located beneath Hrym territory in the Adrestian Empire. This, incidentally, is one of many things about the game that reminds me of the plot of Shin Megami Tensei IV, which starts off in the medieval-esque Eastern Kingdom of Mikado which is actually a dome covering a demon-infested modern Tokyo, or the plot of the movie Hard to Be a God, in which a group of scientists travel from Earth to find an alien planet similar to Earth but stuck in the Middle Ages because its rulers suppress any spark of intelligence that might lead to their equivalent of the Renaissance.

Also, in Chapter 5, it’s revealed that the Relics (basically sacred weapons) turn people into monsters if they are wielded by people without a Crest, and Rhea doesn’t want the people knowing about that, so she orders you to keep what you saw during the fight with Miklan, who transforms into a monster while wielding the Lance of Ruin, to yourself, arguing that the public would lose faith in the nobility if that information were to become public knowledge. This is strange considering she also argues that this transformation was divine punishment from the goddess for Miklan not being “worthy” of using the Relic, an argument you’d think the people of a highly religious medieval society would not have trouble believing if advanced publicly. In Chapter 7, on the Golden Deer route, Claude finds a drawing of a creature called the Immaculate One while researching the Crests, and Seteth, one of Rhea’s aides, discovers this and asks for it to be handed over. When Claude guesses that Seteth is going to make sure the drawing isn’t seen again, noting that the monk Tomas told him that the Church of Seiros likes to bury artefacts that they deem problematic, Seteth fails to refute this and insists that he has no time for Claude’s “foolishness”. In fact the Garreg Mach library is explained to only contain books that are approved by the Church of Seiros. Every new book sent to the Garreg Mach library is directly approved by Seteth before being allowed to go on the shelves, so that nothing the Church deems harmful or inappropriate can be viewed by the students. All this establishes very firmly that the Church of Seiros likes to keep secrets from the public, as well as the protagonist and its students, and keeps a tight control of what information the denizens of the monastery can access in a rather censorious fashion.

Edelgard, being the opponent of this regime, is cast with malevolent intentions due to her being the real identity behind the Flame Emperor. But even in her capacity as Flame Emperor, she objects to the horrific methods of Solon as seen in Remire Village, and states that had she known about it she would have stopped it. Even as the Flame Emperor, even in the conversation with Thales and Monica (who is actually Kronya), she makes it perfectly clear that there will be no salvation for Thales and his kind. And in any other playthrough, after you defeat Edelgard in the Holy Tomb, she gives a speech to her followers and forces where she explains essentially the same thing she explains to you in the Black Eagles playthrough. Almost as though she has a set of actual goals and principles that are opposite to the Church of Seiros, and this isn’t a cover for some vague sense of ambitious greed. Of course, the Church of Seiros interprets this to be nothing more than just the desire to conquer all of Fodlan (which, mind you, used to be under the control of the Adrestian Empire originally but let’s not get ahead of ourselves), and Seteth even goes so far as to claim that Edelgard plans to make herself into a new god, which never actually happens in the game’s story. Even Claude, who is more or less a skeptic of the Church of Seiros, ever-suspicious of its ambitions, simply dismisses Edelgard’s vision as “reckless ambition”. But even when you oppose Edelgard, you don’t get the sense that she’s actually malevolent other than the fact that she has Demonic Beasts in her army, and it’s not explained why she has them in her army. In the second battle at Gronder Field, Edelgard genuinely shows remorse at having to fight and presumably kill her old classmates and probably friends, resolving to fight on only because there is no other choice, while her main rival Dimitri is very much eager to slaughter as many of them as possible (hence the meme where he says “kill every last one of them!”). And for all the talk her being driven purely by selfish ambitions, it’s established early on in Edelgard’s support scenes that the biggest motivation for Edelgard’s plans comes from the fact that the nobles of the Adrestian Empire seized control and ensured that most of her siblings would die for the sake of barbaric Crest-related experiments, and her resolve to change the world stems from her desire for a world where such horrors will never be allowed to happen again. I’ve seen Edelgard compared to Daenerys Targaryen from Game of Thrones (and, to be fair, she does come across as quite similar at times), but I haven’t seen her exhibit any of the same tyrannical zeal or death-or-glory bloodlust that Dany (as she’s often called by fans) has. Even her enemies such as Seteth end up conceding that she is not some cruel tyrant who holds her people in a vice-like grip. The only thing you can say about her that’s questionable is her association with those who slither in the dark, and even then it’s explicitly clear that she hates them and is only really using them in order to unite Fodlan and eventually kill the shadowy beings she was previously manipulating. The only other thing is her telling her followers in the Black Eagle path that Rhea destroyed Arianrhod, when really it was Arundel who did it. But, honestly, if her being questionable is as bad as she gets, then compared to people like Dimitri and Rhea, she’s hardly the least sympathizable character. In general the main source of how Edelgard is supposed to be evil in the game that her path is supposedly built upon bloodshed, as Dimitri says in the Black Eagles route, “built upon corpses and tears”, which, let’s be real, is no more the case than for the path of Dimitri, the Church of Seiros, and even Claude. The Church of Seiros, as we’ve established, is behind a lot of bloodshed even at the early chapters of the game, and Dimitri did not see fit to condemn them for it, even after he bore witness to innocent people being slaughtered during the suppression of Lord Lonato’s rebellion. So frankly, I find this angle to be unremarkable, unconvincing, and hypocritical.

And not to mention, after you defeat Rhea, there’s no hint that this is supposed to be a bad thing. In fact, the game, in a strange twist, makes it objectively clear that you’ve done a good thing and earned a good ending (and yes, I’ll say say it, the best ending), even after trying to trick you into thinking that you’re taking a bad path in the game story. Although you lose the goddess’ power, you and Edelgard unite the land of Fodlan under the Adrestian Empire, . The tone of the ending is resoundingly positive. I half-expected the music and the narration to be either pretty grim or very ambiguous, as though mourning Rhea and the Church of Seiros and wondering if what you did was really good. But that doesn’t happen at all. Instead, it quite rightly treats you as though you’ve liberated the people of Fodlan. And far from the implication that the forces of darkness are ready to take over Fodlan, the game implies that, after the events of the story, you and Edelgard’s forces will move on to fighting the villianous entities referred to as “those who slither in the dark”. It’s so bizarre, the game almost tries to get you to think you’re supposed to be on the side of the Church of Seiros, but when you take the complete opposite path, you find out that the Adrestian Empire are essentially the real good guys.

It may be a meme at this point but it’s hard to see how you manage to spin *this* as evil.

So, what’s the point of siding with the Church of Seiros? Because of some goddess? Because for some reason you like the same religion that has already been a hegemonic force of spiritual subjugation for less than two thousand years in the real world only this time it involves goddess worship and a bunch of anime characters?

Well, to be fair, given that you actually do get to side with the Church of Seiros by betraying Edelgard in Chapter 11 of the pre-Black Eagles route, we can actually get an idea of just what you’re getting by siding with them.

For starters, if you don’t come with Edelgard to see emperor Ionius, you are locked into this route by default should you pick the Black Eagle house in the beginning of the game, and when that happens the rest of the house all turn on Edelgard and accuse her of having used them as pawns, and vow to strike her down. Of course most of the cast is motivated by selfish reasons to betray Edelgard: Ferdinand, for example, is prepared to fight her because his father was stripped of his title as Prime Minister and placed under house arrest, not realizing that his father led a coup in which her father was stripped of much of his power so that he and Arundel could whisk Edelgard to Faerghus and perform cruel experiments on her and her sibilings. In fact most of the other seven nobles who took part in the coup are also the fathers of many of the cast of characters you meet in the Black Eagles house (namely those of Caspar, Bernadetta, Linhardt, and even Hubert). The entire point of the campaign is centered around stopping Edelgard’s efforts to “rule all”, which ultimately just comes off as hypocritical because unifiying all of Fodlan is exactly what Edelgard’s opponents end up doing anyway – Claude unites Fodlan under the Leicester Alliance (and has you rule nin his stead), Dimitri unites Foldan under the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus, and the Knights of Seiros unite Fodlan under the rule of the Archbishop (which ends up being you).

The only other thing worth noting is that this playthrough feels like it’s almost a clone of the Golden Deer playthrough, with much of the events taking place within it being identical, and at least one mission bears similarities to a chapter from the Blue Lions playthrough. So if you decide to tutor the Black Eagles and then side against Edelgard, you essentially do another version of the Golden Deer playthrough, with the main difference being that you play as what’s left of the Black Eagles class, who are now part of the Knights of Seiros, you skip the second battle at Gronder Field, and you fight Rhea at the end. Honestly there isn’t much to say about what you’re fighting for by betraying Edelgard, because of the subject of what you’re fighting for doesn’t seem to come up in the playthrough. I see a lot of the characters talk a tiny bit about what they claim to be against and why they oppose Edelgard, but nothing about what they stand for. It seems to be just you fighting the Empire in order to preserve the status quo. You also don’t learn any major plot revelations that you don’t get in the Golden Deer route, other than Seteth and Flayn being revealed to be “children of the goddess” (which you probably would have guessed early on in the game anyway given the hints you get in Part 1), and that they can shapeshift which explains Rhea turning into a dragon. However, Rhea does tell you that she created the protagonist by implanting the Crest of Flames into his/her heart, and apologizes to you for wanting to use you as a vessel for her ambitions to have Sothis rule the world, and that the protagonist’s mother was another of her creations, who also had the same Crest in her body before her death. She also reveals that she at one point saved Jeralt’s life through some kind of blood transfusion, giving her some of her own blood. All to create a being capable of housing the consciousness of the long-dead progenitor god. After this revelation, however, Rhea transforms into the Immaculate One and some monsters referred to as White Beasts start appearing out of nowhere, and you’re tasked with defeating them. In the end, you’re set to become the new ruler of Fodlan, uniting all of Foldan under your reign and the Church of Seiros, and the Adrestian Empire, the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus and the Leicester Alliance all, for some reason, cease to exist. Wait, wasn’t the game telling me I was supposed to stop Edelgard from doing that?. Oh wait, Edelgard wanted to destroy the church, so I guess that’s different.

You know what, let’s address that here. One of the main objections to Edelgard’s ambitions that springs up a lot throughout all of the playthroughs where you oppose her is the complaint that Edelgard is forcing her views onto others. Flayn, for example, remarks that Edelgard has high ideals but doesn’t care what the people of Fodlan think. The problem with this argument is that it’s ultimately a shallow and self-defeating one: the same could be said of any ruler, or indeed any society from the perspective of its critics. In fact, you could just as easily apply this to the Church of Seiros and the system of nobility. Who asked for this system? Who asked for representatives of the goddess to rule over the people? Who asked for society to be arranged in feudal fashion as it is in Fodlan? But this is what has people in Fodlan opposing Edelgard’s ambitions? Some hollow, pitiable spiel about voluntarism? That’s just a farce in my opinion. But apparently Foldan’s system of religious feudalism is worth preserving enough on that argument that it is only in the Black Eagles playthrough that you actually fight them. Kind of makes me wonder about the developers and their conception of the ideal society, just a little bit. And for all Seteth’s self-assurance that the people cannot understand Edelgard’s ambitions, evidently half of the entire continent understands it enough that you have swathes of people ready to fight for her ideals.

Of course, those people are just brainwashed idiots aren’t they?

There’s an unofficial rule in storywriting that I’ve come across: show, don’t tell. If you’re going to try and paint Edelgard as a villainous figure, or rather semi-villainous given the intentional moral ambiguity of the story, you have to be prepared to show Edelgard doing things you can identify as potentially if not outright evil. But, in playing the game, I never actually see Edelgard do evil things, or have a direct hand in evil things happening. You hear about Edelgard being willing to commit atrocities in order to achieve her goals, but in the actual game story you never see Edelgard actually commit atrocities or order her subordinates to do so. In the Golden Deer route Claude claims that Edelgard’s forces order the citizens of Enbarr to act as a kind of human shield for her forces, but you never see citizens deployed in any version of the invasion of Enbarr, meaning you don’t have to fight or avoid citizen units, which leads me to believe that Claude is basically lying to you – and funny enough, it’s only here that anyone ever claims that the Enbarr citizenry is being used as a human shield, as neither the Blue Lions nor the Seiros routes mention that. She’s described as being so consumed by her ambitions that she alienates and antagonizes the people she cares about, but this never happens in the game, at least judging from the fact that many of her classmates can be seen fighting alongside her in every route except the Church of Seiros, and in that example it’s only because you convince most of the Black Eagle house to turn against Edelgard.

Even if you oppose Edelgard, you don’t actually get the impression that she’s even trying to be malevolent. Even with Dimitri, Edelgard never stopped considering Dimitri to be her friend even as she has to oppose him, a fact that Dimitri is only capable of recognizing if you play the Blue Lions playthrough. For the most part, her malevolence is just something that people in the game and people talking about the game just, well, talk about, but with no clear reference to any actions Edelgard takes. All we get is her stated willingness to “stain her path with blood”, which is a vague statement in the context of war. Really the worst you can say about her is that she won’t compromise with the enemy and she’s willing to use shadowy monsters who she will eventually destroy once she’s done with them. Again, if that’s the worst thing about her, worse people have existed within both the game’s setting and real world history. The closest thing the game gets to depicting Edelgard as a villain is when she turns into a monster called Hegemon Edelgard, for absolutely no god damned reason other than so that she can be presented as a threatening monster. None of the other lords have this happen to them, and only two other characters turn themselves into monsters, Dedue and Miklan, and of them the only one with something of an explanation is Miklan. Her transformation exists solely to dehumanize her and vilify her ideals so that Dimitri, after all the effort he spent regaining his humanity, can just dismiss the compassion he felt for his former friend. In summary, it seems like the entire time the game is just trying (and arguably failing) to tell you what to think about Edelgard and the morality of her actions, but without actually showing how evil Edelgard is.

But you know, the strange thing is, it seems like, had this whole story been real, it seems to me like the Adrestian Empire would have won the war, and that’s important because it plays into the way the game deals with the morality of the factions and how the protagonist plays into it. Let’s think about it as realistically as possible. The Adrestian Empire would have the geographic advantage of covering more than half of the map of Fodlan. They’re strategic areas are noted to be well-fortified, built to last defensively and defended by capable generals, and the imperial army is quite probably the most unified and stable force of the three factions. Faerghus’ resources are noted as being rather thin, with many lands within the territory described as harsh and infertile which would make agriculture difficult. In addition, the kingdom is not necessarily a unified territory. In fact the Leicester Alliance was the creation of Faerghus nobles who split off from the kingdom during its history. Internally the kingdom had some instances of coups and assassinations among the nobility, which calls into question the stability of the kingdom. The Leicester Alliance is easily less stable but for different reasons: although nominally united under a leading noble house or houses, the nobles constantly squarrel with and betray one another, sometimes leading to internal conflict. Not to mention, with Fhirdiad captured, the Kingdom is severely weakened, with just a handful of nobles putting up resistance against the Empire. Another thing to take into consideration is defections. Dimitri’s descent into brutality and madness would create quite a bit of motivation to defect. As a historical example, the Three Kingdoms general Zhang Fei’s frequent tendency to abuse his officers and even punitively execute them eventually led to some of his officers killing him and defecting to the Wu kingdom in 221. And with the alliance, it’s only a matter of time before some of the nobles, who are sympathetic to the empire, just let them pass through. On top of that, for the talk of Edelgard being “willing to commit atrocities”, the Adrestian Empire would, realistically, have quite a few opportunities to achieve their goal of conquest with as little bloodshed as possible, and in some cases no bloodshed at all. All of this is taken from the situation as is observed in pretty much all of the story routes in the game except for the Black Eagles route. Not to mention, outside of the Black Eagles route, it is strongly implied that, had it not been for the protagonist, Dimitri would meet his death while trying to rush into Enbarr. With this in mind and Claude’s limited ability to keep the Alliance stable, the victory of the Adrestrian Empire would have been inevitable in a real setting, and per the game’s story it seems that the only thing really stopping the Empire from achieving its inexorable victory is the protagonist.

Also, since we’ve established the deciding role of the protagonist in how the war plays out, let’s talk for a moment about the Crest Stones and the appearance of Demonic Beasts. In Chapter 11, the Flame Emperor and his forces invade the Holy Tomb in Garreg Mach in order to seize the Crest Stones. At first you wonder why they could be doing this, but then you remember that Crests have the power to turn people into monsters. Once you understand this, you figure out that the Adrestrian Empire was gathering Crest Stones for the purpose of creating an army of monsters referred to as Demonic Beasts in order to bolster their forces. But there is something noteworthy about this element. In all the routes where you oppose Edelgard, you find Demonic Beasts among the ranks of the imperial army, but on Edelgard’s route you never see them. In the Black Eagles route, before the timeskip, it’s strongly implied that, if you come over to her side, then Edelgard could effectively discard the aid of those who slither in the dark. This tells me that you joining her side changes the course of her plans rather significantly, and indeed she seems to directly hint at this at some point in the Black Eagles route where Edelgard talks to Hubert about the Sword of the Creator and its potential in the hands of the protagonist. In fact, in Chapter 8 after you defeat Solon for the first time in Remire Village, the Flame Emperor appears and straight up tells you that, if you join her side, she would be able to subdue and contain the violence of those who slither in the dark, perhaps even vanquish them entirely, and achieve her goals without their power. This also plays into a certain of the protagonist acting as the only thing keeping either Edelgard or Dimitri from becoming truly malevolent. The problem, of course, is that even here Edelgard never actually comes off as very malevolent (mostly because the extent of Edelgard’s evil is never actually demonstrated in-game), and in the case of Dimitri, you don’t do much to stop Dimitri’s rampage of revenge until after the death of Rodrigue (more on that later). Honestly it seems like a no-brainer to me: just side with Edelgard so that she doesn’t have to rely on those who slither in the dark in order to achieve her goal of abolishing the Church of Seiros.

The Flame Emperor speaks the truth

Being as we’ve gone into depth as to what Edelgard stands for, and not to mention Rhea’s ambitions, I think it’s worth delving into what Edelgard’s other main rivals stand for. After all, this is a game where you can choose between multiple factions, each seemingly with their own vision of Fodlan. Edelgard’s two main rivals are Claude von Riegan, who is set to become the leader of the Leicester Alliance, and Dimitri Alexandre Blaiddyd, the prince (and eventually king) of Faerghus.

During the Golden Deer playthrough, Claude tells you that his main goal is to unify the Leicester Alliance by bringing it under his influence, and then eventually unify all of Foldan under his ideals, and then expand his ideals past Foldan’s borders and onto to the rest of the world. Of course this would be functionally no different to Edelgard’s plans to unify Fodlan by conquest but let’s not that get in the way of “giving the CEO of racism a talk” (as the memes put it). What are Claude’s ideals exactly? Well, Claude explains that, when he arrived in Foldan, he found that many of the people of Fodlan were a parochial and chauvinistic people, tending to look down foreigners as animals or even beasts, which he says is the same attitude that people had in the land of Almyra, where he was born. Based on that and his talk of breaking down walls it seems safe to infer that he wants to create a society based on universal tolerance, through what is basically imperial expansion of course. A major part of Claude’s plan is to “bust open” Fodlan’s Throat, which is a mountain range that also serves as a border between Fodlan and the land of Almyra, which periodically starts skirmishes on the border in order to show off their military strength. This goal entails the destruction of a fortress protecting the eastern border in order to weaken the border and allow free movement of people, goods and cultures between the two territories, which he believes will eliminate prejudice from both lands. Claude is basically a liberal expansionist, like Woodrow Wilson, William Gladstone or basically the core of the Democratic Party. He even comes equipped with some convincingly liberal axioms, such as “ignorance breeds prejudice” and “new ways of doing things are always met with resistance” – the latter of which is funny, because resisting new ways of doing things is precisely what he’s doing by opposing Edelgard.

Curiously enough though, Claude, similarly to Edelgard, expresses skepticism of the Church of Seiros, and even explains to you that, without Rhea, people would theoretically become free to think for themselves for the first time, without the pressure of the church or the nobility. He even acknowledges that he and Edelgard have similar ambitions, but sheepishly dismisses her methods on the grounds that they “require too much bloodshed” (as though the whole point of the story wasn’t about war). Funny, the empire allows rival territories to continue existing as vassals and through much of its campaign set about simply capturing rather than destroying territories, and in fact we soon find that it’s the Church of Seiros and Dimitri, not the empire, who are obsessed with bloodshed and set about killing as many people as they can, but don’t allow that to ruin Claude’s fetish for neutrality. In any case, the irony of a game where there are not supposed to be golden good guys is that Claude is, seemingly, the least morally ambiguous character in the game and often seens pretty much benevolent. Sure he talks about cooking up devious schemes and poisoning his enemies, but not only does he never seem to actually do anything that can be counted as malevolent, he’s nowhere near as willing to do the same sort of schemes that Edelgard is ultimately revealed to have carried out.

The thing is, though, I ultimately think of Claude’s ideals as weak. He doesn’t challenge the Church of Seiros and doesn’t seem interested in challenging the nobility, other than opening the borders which presumably goes against many of their wishes. That’s an important detail because no matter what path you take in the game, you run into all manner of horror stories involving many of the characters and their relation to the nobility. There’s Bernadetta who was often imprisoned by her father to teach her to be a submissive housewife and eventually practically kidnapped by one of her mother’s attendants and that’s how she wound up at Garreg Mach. Characters such as Mercedes and Ingrid talk about how their parents wanted to them marry off to some rich noble against their wishes for profit, and in one of their side-quests (or paralogues) you end up fighting them. Edelgard’s father, the emperor Ionius IX, was rendered politically impotent by a cabal of nobles (including Duke Aegir who is Ferdinand’s father) and she herself was shipped off to Faerghus against her will because of Hubert’s father. Sylvain, who on the surface appears to be little more than a philanderer, actually broods on the fact that he’s only valued by people, including women, because of his Crest, because of the realization that, so long as he has a Crest, he will never be related to or judged as a real person, and consequently he believes he will never find anyone who actually loves him as a person. Numerous characters have backstories which shed light on the harsh reality of the system of nobility in place. But Claude never expresses any real interest in changing this in the game’s plot. In fact the only person who wants to change it in the games is Edelgard, and Claude opposes her for her radicalism. He’s also aware that the Church of Seiros has been lying to the people of Fodlan and not to mention stands in the way of Claude’s plan to liberalize the contient, but we don’t see him do anything about that, and nor does he seem too motivated to really oppose the Church. Again, only Edelgard actually wants to overthrow the church. That’s, ultimately, my problem with Claude’s ambitions. Even with his knowledge of Fodlan’s history, he has no desire to topple the societal structures that generate problems for its people. Some might say that it’s all tied back to how he doesn’t actually want conflict, he doesn’t want violence, war or bloodshed to befall the land, and that’s admirable, but beyond his message of tolerance there’s not much to say for his ambition. Not to mention, if you play any of the routes where you don’t side with him and you don’t kill him, he formally dissolves the Leicester Alliance, steps down as its leader and then rides off into Almyra never to be seen again. When push comes to shove, he doesn’t really care.

Before fucking off back to Almyra, I hope.

As for Dimitri, he says that he believes in some vague idea of justice, but what does that justice mean? Well, at some point in the Blue Lions path he tells you that he wants to stop the strong from trampling the weak. It’s a fairly generic moral stance, but seemingly a benign and understandable one. Actually, to be fair on him, in Chapter 3 of the Blue Lions route we see Dimitri sincerely condemn those in power who claim to value justice only to take as many lives as they please, and even empathize a little with Lord Lonato on the grounds that he didn’t view his path outside the lens of the pursuit of justice, and even suggests that, rather than kill Lonato, the Church forces should have tried to pursue a peaceful end to the rebellion. That’s pretty impressive, even if it can be taken as naive. But this moral stance is contrasted sharply by how, in Chapter 8, he tells you that he his one reason for coming to Garreg Mach was so that he would some day get revenge. This also colours the way Dimitri develops as the story progresses. Before the Battle of Garreg Mach, he becomes increasingly tense and obsessed with the memories of Duscur, and after Chapter 11 he passes the point of no return after finding out the Flame Emperor is Edelgard, after which point he becomes genuinely deranged and maniacal, relishing in the thought of senseless slaughter and fantasizing about crushing Edelgard’s skull with his hands. Dimitri had long believed the Flame Emperor to be responsible for the Tragedy of Duscur, a series of massacres in which numerous royals and nobles of Faerghus, including Dimitri’s father Lambert, were assasinated. Of course, the Flame Emperor didn’t actually have any hand in those massacres, and indeed she openly condemns the events at Duscur and Enbarr as unjust, and not to mention it’s eventually revealed that Lord Arundel and Cornelia are the real culprits behind the Tragedy of Duscur, but let’s not let that get in the way of Dimitri’s Old Testament God instincts.

Anyways, five years later, after the timeskip, we no longer hear about justice and virtue, in fact he doesn’t care about these things anymore for most of the playthrough. When you and Dimitri set out to rout some theives infesting what was the Garreg Mach monastery, he becomes enraged when you point out that some of them might be stealing just to survive. He talks of slaughtering all of the theives lurking in Garreg Mach, even if they only steal to survive, justifying his actions with his longstanding belief that the strong should be stopped from trampling the weal, in his words “even if it means becoming a rat myself”. Thus all that seems to remain of his moral compass and ethical conceits is just a way to rationalize senseless brutality. When one of the Adrestian generals, Randolph von Bergliez, is captured by Dimitri’s forces, he laughs when you suggest he give him a quick death rather than the two sadistic options he presents: either he forces Randolph to watch as he executes his comrades one by one, or just gouges his eyes out. Before fighting Randolph, when he rhetorically asks Dimitri “life is worthless to you, isn’t it?”, he says “you took the words from my mouth, general!”. After you mercifully execute Randolph to stop Dimitri from torturing him, Dimitri dares you to kill him, and says that if you don’t then he will keep using you and your allies until you die. His obsession with revenge is also complimented by frequent instances of Dimitri hearing voices in his head which he interprets to be the spirits of his deceased royal relatives. All he wants to do in the Blue Lions playthrough is to strike out at the Imperial capital so that he can kill Edelgard, believing that it will end the war and quell the haunting voices of the dead that linger inside of him.

He gets so bad that even Felix, who is normally all too eager for battle, suggests that he’s gone too far. But then even before the war phase of the game Felix recounts a story in which Dimitri suppresses a rebellion so brutally and with such savage glee that he didn’t even recognize him as human, a fact that the pre-war Dimitri is forced to recognize when confronted with this story and so cannot deny the truth of the matter. This rebellion, as it happens, was his first experience in battle as a commanding officer and took place two years before the events of the game and thus preceded the suppression of Lord Lonato’s rebellion. Hell, if you talk to Felix as early as Chapter 2 in the Blue Lions route he warns you not to trust Dimitri because he thinks of him as an animal, and even during the prologue chapter, your protagonist thinks to himself about Dimitri, “I sense darkness in him”, suggesting that there’s – and, just so you know, that never happens for the other two lords. While Dimitri tries to say that his enemies are the same as him, don’t be fooled: there are few characters in the entire game who are as monstrous as the fiend that Dimitri becomes. And, of course, in order to justify his madness, he tries to convince you that you and him are of the same kind because you pursued the people who killed your father, Jeralt, in Chapters 9 and 10. Of course, the comparison is ultimately shallow, given that after defeating Monica/Kronya and Solon you don’t go down a rampage of revenge like Dimitri does, but, again, that fact would just ruin Dimitri’s narrative. That fact will never stop him from dehumanizing his enemies, treating them as little more than beasts with human faces. He is also so blinded by his desire for revenge that he cannot even take joy in the victories his forces win in battle in his name, referring to one battle in Chapter 16 as a farce despite the victory. But most tellingly of all, when Gilbert asks Dimitri in Chapter 17 if he feels no hesistation about killing his former friends and classmates, he says simply that he is used to killing familiar faces by now, with a visible smile on his face. This attitude is a stark contrast to the attitude held by his rivals Edelgard and Claude, both of whom express sorrow at having to fight their former friends at Gronder Field and in general, and it is the most revealing as to who the truly malevolent of the three lords are.

Trust me when I say this is one of the least frightening things he says.

But, it’s worth noting that Dimitri doesn’t stay in his vengeful stupor throughout the Blue Lions path. At the end of Chapter 17, after the second Battle of Gronder Field, Randolph’s sister Fleche attempts to kill Dimitri in order to avenge his death, only for Rodrigue to shield him and get stabbed instead of him, thus Rodrigue died to save Dimitri’s life. Initially Dimitri doesn’t learn much from this, and he still tries to march single-handedly to Enbarr, this time guided by the sentiment that nothing really matters anymore because “death is the end”, and refuses to listen to you because he just wants to die already because he thinks of it as the only way to free him from the voices of the dead. However, as the next chapter begins, we start to see him questioning his desire for revenge and changing course. Instead of marching on to Enbarr like he originally planned, he decides to instead turn back to Fhirdiad in order to take it back from the Empire. And then, Dimitri pulls a face heel turn: he apologizes to the entire party for the bitter and vengeful path he led them through, along with the senseless suffering he caused, and announces his intention to return to Fhirdiad and greet its people as their rightful king. He states that he will stop listening to the voices in his head and start doing what he actually believes in. But what does he actually believe in?

Well we can certainly say he’s learned to renounce vengeance on a moral level, having figured out that Fleche’s attempt on his life was ultimately his fault because of the vicious cycle that the pursuit of revenge creates. Other than that? It’s not too clear. He doesn’t seem to care about the conflict between the Agarthans and the children of Sothis, and he has nothing to say about the Church of Seiros other than he supports them for some unspecified reason. Even after he gets over his obsession with revenge against Edelgard, it still seems that all he really wants is to defeat the Empire. We get two reasons for why this is: some generic line about “restoring peace”, and revenge (the latter, strange as it may seem, ultimately makes the most sense). When Dimitri prevails in at the end of the Blue Lions playthrough and Fodlan is united under the Holy Kingdom of Faerghus, the conflict between Sothis’ forces and the Agarthans (or “those who slither in the dark”) is not at all addressed, and we don’t know what Dimitri intends to do about them. All that happens with Rhea is she steps down as Archbishop after being rescued from Enbarr, for a reason that is as entirely unclear as the reason she was held captive in the first place. Nothing happens in relation to the Church of Seiros, although we can assume Dimitri wants to keep them around. All we know of the kind of world Dimitri intends to build is that he wants to get rid of “all kinds of oppression”, but there’s no basis for establishing what that could mean and also it’s entirely laughable to think that a theocratic government with no intentions of not being a theocratic autocracy is going to get rid of oppression. At least Edelgard wanted to abolish the nobility along with the Church and apparently even hints at making it so that the title of emperor is no longer hereditary somehow.

Beyond all of that, Dimitri is generally distinguished from the other three lords by his willingness to accept the status quo of Fodlan society. Whereas Claude is skeptical and mistrustful of the Crest-based noble order but merely doesn’t do much to change it, and Edelgard wants to bulldoze that order entirely and replace it with an egalitarian meritocracy (albeit an imperial one), Dimitri believes that this order and its customs exist for a reason. He believes that if the people of Fodlan no longer valued the Crests, then the noble bloodlines that carry them would fade out or no longer be strong enough to oppose the threats they were supposedly keeping at bay. But he is not a mere conservative in this sense, and, when you ask what he believes, he states he believes that those with Crests and those without should learn to co-exist and respect each other based on the merits that they both bring to the table. He also thinks this attitude should apply to all other major aspects of society, such as noble lineage, race, religion and ideology. Essentially he’s a similar type of reformist to Claude, but perhaps with even less ambition. He opposes Edelgard’s vision because she wants to bring about revolution via the Empire supposedly at the expense of countless lives (which, as we’ve established, doesn’t entirely pan out the way he would describe it), and saying that by contrast he wants the war to end “through acceptance, not annihilation” (which is laughable considering almost all of Dimitri’s actions and statements from Chapters 11-18).

The best picture we actually get of Dimitri’s beliefs is in Chapter 21, when Edelgard has the opportunity to meet Dimitri and explain her vision. When she explains to Dimitri that, in reality (or at least from her perspective), her war would in the end lend to the least casualties, which is very likely to be the case if this war were to play out in real life, the death toll of the war ultimately lower and more bearable compared to the suffering that the world of Fodlan imposes upon its people, Dimitri refuses to see her point and accuses her of being obsessively devoted to the war (as opposed to his own obsessive devotion to waging war against the Empire and killing Edelgard of course). Of course we do get some vague ideas about faith, with Edelgard saying that she would rather people be able to rely on themselves while Dimitri insisting that there are those who cannot live without their faith. What’s really interesting about this scene is that we actually seem to get something similar to the conflict between the Law and Chaos factions in the Shin Mgeami Tensei series. He even accuses her of being a Social Darwinist, claiming that her path is the path of the strong and can only benefit such, despite no indication of that being an aspect of her actual worldview and her even positioning her cause as a struggle for the weak and the downtrodden. Dimitri even accuses her of wanting to become a goddess. Strangely enough Dimitri actually has the gall to advocate that it is the people, not the rulers, who change the way of the world, despite his system of government literally being predicated on the hereditary authority of a singular ruler (a fact that Edelgard directly calls him out on when he says that a “highborn” person like him cannot know how the poor really feel). On the whole it seems that Dimitri’s ideals are ill-formed and only make sense as reaction to Edelgard’s vision.

The biggest problem with Dimitri in my view is twofold. First, the most obvious problem, is that Dimitri never leaves behind his obsession with vengeance and never becomes something of a good person unless you side with him (except, for some reason, in the Black Eagles playthrough, where he doesn’t even have his eyepatch). Unless you take his side, he will continue to be the brutal and deranged prince that he turns out to be, and this would have inevitably led to his death in his attempt to charge into Enbarr. The only reason he stops is because after Rodrigue’s death you somehow convince him that his desire for revenge is pointless and that he needs to fight for something other than vengeance. You’re the only reason that Dimitri doesn’t stay a psychopath, which tells me that his destiny was to be a psychopath. The second is that, any way you slice it, Dimitri spent his whole life in pursuit of revenge and ultimately bases his fight against the Empire on a lie. Edelgard had no role to play in the Tragedy of Duscur. That was all the work of Arundel and Cornelia, though Arundel (as Thales) claims it was done for her benefit. But he was prepared to believe that she caused it, based on nothing other than Edelgard being the Flame Emperor, and it is only in Chapter 19 that he suddenly says that that he always suspected that Arundel was behind the Tragedy of Duscur. The problem here is that he never expressed this suspicion anywhere in the game and spent so much of the game holding Edelgard responsible for the entire thing, so I don’t know where he suddenly got to the part where he realized Arundel was behind it, but he’s full of shit if he tells you that he always thought Arundel was behind the massacre, otherwise he wouldn’t have gone insane when he found out Edelgard was the Flame Emperor. With this in mind and just how ill-defined his ideals are, coupled with what I’ve explained about what the reality of Adrestrian conquest and victory might look like (not nearly as bloody and annihilationist as Edelgard’s enemies would suggest), it just strikes me how, in the ultimate analysis, Dimitri’s fight is ultimately for nothing. There’s no reason to for him to fight her other than to defend Faerghus from invasion and because he initially believed her to be responsible for the events at Duscur, all else is just a cheap rationalization from there. If all his cause has was a lie and nothing in the way of a well-defined set of ideals other than constantly talking about chivalry and knighthood, nothing is all it’s going to be.

Sometimes the memes say it better than anything else

It’s because of all this that I find Edelgard to be the most sympathizable faction leader in the game, and her cause to be the most sympathizable, and cannot be convinced otherwise.

But there’s one thing that bothers me. Even in the Black Eagles ending where you side with Edelgard and defeat Rhea, there are a lot of plot holes that stem from issues and details that remain unresolved. For example, in Chapter 11, it’s revealed that Edelgard is the mysterious “Flame Emperor” from earlier in the game. In fact, this is lampshaded later in Part 1 when, after the Flame Emperor disappears, people talk about Edelgard having wandered off somewhere. But what’s not answered is why Edelgard felt the need to go around bearing the guise of the Flame Emperor. It’s also not clear why she allies herself with “those who slither in the dark” to begin with. All Edelgard tells you is that she’ll explain it later, but she doesn’t get the chance to do so before you get sent into a coma for five years after the invasion of Garreg Mach in Chapter 12. And, most egregiously of all, the Black Eagles path, during the second half of the story doesn’t have you fighting those who slither in the dark in any capacity. It consists of 18 chapters, shorter than the other storylines, and it ends with you destroying Rhea. While the idea of that path ending with the fight against Rhea is a fitting conclusion to a path where you’ve set yourself against the Church of Seiros,. Like I said earlier, show not tell is a basic rule of storytelling. Although it is believable that Edelgard’s forces will oppose them, due to the multiple times Edelgard and Hubert express genuine hatred for those who slither in the dark and very clearly intend to dispose of them, we never see them fight any of them during the second half of the game except in Chapter 16 where they fight Cornelia, a royal mage of Faerghus who is implied to among their ranks. I have the feeling that the route was laid out this way in order to prevent each of the routes from ending in the same way – after all, two routes in the game (the Golden Deer and Church of Seiros routes) both have you fighting those who slither in the dark as the final enemy. But even then, why is it so short? Is it because the Adrestian campaign backed by you would be a short and easy victory in the long run, or is it because they didn’t want to include a missing confrontation with those who slither in the dark that might ruin the moral ambiguity they intended? In either case, it leads to the Edelgard route being incomplete. In fact it is because of this as well as a lack of fully animated cutscenes compared to the other routes as well as being much shorter than the other routes that some fans of Fire Emblem believe that the route may not have been originally intended to be included in the game, and may have been rushed out before the game’s release.

In sum, I believe that the game’s treatment of Edelgard as a potentially sinister figure, and indeed casting her as the only lord who turns into a monster at any point in the game, and the fact that within the game you are not actually supposed to side with her, to the point that her own route is actually an alternative route as opposed to the actual route (in which you betray Edelgard on behalf of the Church of Seiros), and the decisions that were made for writing that route leads to the conclusion that Edelgard was intended to be, at least ultimately, a villain or primary antagonist. They couldn’t depict her as an outwardly malevolent character, because that would undermine the intent to create a morally ambiguous setting, filled with reasons to justify supporting or opposing either of the lords you’re asked to choose from, so instead they simply cast her as an overly ambitious extremist, a bit like the way Dynasty Warriors games used to treat Cao Cao until the sixth installment of the series (a point worth noting considering that Koei was involved in the development of this game), while still giving some tells that she’s meant to be more malevolent.

The reason I find this rather telling on the part of the developers is because of the setting all of this is situated in, and the roles played out therein. Keep in mind that in the game Edelgard is one of the only characters to actually oppose the Church of Seiros, and quite possibly the only one giving a clear vision of how bad it is and what the world would be like without it. Everyone else either supports the Church of Seiros or just doesn’t care enough to oppose it, thus they end up opposing Edelgard’s vision. While many character express grievances towards the system of nobility, it seems no one actually seems interested in changing or abolishing this system except Edelgard. And only Edelgard and Hubert talk about bringing Fodlan under the control of human power and freeing them from the rule of shapeshifting gods. All of these are talked about in the game to some extent, and Edelgard is the only character who actually wants to do something about it in a way that actually leads to meaningful change in the only way that makes sense. That, strictly speaking, is Edelgard’s crime within the game’s story, or more specifically being willing to start a war in order to achieve those goals. As though the Chruch of Seiros was ever going to peaceably accept its own abolition, as if their living gods would willfully relinquish their power. The ultimate message here is impossible to escape: the Church of Seiros is ultimately good, and the nobility is only a flawed system that could do with reform rather than the decrepit injustice that it is actually shown to be, and if you have enough of a problem with this system that you decide that it needs to be gotten rid of for the good of the people, then you’re a tyrannical ideologue seeking to subjugate the people and build a utopia on a foundation of corpses. Of course, we all know where we’ve heard that before. In fact, considering the game’s setting, I’d like you to imagine if we had that attitude towards the Catholic Church. Indeed, imagine if, in the 18th century, the French and American revolutionaries had that attitude to the French and British monarchies respectively.

So in a nutshell, don’t listen to Fire Emblem: Three Houses fans who think that Edelgard can be counted as one of the bad guys in the game. All they end up doing is apologizing for the feudal-religious order in a game where you actually have the chance, and very good reason, to oppose it. In other words, Edelgard did nothing wrong.

And so, the only righteous path lies before you.

David Koch dies as the Amazon burns

A rather pleasant surprise greeted me today. David Koch, one of the extremely wealthy Koch Brothers, has died today at the age of 79. He was a key figure in the libertarian and conservative movements, having run for Vice President under the Libertarian Party ticket in 1980 and since then bankrolling a number of conservative organizations for the purpose of spreading free market capitalism and climate change denial along with numerous other right-wing ideas. His financial influence was instrumental in getting the paleolibertarian Tea Party movement off the ground and into the core of the Republican Party’s base and ultimately the halls of Republican Party power (and, eventually, the halls of presidential, senatorial and congressional power), and continues to permeate college campuses which are filled with right-wing astroturf movements eager to poison young minds by exploiting the weaknesses of their progressive rivals. So don’t be surprised when I tell you that I’m glad he’s dead.

And you know, at the same time David Koch’s brother Charles announced that he had died, we had been hearing about how vast swathes of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil are burning down. Much has been made about this coincidence, many have joked about how Koch waited until the Amazon and Greenland started burning before passing on, and this is not without meaning. Anyone who knows anything about rainforests knows that the Amazon is not the type of place that is usually prone to bushfires. Heavy rainfall is a regular ocurrence in the region, as is the case for many other rainforests, in contrast to the Australian wilderness where the climate is much more arid and less humid and the dry foliage is more liable to sudden combustion. Indeed, many scientists observing the recent Amazon fires believe that these fires are not natural, and it is instead logically assumed that the fires are the result of human activity. In fact we know that the fires that burn Brazilian rainforests are usually the work of cattle farmers who destroy sections of the rainforest in order to create space for farmland. Furthermore Brazil’s current president, Jair Bolsonaro, has been overt in his disregard for the rainforest, and not only has his government undermined efforts to combat illegal logging, ranching and mining in the rainforests, but it has also eliminated departments that were devoted to combating climate change and deforestation, and Bolsonaro fired the head of Brazil’s National Space Research Institute when they revealed the extent of the deforestation taking place under his government. Bolsonaro has also promoted deforestation, removing regulations against land-clearing, and encouraged farmers to kill indigenous people who stand in the way of the expansion of farmland into the rainforest. It seems entirely reasonable, then, that the recent fires are the logical result of Bolsonaro’s regime of removing all state barriers to the expansion of capital into the natural environment.

Now, why is all this relevant to David Koch? Well David Koch and his brother Charles just so happen to be a major source of funding of the infamous conservative think tank known as the Heritage Foundation, notorious for promoting climate change denial as part of its free market package. And it just so happens that the Heritage Foundation has supported Jair Bolsonaro on numerous occaisions in the run-up to him being elected president. This should not be taken as a coincidence, considering both share the same agenda of militant deregulation of the private sector, and the fact that Bolsonaro is supported by Brazil’s business sector. So when you hear about David Koch’s death and then the Amazon rainforest burning down, know that the interests of the Koch brothers and the Bolsonaro regime are very much the same, and they’ve been promoting the very ideas that now result in the destruction of huge swathes of rainforest. The land will not be mourning for David’s death, and neither should you.

Oh, and one last thing: David Koch is one of the people whose name is on Jeffrey Epstein’s Little Black Book. Do with this knowledge what you want.

India is becoming a totalitarian state

There was another news story that came my way, and I felt I had to talk about it because it has rather grave implications for liberty. It has been less than three months since the Bharatiya Janata Party was re-elected as the dominant party in the Lok Sabha in the Indian general election, with Narendra Modi securing his position of Prime Minister by an even larger margin than he did in 2014. Since then, there have been signs that India is moving in a direction that can only be described as George W. Bush’s America on crack.

In July of 2018, Shashi Tharoor, a liberal Congress MP, stated that a BJP victory in this year’s election would result in the creation of what he called a Hindu Pakistan. He predicted that the BJP will replace the current constitution of India with a new constitution, one that will affirm their desired state of India as a Hindu Rashtra, meaning a Hindu state (which is not only theocratic in the sense of being built on the rule of the Hindu faith, but also ethnocratic in that it is based on the idea of the “Hindu race”), and that when this Hindu Rashtra is erected it will bring an end to any semblance, or even pretence, of social equality. Now, just a few days ago, a court in Kolkata issued a warrant for Tharoor’s arrest over the remarks he made last year after a man named Sumeet Chowdary filed a case against him. One wonders why Chowdary did not see fit to do so when the remarks were originally made. For their part, the BJP appears to be supporting this decision. BJP spokesperson Sreenath Sheshdari stated that he believes Tharoor’s remarks were “anti-Indian” (which should immediately be your first red flag), claiming that the BJP has nothing to do with the goal of the Hindu Rashtra, saying “We have talked about the culture, not about Hinduism as a religion”.

Now, putting aside the obvious lies that the BJP marshalls in defence of Tharoor’s arrest warrant, just take stock into the fact that a man, let alone a sitting MP, is being arrested for criticizing the government. This is normally the kind of thing we would consider unthinkable in Western countries. We rightly call this out as the sign of prevailing authoritarainism or even totalitarianism. But that’s what’s happening in India right now. A man is being arrested for criticizing the ambitions of the government and its ruling ideology. And given recent events concerning India-Pakistan relations (namely the revocation of Kashmir and Jammu’s autonomy and the blackouts being imposed by the government), it seems safe to assume that this repression is directly tied to the government’s ambitions for Pakistan. They want to invade Pakistan in order to realize the Hindu Rashtra, and lock up those who criticize them.

And the BJP can try all they like with their meager arguments to obfuscate the reality of the situation, but it is not possible to truly hide it. Violence against religious minorities is more of a prevalent phenomenon in Indian society than it was before, with pro-Hindutva thugs attacking Christians, Muslims, and Dalit Buddhists seemingly every other few weeks or so. And as for their claims that they don’t want a Hindu Rashtra? They are the direct product of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, who in fact are notable for their ambitions of a Hindu Rashtra. They’re just not willing to obfuscate their ambitions in the way that the BJP does nowadays. So, functionally speaking, the BJP are lying to you. But then they also lied about there being terrorists in Balatok after they struck the area, so what else can we expect from them but to lie about their ambitions.

In any case, if Tharoor is arrested over his remarks, and I don’t trust the BJP government to not prosecute him, then India will be in the process of transforming into, let’s not beat around the bush here, a totalitarian or just plain dictatorial state. If you thought Bush’s America was bad, what with the Patriot Act and all, just wait because Modi’s India is going to be much worse, with the government issuing arrest warrants to more critics and Hindutva street violence against people who oppose their politics, which I can assure you the BJP will not be interested in cracking down on. And all a prelude to the invasion of Pakistan.

And, by the way, let me just stress this for my American readership: this is the country Tulsi Gabbard thinks the US should maintain good relations with. This is what she’s covering for when she defends Modi and the Hindutva movement from criticism with her pallid cries of bigotry or “Hinduphobia”. And if you want Tulsi Gabbard to win the nomination and become President, that’s what you’re prepared to countenance as well.

George Orwell’s famous novel 1984 is often misunderstood by all corners as a generic cry against either censorship or just state regulation. One detail that its conservative admirers often miss out on is that the whole point of 1984 is that there is seemingly perpetual war between Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia, and Oceania’s totalitarian dictatorship is ultimately centered on controlling the masses so that they will not resist the cycle of perpetual war that Oceania subjects its people to. Through constant misinformation the masses are condition into supporting a war machine that fights for the purpose of extending authority and power and undercutting social and economic equality and freedom. What we see in India may well be the beginning of this process.

The transhumanism of Jeffrey Epstein

I have made clear in the past, as well as relatively recently, that I am an implacable opponent of transhumanism, and I think that other Luciferians should join me in opposing it as well on a moral and philosophical level. In my post I mentioned that transhumanism is a very popular idea among elite capitalists, particularly those in Silicon Valley. What I didn’t know at the time, and hence didn’t mention it, is that one elite capitalist in particular is also into transhumanism: and that man’s name happens to be Jeffrey Epstein.

For context, Jeffrey Epstein was, within the last weekend, found dead in his prison cell, reportedly the result of an act of suicide. On July 6th, he was arrested on charges of sex trafficking after the discovery of several photos of underaged women and discs containing more of said pictures in his Manhattan residence, and he was due to appear in court in relation to these charges; he made one court appearance before his death. This was not his first arrest. Over a decade ago, he was arrested on charges of molesting a 14-year old girl in Florida, to which he pleaded guilty, and he is known to have molested several other teenage girls. He was convicted of sex trafficking for procuring the prostitution of an underaged girl in 2008, but was only sentenced to 18 months in prison, and after three and half months he was allowed to leave prison as part of a “work release” program. For years, Epstein has had a reputation of being a rich, powerful pedophile, who invited wealthy and powerful people to his private island, Little Saint James Island, supposedly in order to have sex with children and/or teenagers. Several famous people are implicated as being in his orbit, mainly via the flight logs of his private aeroplane. Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Tony Blair, Prince Andrew, Tom Barrack, Woody Allen, Alan Dershowitz, Kevin Spacey, Chris Tucker, and many more are all listed as friends of Jeffrey Epstein who have travelled with him on various occasions.

Now why the hell am I talking about that guy? Well, as the title of this post suggests, it’s not specifically about his pedophilia and all the theories surrounding his connections to political and financial elites. Instead this post is primarily about how apparently, some time after his arrest and before his death, it was discovered that Jeffrey Epstein, like many wealthy elites, had long-standing transhumanist ambitions that he shared with his fellow party-goers for years. A recent New York Times report on Jeffrey Epstein that was published on July 31st revealed that Epstein had plans to spread his seed as far as he could by impregnating as 20 women at a time in his Zorro Ranch in New Mexico, where it is also believed he sexually abused many young women, some of them minors. He appeared to believe that his DNA was somehow superior to that of the average person, and that by spreading his DNA throughout the world he would engender a new race of superhumans. This gave quite a bit of attention to the subject of transhumanism, and it’s worth doing to Epstein’s history with transhumanism, which is also covered in the NYT report, and it is obvious that his plans to generate a new race of superhumans through rape (let’s face it, this is Jeffrey Epstein we’re talking about) is just the tip of the iceberg.

Epstein is known to have talked about his ambitions involving transhumanism and genetic engineering since 2001 at the earliest. One of his most particular interests appears to have been cryonics, a pseudoscientific idea that holds that you can freeze a human being or even just the severed head of a human and then resurrect said person in the distant future by thawing him/her out. Epstein apparently told one unnamed adherent of transhumanism that he would like both his head and his penis to be frozen for the purposes of cryonics. Another particular interest of Epstein’s was eugenics, another pseudoscientific idea and this one mired in severe ethical flaws. According to Steven Pinker, who was one of many scientists that Epstein courted in order to promote his transhumanist ambitions, Epstein often argued against providing medical care and starvation relief for the poor on the grounds that it would lead to overpopulation, and his plans involving Zorro Ranch are often noted as having dovetailed into eugenicist fantasies about breeding a superior breed of humans (with, of course, the assumption that Epstein himself was one of the ubermensch). Epstein also seems to have had an interest in artificial intelligence, as suggested by his close affiliation with the late AI researcher Marvin Minsky, with whom he held a symposium on artificial intelligence on the infamous Little Saint James island, which was privately owned by Epstein. There was also another bizarre tidbit in which Epstein told one scientist that he was financing efforts to discover “a mysterious particle that might trigger the feeling that someone is watching you”, whatever the hell that could mean.

Epstein’s interest in transhumanism was also reflected in how he spent his money. In 2011, Epstein gave $20,000 to the Worldwide Transhumanist Assocation (now known as Humanity Plus, or Humanity+), and $100,000 to Ben Goertzel, who is the organization’s vice president. Ben Goertzel, as it happens, is also the founder of the OpenCog foundation, which seeks to build a robotic intelligence capable of emulating human intelligence by means of an open source virtual reality framework. Goertzel is also one of the scientists behind the Sophia project and is very open about his transhumanist aims for artificial intelligence, and is part of a documentary film project released in 2012 entitled “Singularity or Bust”. Epstein backed OpenCog through his Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation. The same foundation also appears to have spent millions of dollars on procuring numerous high-profile scientists and researchers for the purpose of gatherings and symposiums.

As a side note, this would serve to explain why you hear about numerous high-profile scientists, such as Steven Pinker, the late Stephen Hawking, Stephen Jay Gould, and many more associated with Jeffrey Epstein. When you hear about them, your first instinct is to ask “what are those people doing with Jeffrey Epstein and his pedophile island and his pedophilia plane?”. And while that’s the natural reaction given what we know about Epstein and his island, the truth is that those scientists were most likely not on that island for reasons pertaining to sex, let alone involving children, and instead would have visited Epstein for the purposes of discussing science-related philanthrophy, and so they could hear about Epstein talk about his bizarre ideas about science. If you think about it, it makes sense. High-profile scientists are probably going to take some interest in hearing what an inordinately wealthy man seemingly interested in science has to say about scientific projects and funding going to those projects. A lot of them probably didn’t even know Epstein was a sexual predator, and I guess that’s fair to assume considering that it was only in 2005 when the allegations of sexual misconduct began and criminal cases were beginning to be made.

And the most interesting part? None of Epstein’s transhumanist ambitions were a secret, at least not to the people who attended Epstein’s parties and gatherings. Epstein’s ambitions weren’t closely guarded by a clandestine cabal of conspiratorial associates. Rather Epstein constantly blabbed about his wild ideas to just about anyone he had the opportunity or inclination to do so to. He was very open about his fantasies, desires and priorities, just that apparently no one thought it prudent to bring them to major media attention until after his recent high-profile arrest. And indeed, not only was Epstein open about his wild ideas, but almost no scientist who attended his gatherings appears to have intuited any serious problem with his ideas nor have sounded the alarm bells for what should have been very obvious red flags. As far as I can tell based on what has been revealed, the only major voice of opposition to Epstein’s proposals was Steven Pinker, who says that he was “voted off the island” for objecting to Epstein’s ideas, and has referred to Epstein as an intellectual impostor, saying that he would repeatedly change the subject “A.D.D. style” and dismiss observations that countered his views. And to be honest, “intellectual impostor” is a rather apt term for Epstein in regards to his science-related pursuits. After all, Epstein had no real scientific, intellectual or academic background, he had absolutely no qualifications that would rightfully make him a member of the scientific community, indeed you might argue his interest in science amounted to a layman’s or hobbyist’s fascination with science, but somehow he managed to ingratiate himself with leading members of the scientific community through the enormous wealth he had amassed over the years. But even with that, it appears nobody at the time thought that there was anything wrong with Epstein’s sexual proclivities, and, in their defence, they say they never saw any women that were younger than 18 or 19. Perhaps the taste for underaged girls was the side that Epstein did see fit to hide from the scientific community, lest it endanger the possibility of securing cooperation and interest.

Now, what’s funny about all of this is that, ever since that New York Times report came out, transhumanists have been quick to denounce Jeffrey Epstein as the narcisstic pedophile that he is, saying that he is a perversion of everything transhumanism stands for and that no transhumanist wants any part in Jeffrey Epstein’s lurid fantasies. From what I’ve seen, no transhumanists were keen to speak out against Epstein before his arrest and before the New York Times got a hold of Epstein’s ideas. The transhumanists Epstein talked to certainly didn’t complain about his ideas or his perverse proclivities, not least because he was giving them money to carry out research to promote their ideals. Indeed, nobody who heard about Epstein’s proposals thought to express any outward sense of objection or disgust towards these proposals, and did not make any noise about them at the time, so it seems to me like they. So those transhumanists can save their crocodile tears for someone dumb enough to give a shit.

I hate to say it but the conservative National Review isn’t terribly off-base with its article on Jeffrey Epstein’s transhumanism. I actually kind of agree with the article when it paints Jeffrey Epstein as a perfect fit for the transhumanist movement. While transhumanists such as Zoltan Istvan would point that Epstein wasn’t exactly a member of any self-identified transhumanist organization, he was certainly interested in giving money to people interested in furthering the cause of transhumanism, particularly those interested in doing so through artificial intelligence it seems, which to anyone other than a transhumanist is proof enough that he was at least somewhat attached to the cause of transhumanism via his philanthropy, in much the same way that George Soros supports liberal causes or the Koch Brothers for conservative and libertarian causes. Money talks, in case you haven’t noticed, and if Jeffrey Epstein’s money could talk it would probably say “singularity or bust!”.

On the whole, Jeffrey Epstein serves as a strike against the cause of transhumanism, even as contemporary transhumanists disavow him (which they have no real foundation for doing so to begin with). And he’s not an isolate example either, though definitely unique in that he used his power and wealth for mass sex trafficking. He’s part of an entire elite culture and philosophy that is deeply fascinated with transhumanism, particularly as a means to extend their own lifespan and exist as physical gods while the proletariat and everyone else below them suffer under an ever more intensified material inequality of wealth, resources and happiness and the planet’s climate deteriorates further beyond our control. Transhumanism, despite what the small but loud contingent of Reddit-dwellers who support transhumanism will tell you, is the project of the capitalist elite, and the emergent expression of the extreme wealth that they live in and the detachment from reality and the masses that it engenders. It must be opposed and t must be defeated, for the sake of the human species.

Zorro Ranch, intended as the base of Epstein’s neo-eugencisit degeneracy

The Global United Nightside Movement

I have just been apprised of a new development that is set to undertake within the broader Left Hand Path community. Thomas Karlsson, the Swedish occultist known for his involvement in Dragon Rouge, wrote a Facebook post on Friday announcing the birth of a Global United Nightside Movement. This is not to be taken as a pet project of his, but rather it appears to be a collaboration between Thomas Karlsson and Michael W. Ford (founder of the Assembly of Light Bearers, formerly known as the Greater Church of Lucifer), Stephen Flowers and Don Webb (two prominent and high-ranking members of the Temple of Set). It’s not strictly associated with either Satanism or Luciferianism or any specific Left Hand Path tendency per se, rather it is intended be a movement for all religions that fall under the category of “Nightside Spirituality”, otherwise known as “The Dark Path” or The Left Hand Path. With such leading lights as Karlsson, Ford, Flowers and Webb behind it, you can be assured that this is supposed to be a major project.

Right off the bat, I have a mixed opinion of this pursuit. Unity is a sorely lacking feature in many LHP circles. I’ve heard it once said that we are like a heard of cats. Therefore, it is easy to imagine that we would need to find a source of unity, and thus the idea of a Global Unified Nightside Movement has some appeal in the sense that it might seem to bring such a unity. However, I find it difficult to imagine such unity being possible in the long run. People often chalk it up to just different Satanists or different Luciferians being too different from each other, and in many ways that’s true, but in my view it comes down more to the fact that Satanism, Luciferianism, Setianism or what have you all represent movements that are distinct from each other. They can be thought of similarly to the relationship between Christianity, Judaism and Islam, or between Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism – all of them can be thought of as belonging to a loose family of faiths, whose relationship is defined by a shared common origin or a shared set of themes, tropes or philosophical and mythological frames of reference, but are ultimately distinct in content and ideology. To me as a Luciferian I find that, in the ultimate analysis, to treat me as being part of a united front with Satanists or Setians seems to be missing the point, especially given that I disagree with a lot of the doctrines from various Satanist organizations nowadays, and I’ve made clear that I do not support Michael Aquino’s particular vision of Satanism. And to be honest, I don’t think I would want to be a part of anything that would ask that I find common cause with the Order of Nine Angles and the degenerates that comprise that fascist cult. Not that I should assume that, of course, but it is worth raising as a concern as regards the theme of unity. My sense of reservation also emerges from my experience as a socialist, having entered into various left-wing spaces via the internet and observed conversations such as the theme of “left-unity”. The left has, historically, never been a united front in the same way that the right has managed to be. Throughout the history of socialism you have Marxists, utopian socialists, social democrats, anarchists, progressives (if you could call them left-wing) and other factions of the left constantly fighting each other over doctrinal differences. In Marxism itself, doctrinal division is also all too common – in my country alone, there are numerous self-identified communist parties, some of them splintering off from each other or existing as splinters from existing socialist parties, and many of them all subscribing to similar doctrines of Marxism-Leninism. Now I’m not quite saying it’s like that for LHP movements, but I derive from my knowledge of the history of socialist politics and of modern leftist spaces a sense of skepticism for any attempt of unity between wide and disparate movements.

That said, although there is little information to go on other than Karlsson’s Facebook post, I believe that there is some potential in the proposal. There is clear ambition and reflection in the project proposal, there is the desire to be a genuine, large-scale spiritual movement, which is something that I respect. There is quite a bit of emphasis on the exoteric aspect of Left Hand Path practice. What I would like to know more about, however, is precisely the exoteric side, the activity and praxis that this entails. We are invited to gather collectively as part of a larger movement dedicated to what is called Nightside Spirituality, but what we could really use is a well-defined plan of action or set of events to go on. I realize it’s early days, and I’m expecting there to be some sort of website or Facebook page or whatever to go with this project, but I still long for more information on the subject.

At the center of my desire to assess this project, however, is the nine constituents that Karlsson outlines in order to break down the essence of the movement. These constituents serve as basic points underpinning the philosophy of the movement. They are as follows:

1) Individual freedom: “The bigger the government – The Smaller the citizen.”
2) Spread the knowledge of The Nightside to those worthy.
3) Support science against superstition.
4) Be Watchmen against imperialist religions.
5) Create strong networks.
6) Inspire to Indiviuation as C.G. Jung called it.
7) preserve and relive the ancient traditions and make them adapted to our times.
8) Support each other.
9) Be loyal to our common taskmaster who has many names.

I like most of these constituents, but I think it’s worth discussing them in more detail.

I won’t lie, the first point is a real eyebrow-raiser for me, due to my familiarity with right-wing politics. Now I’m prepared to give these guys credit by pointing out that the statement “the bigger the government, the smaller the citizen” could mean have a number of meanings beyond right-wing libertarianisma and conservatism, and it could just be a generic assertion of the value of individual freedom or liberty, as can be found in left-wing doctrines as well as right-wing doctrines. In fact an argument for left-wing minarchism is very much possible to make, drawing from the works of authors like Anton Pannekoek, Eric Hass, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Mihailo Markovic, and Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels themselves. But when I see talk of “big government vs small government”, it almost invariably comes from right-wingers, an American conservatism/libertarians in particular, and while the discussion of “big government vs small government” is often applied to discussions of individual liberty, in practice the whole point of that theme is economics, specifically the role of the state and its regulations in overseeing market forces within the context of capitalism. “Big government” usually means the expansion of government bureaucracy in theoretical context, but it also tends to . Thus I worry that there is a noticeable right-wing political flavour to this effort by Karlsson and co, which I suppose may be but a broader sign that the Randian framework of the Church of Satan is still subtly at play.

In case you may think I’m being out of line in saying this, consider two things. First, the fact that “big government vs small government” is a theme that only really appears in right-wing circles, and at that it’s mostly an American thing. I almost never encounter it outside of the US, except for in some British conservative circles, particularly the ones partial to Nigel Farage. Second, Stephen Flowers, one of the men behind this project, seems to be intensely right-wing. In his comment to Karlsson’s post, Flowers responds to the point about opposing superstition in which he singularly blames Karl Marx for what he believes to be, a sentiment that echoes the right-wing conspiracy theory known as Cultural Marxism. In fact, if you read Flowers’ book Lords of the Left Hand Path, you will find there are many times where we comments on Marx, Marxism and communism, and he makes claims about Marxist philosophy without ever citing any works from Marx or Engels or any other Marxists, or at least not directly. This is even more telling when you consider that, when he comments on the anarchists and their apparent reverence for Satan or Lucifer as literary figures, he will directly cite anarchists like Bakunin and Proudhon. Also, in the same book, there’s a section in which he accuses Marxism of being the origin of what we would call political correctness, a claim that is no different to the kind of conspiracy theories that have been bequeathed to us by people like Paul Weyrich and William Lind, the former of whom I might add was a leading figure in the conservative Christian “Moral Majority” movement. Again, no citations offered within that part of the book.

Honestly, I wonder what people are still doing talking about Cultural Marxism these days after Slavoj Zizek demolished Jordan Peterson, its chief exponent in the current decade, on the subject in their debate in April. Just for the sake of illustrating it, I will present the relevant clip from that debate below. But, I can sum it up with the following: Peterson fails to identify any Marxists that he holds to be responsible for the trend of academic postmodernism within the mainstream or for political correctness.

Anyways, returning to the constituents, the second constituent seems to show a sense of reservation regarding the distribution of knowledge. The idea seemingly is not to spread the knowledge of the Nightside to as many people as people, but only to “the worthy”. The logical questions that follow from this, of course, is “who are the worthy?”, “what determines whether you are worthy or not?”, and “what does it mean to be worthy?”, and for that matter, “worthy of whom?”. I suspect this plays into that idea of esotericism, of hidden knowledge, which I think all of us who get into Left Hand Path ideas and similar belief systems tend to be into. But I think there is this pervasive attachment to the idea of it being esoteric that misses the point: the point of being the light bringer is to reveal the hidden, and that means the esoteric no longer being esoteric, no longer hidden but instead known. No one will fear the darkness once it is brought into light. Isn’t that the point?.

The third constitutent is entirely positive and noble, and for me very befitting for those who seek to embody the Morning Star. Supersition is in no way the ally of those who seek truth and freedom, and we do not raise ourselves against the mystified reign of Yahweh only to mystify ourselves further. I think it’s worth noting that one comment to Karlsson’s post stook out in particular because it seemingly defended superstition on the grounds that the word superstition means the survival of pagan beliefs, on the grounds that the word superstition comes from the Latin words supra and stitio meaning “stay above” and “survive”, adding in a separate comment that this was the Christian meaning of the term. Of course, the word superstition originated not in Christian Rome but in pre-Christian pagan Rome, where authors such as Pliny used the term to refer to the survival of folk beliefs like divination. The similar term “superstitio” was used by Roman writers such as Tacitus to refer to religious movements that were barred by the Roman Empire, such as the religion of the druids. The concept of superstition in the Greco-Roman world also seemed to have . The Roman author Cicero used the term “superstitio” to refer specifically to fear or excessive fear of the gods, as opposed to the proper respect and veneration of the gods, for which he used the term “religio”. So in a way, when we say we oppose superstition, you can think of it not only as opposition to irrational folk belief in unfalsifiable supernatural phenomenon, but also opposition to the need to fear the gods and the unknown. This idea is completely consistent with Luciferianism in particular, and it was bequeathed to us by the Hellenists of Greece and Rome, and we would do well to learn from them.

The fourth constituent leaves me a little puzzled. What exactly is meant by “imperialist religions”? That’s another thing about this project I hope gets explained more. For my initial worries about right-wing political influence, one wonders if there’s a bit of a left-wing cue to this one. But I jest. Considering that the revivification of ancient tradition is involved in this project, I do wonder what this means for Alexander the Great (who is the subject of low-key praise in Michael W. Ford’s works), whose imperial expansion spread the Greek religion far and wide and resulted in syncretic interpretations of the Hellenic tradition. I don’t have much to go on here.

The fifth constituent is to me a genuinely positive one. It’s one of the key assurances that there will be a focus on collective solidarity, whether Karlsson and co realize it or otherwise. Exactly how this is to take shape is yet to be seen, but I think it’s safe to assume that this will involve the formation of a community of like-minded individuals. Of course this still leaves the question of whether this points chiefly to online communities or real life communities. I will find it hard to imagine that there’s much to be done in the way of real life community activity, but I do have high hopes and would like to see where this goes further. In fact, I am eager to find out whether or not the invariably social nature of this constituent and its demands leads to a collective pondering of how to interpret Left Hand Path ideas in a way that frees them from the atomizing effects of the hyper-individualism that the community often lays claim to.

The sixth constituent is interesting because it lends to itself a means to liberate the community from the egoism that was bequeathed to us by the likes of Anton LaVey and the Church of Satan, along with similar figures and movements. After all, the process of individuation is contextualized by an idea of self that is not definable as the ego, and in relation to which the ego is nothing but a diminutive aspect of the broader whole, or even an entirely illusory entity. In fact, I’ve seen interpretations of Jungian individuation as in fact not referring to the consolidation of a unique state of being but instead referring to, in a bizarre way, the attain of oneness, of initation with the whole. In any case, you cannot interpret the concept of Jungian individuation in a manner that resembles egoism, Randian or otherwise, without bastardizing it completely, and I imagine that anyone familiar with Jung’s ideas knows this, so it will be interesting to see the notions of self that emerge from the emphasis on Jungian individuation.

The seventh constituent resonates with me because I find that it aligns with the Luciferian ethos, which is all about revivifying the ancient ways in a new context, centered around the revolutionary figure of the Morning Star, or Lucifer. Of course, with the Temple of Set a big influence in Karlsson’s project via Flowers and Webb, I am rather concerned about what they could mean by “the ancient traditions”, possibly they may follow from Aquino’s fanciful fictions about the religion of Atlantis, but as it is intended to be a broad principle this might not necessarily be the case. It could simply refer to the ancient custom as defined within the Indo-European milieu, which would include Hellenism. In either case, this is a strong element of the Nightside Spirituality being defined by Karlsson, and I can definitely support it.

The eighth consitutent is benign in much the same way as the fifth one, and to me it seems to be almost the same point, a very positive one at that. We all start out msiguided, confused, and ignorant outside of our volition, and many of us lose our way. As such, a network of support which forms the basis of a community is often vital, and a good way to promote interpersonal solidarity.

The ninth constituent to me is rather mysterious. Just who is “our common taskmaster who has many names” supposed to refer to? I have to guess it is the name of a deity or a force of some kind, which leads me to suspect the influence of theism, but I can’t quite say for sure. So for now, I’m just going to have to ponder on what was meant by that statement.

And that’s all there is so far on the Global United Nightside Movement project. I’m eager for more information on the project, and I wait patiently for the opportunity to learn what my place in it might be.

My thoughts on the Democratic Party presidential candidates for 2020

I wasn’t initially sure when I was going to write this post, but I’ve wanted to do so for a couple of months now, and with the Democratic Party debates having started and raging on for the last few months, I decided that it is time for me to address the subject. I have plenty of things to say about each of the candidates, but because there’s so many candidates running, I’m going try to stick to writing a paragraph or so for each of them (with perhaps a few exceptions depending on how much there is to say about each candidate), and I’ll try to keep it concise. There’s too much to say for most of them, and only a few stick out and are interesting (for both good and bad reasons), so this should not be too big a challenge. This post will, for the most part, not be focusing on the Democratic Party debates. The candidates will be listed in alphabetical order by state and by surname. I will not be covering any candidates that have dropped out of the race as my writing this point. So, for instance, we will not be covering Eric Swalwell even though I’d like to talk about the time he seemingly threatened gun owners on Twitter. I was also planning on covering Mike Gravel, but by the time I was writing his section on this post, he abandoned the presidential race.

And without further ado, here are the present candidates.

 

Kamala Harris

Let me be frank: I despise Kamala Harris. Indeed, I despise her more than many of the other candidates running for the Democratic nomination. She is perhaps the purest example of a right-wing Democrat masquerading as a progressive. On paper, she appears to many Democrats as a strong addition to the progressive camp of the Democratic Party, on account of her (theoretical) support for universal healthcare, her support for legalizing marijuana, her support for net neutrality, her support for decriminalizing abortion, and her surface-level opposition to corporate campaign finance. In fact during the first debates she gained significant traction for her ability to hold Joe Biden to the fire over his past support for racist policies (which we’ll get to later). But, in many other areas, she is as conservative as they come. For example, Kamala Harris appears to be a staunch supporter of Israel, and has given speeches to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (better known simply as AIPAC, or the Israel Lobby) even as Israel moves closer to fascism. And for all the talk of her distate for corporate funding, most of her campaign is supported by corporate donors and indeed she’s on record as having received the most donations from lobbyists out of all of the candidates. This perhaps helps us to make sense of why the mainstream media in the US is so intensely supportive of Harris, in much the same way they were supportive of Hillary Clinton throughout the 2016 cycle. Even her support for marijuana is hollow, considering that she laughed at the idea of legalizing marijuana as it was being proposed by her Republican opponent Ronald Gold in the 2014 race for California Attorney General. And you know her support for Medicare for All? Well her plan for it involves leaving the private insurers intact, which means the main problem with America’s healthcare system won’t be erased.

There is also the matter of her record as District Attorney, which is perhaps her most damning quality. When progressives urged her to pursue criminal justice reform, she refused to support said proposals. She repeatedly upheld wrongful convictions, threw parents in jail over their children skipping school and laughed about it, and she even opposed a bill that required her office to investigate shootings by police offiicers. Her three strikes policy ensured that people would be thrown in prison for life even if you had committed a non-violent crime. But worst of all, in my opinon, is the fact that during her tenure she aided the Catholic Church in covering up the pedophilic activities of its clergy. Before she took over, the office of District Attorney in San Francisco had been actively pursuing cases against the Catholic Church, working with survivors of sexual abuse in the process of doing so. When she took over, this stopped, and she refused to assist in prosecuting the pedophiles within the church. What a shameless disgrace of justice. Kamala is almost a supervillian in real life. If you support her, you’re either delusional or just straight up lack moral sense.

Unfortunatelty, however, it seems to me like Kamala Harris might be the one the Democrats ultimately pick for their nominee. I mean if CNN running a 12 minute puff piece about Kamala Harris, with no discussion of her policies whatsoever, doesn’t just clinch that in your mind I don’t know what does. I guess it helps that Kamala Harris agrees with the foreign policy elite too. But you just know that she’s going to get a winning ticket on the back of her being a black woman, because the liberals are very interested in trying to get the first female president again and they’d like it even more if she was black.

 

Tom Steyer

A relatively late entry to the race, having announced his candidacy on July 9th, Tom Steyer may seem like a fairly unremarkable character at a glance, but he’s actually a major Democratic Party player in his own right. And by that I mean he’s one of the biggest billionnaire influencers in the party. For years he spent and raised millions of dollars through his hedge fund activities to support various Democratic Party candidates, as well as several PACs and organizations devoted to progressive causes, with climate change seemingly a pet issue of his given how much of his money goes towards groups ostensibly dedicated to tackling it. Despite his sense of environmental consciousness, however, he held stocks in companies such as Kinder Morgan, an oil and gas company known for its extensive, acccident-prone pipeline projects which often resulted in environmental destruction, not to mention injury and even death for the people living in those areas. In 2016, he spent $89,794,744 on the Democratic Party, making him the biggest spender of that entire election cycle, with particular attention to the Hillary Clinton campaign which he personally held a fundraiser for. He also worked for Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley during the 1980s before starting his own investment company called Farallon Capital in 1986, through which he amassed the wealth that made him a billionnaire and which he owned until 2012, when he stepped down in order to concentrate his efforts on politics. So needless to say, if you’re looking for a candidate who represents the billionnaire class better than anyone else, I’d say this is probably the guy.

As a candidate, he seems to be unimpressive despite his clout. In fact, he often strikes me as laughable at times. His priorities can be reduced to two issues: tackling climate change and impeaching Donald Trump. The latter is always funny considering the whole idea of running in a presidential election is to unseat the incumbent president anyway, which defeats the point of any impeachment process. One time he hilariously tried to discredit the progressive wing of the Democrats by saying that Karl Marx did not predict software, as though that was a profound and relevant point to make. And his campaign in general is so corny and stupid that he announced it while sitting in a barn as though pretending to be an average working class guy.

It’s odd to think, but as wealthy and influential as he is, something tells me he won’t be going very far. I predict he will give way to people like Kamala Harris, Joe Biden or Elizabeth Warren, who have far more political weight in the present climate and, I hate to say it, more ideas. Let’s just say Tom Steyer is more money than substance and move on from here.

 

Michael Bennet

This candidate is a bit of a weird case because he’s not technically eligible to be President because he was born in India. Mind you, it’s not as though that stopped Ted Cruz from trying even though he was born in Canada. Speaking of Ted Cruz, Michael Bennet is mainly known his 25 minute passionate response to Ted Cruz during the government shutdown that happened in December, blasting Cruz for his role in the 2013 government shutdown and his “crocodile tears” in the 2018-19 shutdown, for which he briefly went rival on the internet. Beyond that, however, he’s nothing special. He’s just another liberal Democrat who opposes Medicare for All. In fact, on foreign policy he’s quite awful: he voted against a resolution put forward by Bernie Sanders which would have required the president to withdraw from Yemen and stop helping the Saudis carry out what is basically genocide there. He’s also keen on doing red scare tactics with China, joining Andrew Coons and Elizabeth Warren (more on her later) in accusing Beijing of trying to subvert the American media and influence their coverage of China so as to be more favorable, which given the trade war happening seems like a neoconservative move to prepare for actual war with China. Now I suppose in retrospect this can be assessed in relation to recent developments in the Far East region: Japan is slowly on the path to reasserting itself as a world power, and the possibility of there being two conflicting axes in the region (Japan and China) seems set to emerge. China then perhaps would feel threatened by this arrangement, and knows that in such an arrangement the US will surely ally with Japan and Taiwan against China. However, I’m not sure Bennet is aware of this arrangement, and it is possible that he could simply have neoconservative tendencies on his part.

 

John Hickenlooper

Easily the candidate with the most ridiculous name, John Hickenlooper is, on the whole, another boring addition to the liberal centrist milieu of the Democrats. Like the other liberals, Hickenlooper is opposed to the progressive/Sandersite wing of the Democratic Party, and he is more than willing to employ some rather ridiculous rhetoric to that end, such how he compared Bernie Sanders to Joseph Stalin (which you would probably expect more from a garden variety Republican or Tea Party loon than a Democrat). But Hickenlooper also scores points for being kind of a creepy weirdo. In his memoir he said that he once took his mother to porno theatre to watch Deep Throat (a pornographic movie that was released in 1972) when he was 18 years old, claiming that at the time he, his mother and his friend didn’t know what X-Rated movies were, which honestly sounds like some high class bullshit given that X-rated films would have been a highly controversial topic around that time, and not to mention it was widely understood that X-rated films were intended for adults. Needless to say, I think Hickenlooper is one hell of a bad liar, and if he’s like that with awkward personal moments just imagine what he’s like when it comes to arguing for policy. The only other thing I have to say of note is that Hickenlooper defends the ongoing US invasion of Afghanistan on the grounds that he thinks pulling out of Afghanistan would create a humanitarian disaster – the irony being, of course, the humanitarian disaster that was the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. All in all, he’s just a weirdo who seeks to uphold the liberal status quo of the Democratic Party and the American system, and he probably won’t go anywhere.

 

Joe Biden

In my opinion, Joe Biden is probably the worst candidate out of all of them, and considering the crop of candidates I’m going to through after I’m done talking about Biden that’s really saying something. A lot of people know him as just Barack Obama’s right-hand man, being his Vice President and all, but Biden has much deeper history than that, and, let me tell you, that history is a history of utter shit. Whereas Kamala Harris is conservative in Democrat clothing who at least has the appearance of progressivism, Biden has always been just a classic right-wing Democrat. Although today he likes to think of himself as an opponent of nativism, his record on immigration is mixed to negative. Although he didn’t always side with Republicans on immigration, he was more than willing to make common cause with them on the issue, and even voted for blatantly unconstituional proposals like Bob Dole’s Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act. He was also instrumental in constructing the system of mass incarceration that sees many African-Americans unjustly imprisoned for drug-related “offenses”, and he even introduced a bill aimed at expanding the death penalty to 51 crimes, in his words the idea was to “do everything but hang people for jaywalking”. He was friends with racial segregationists such as Storm Thurmond, with whom he collaborated to make drug laws harsher, and during the 1970s he himself defended racial segregation because he thought it would preserve black identity and racial pride – an argument that echoes those made by white nationalists on the subject (which is why during the 60’s you’d see neo-Nazis meeting with black nationalists to discuss their shared goals of racial separatism). He was such a staunch supporter of the Iraq War that he not only voted for the war but also proudly boasted that he would do so again, and wishes to expand the influence of NATO far outside its borders in order to bait the aggression of Russia, which I remind you is a major nuclear power and an increasingly cornered one at that. And on top of all that, he is a nexus of lobbyist money, having received millions of dollars from them over his decades-long career, and even boasted about prostituting himself to big donors. He is also such a defender of the neoliberal “third way” economic model that he has absolute contempt for young people who’ve figured out that this system sucks: in his own words, he has no empathy for them. In sum, he’s everything bad about the Democratic establishment all wrapped up in one place.

Also, I can’t help but stress this but Joe Biden is a creep. There are numerous pictures of Biden doing all sorts of weird things with women and children, in the case of women its usually sniffing their hair from the looks of it, and in the case of both women and children he’s teaching them in a very strange way, and you can tell it’s creepy because the people he touches look visibly disturbed or uncomfortable when he does this (though of course they may try to avoid giving too strong an impression of it). And the even stranger thing is that in those photos no one but the people he’s messing with seem to notice anything’s wrong, like it’s normal for them somehow. But to anyone else looking at these photos, it looks to us that Biden might be some kind of sex pest, maybe even a pedophile considering that a lot of these photos involve children. The irony of all this is how, in the age where the #MeToo movement has unprecedented cultural hegemony, Joe Biden hasn’t been striken down by the Democratic Party for his behaviour. I mean they were more than happy to throw Al Franken under the bus over accusations of groping a woman (which by the way originated in right wing talk radio!) that were eventually shown to be false, but they won’t investigate Joe Biden for any possible perverted tendencies he might have.

And, to be honest, that’s probably because they want to keep Biden around to fight Bernie Sanders, the progressives and Trump in order to preserve the legacy of the Clinton-Obama hegemony of the Democratic Party. Biden himself probably believes that he is eventually destined for the presidency. But mark my words, if the Democrats run Biden as their nominee against Donald Trump, they will have proven themselves utterly useless, more so than they already appear, and a contest between Biden and Trump is destined to end in much the same way as the contest between Hillary Clinton and Trump, with his abysmal record being indefensible from a liberal position and an ideal front of attack for conservatives, and rightly so. However bad any of the other candidates are, Biden is probably the greatest threat to the Democratic Party I can think of. Thankfully, however, there remains the possibility that he may end up being defeated and cast aside by more “progressive” candidates.

 

Wayne Messam

The mayor of Miramar, Florida. There really isn’t a whole lot to say about him, and to be honest I’ve scratched my head wondering what he’s even doing in the race. Indeed he doesn’t seem to be gaining any traction during this race, he’s polling at literally 0%, which is worse than John Hickenlooper at the moment (he currently polls at 2%), and he’s not even in any of the Democratic Party debates so far. All I’ve learned so far is that he supports cancelling student debt, which is great and all, and he wants to put more restrictions on mentally ill people owning guns, but there’s not much else to his campaign. The only other noteworthy thing I’ve found out about him is that he was due to appear at an anti-ICE protest in his city, and then simply didn’t show up. He claims that he didn’t show up because he was busy drawing up plans for legal services to be provided to immigrants detained in the ICE facility at Miramar, but I’m honestly sure how credible that is. All in all, Messam seems to be a nobody, a small fry of a politician who, while he may or may not have been decent in his mayoral position, clearly has no business running for president, and who I’m not sure is even committed to any serious political project. With no real support base and no one responding to his attempts to build a grassroots campaign, he will be unable to participate in the debates and will in all likelihood simply fade out of the competition. Despite all of this, he still hasn’t dropped out of the race yet and insists on trying to bill himself as a credible populist progressive. Well, I suppose that’s one semi-respectable thing we can say about him: he’s not one to give up. But that’s all there is to say about him.

 

Tulsi Gabbard

I already talked about her at length before in my first post about Hindutva from this year, but being as she’s still in the race I think it’s worth talking about her again. In some respects she is similar to Kamala Harris in that she is more of an on paper progressive than a serious progressive, and I’m convinced that she is more of a reactionary than she lets on, but it goes without saying that, at least as far as her policies go, she’s not nearly as awful as Harris. Her progresssive resume is pretty visible, though not terribly impressive from the point of view of a serious leftist, but what on the whole I find her platform to be rather opportunistic in many areas. For example, Gabbard has supported the Iran nuclear deal within the last few years, but was noticeably hostile to Iran before that, calling it the world’s leading sponsor of state terrorism, and as recently as 2015 she criticized the Obama administration for seeking rapprochment with Iran and attended a speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against the Iran deal, and even appeared on Fox News in order to talk to Greta Van Susternen about how bad the Iran Deal is and how right Israel is about Iran. Now you could argue that Gabbard may have changed her mind on the issue at some point, and that’s possible – after all she opposed gay marriage and other LGBT rights issues in the past and later changed her mind citing her service in the military – but it’s also worth considering that her trajectory on the Iran deal is similar to that of Donald Trump on the Iraq War. Although Trump claimed in 2016 that he opposed the Iraq War, the reality is that supported it and it was only until he ran for president in 2016 that he began to talk about the war being a bad thing.

And Iran is not even her only area of inconsistency. In fact, for how much she is praised by her supporters as a staunch anti-interventionist, and condemned by their critics as an isolationist and from there somehow a Russian stooge, she’s not even a consistent anti-interventionist. In 2012, the same year as she gave a speech to the DNC about the costs of war, she said in Truthout magazine that she’s perfectly fine with the use of drone strikes to take out targets, which is pretty much the same policy that was championed by the Obama administration. And over the years, even to this day, she has stressed that the United States needs to continue fighting the war, whether through drones or through troops on the ground. Indeed, when she isn’t harping about regime change, she insists that she is a hawk, not a dove. Her anti-imperialism is rendered hollow through her consistent support for Israel, indeed she along with Ro Khanna and Ayanna Pressley of all people recently voted for a bill that would penalize companies for boycotting Israel. And even on the most baseline progressive issues, such as healthcare, Tulsi is not the progressive she’s made out to be. In an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Tulsi Gabbard refuses to support the abolition of private health insurers, and even seems to think that they have a place in American healthcare even though they’re the entire god damned problem with American healthcare in the first place! Really the only thing she’s even surface level consistent about is the opposition to regime change, but even then I’m guessing this doesn’t apply to Iran or Palestine very much. Also, don’t you think it’s rather suspicious that this supposed progressive has received little praise from either liberals or the left, but almost constant praise from the conservative right throughout her career? National Review, Breitbart, Steve Bannon, Fox News, and the American Enterprise Institute all heap praise on her for her stance on foreign policy, and she was one of a few Democrats whom the AEI invited to a private retreat where she would hang out with neoconservative big fish like Rupert Murdoch, Dick Cheney and Bill Kristol. In sum, her whole image of the anti-interventionist, anti-imperialist populist candidate is a sham, and to me it seems like a Gabbard presidency would be rather like the Trump presidency but with much less of the free market nonsense.

And just as an aside, I find it very concerning that she would defend Joe Biden, Joe fucking Biden of all people, over his record on racial segregation, insisting that Biden did not celebrate or coddle segregationists despite there being well-documented evidence that he was a fan of people like Storm Thurmond and was himself pro-segregation in the past. On that point, I’m not sure if Gabbard is just dumb or intentionally disingenuous, but either way her plea for civility on the subject of blatant support for segregationism just reeks of the worst indulgences of centrism.

Of course, it’s impossible for me to talk about Gabbard without noting the saffron elephant in the room that is her alignment with the Hindutva movement. I’ve explained before that Gabbard is an ardent supporter of Narendra Modi, has recieved thousands of dollars from the Hindu American Foundation, which is a project of the Hindutva group Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (itself a subsidiary of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh), and was about to meet RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat but cancelled after major backlash, but there are things about her alignment with Hindutva that I didn’t mention in that post. In 2013, House Resolution 417 was introduced as a call to recognize violence against religious minorities happening in India under Modi’s auspices, and to recognize the human rights of all people of all creeds in India and the need to protect religious minorities. Gabbard opposed and voted against this resolution, claiming that it weakens the US’ relationship with India. Let that sink in for a moment: she opposed a resolution calling for the recoginition and defence of human rights. She opposed a very basic expression of decency and commitment to freedom and human rights. That’s how deep into the Hindutva rabbit hole she is. Some argue that the resolution was just a ploy to interfere in India’s elections, which, to be honest, smells like weapons grade bullshit. I mean, come on, the US may be imperialist but I’m fairly sure they have better things to do than meddle with India. And Gabbard is completely unable to address or dismantle any accusation of her being a Hindutva stooge without dismissing anyone raising the subject as bigoted, or “Hinduphobic”. If you wouldn’t accept that line from a Christian trying to defend opposition to homosexuality, and you wouldn’t accept it from people who defend Islam from any sort of criticism, then there’s no reason to accept Gabbard’s cries of bigotry as anything other than a defensive canard intended to shield herself from legitimate criticism. Sadly, however, her fans just seem to eat it up. Not even Kyle Kulinski thinks to call it into question and he doesn’t even bring it up.

I’m sorry that this section is longer than all the others, and I’ll try to limit myself going forward, but I’m very, very concerned about this candidate. With Gabbard it isn’t like Kamala Harris where her actual progressive policy is the problem, by all accounts Gabbard seems to be decent on areas like healthcare, Wall Street regulation,  for example, but the problem is her inconsistent foreign policy, her alignment with reactionary politics not only in India but also in the US and Israel, and how this to me renders her a Trojan Horse for more hardcore right-wing elements to infiltrate politics. Her supporters all see her as a populist icon against the military industrial complex, and dismiss anyone who points out her association with Hindutva and other far-right movements, so they will end up countenancing the rise of militant nationalism in India and a cozy alliance with national-conservatism so long as Gabbard delivers on getting US forces out of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria with some nice progressive domestic policy on the side – which, to be honest, I don’t trust her to do.

 

Marianne Williamson

I talked about Marianne Williamson already on a separate post over a month ago, presaging of course this very post, but as we are covering the candidates I would like to take the opportunity just to lay out that I absolutely hate this woman. I swear her entire candidacy, not to mention her record, invokes everything I’ve ever hated about everything. She embodies so much of the false morality that has always been my enemy in this world, and it’s hard to pin it all down in one place. And given that her whole New Age philosophy and others like it is has some relationship to the doctrine of Christian Science, which holds , Williamson’s ascent in the Democratic Party debates, much like that of Tulsi Gabbard, signifies the ascent of religious reaction in US politics, but with Williamson, instead of it being Hindu nationalism, it’s mystical Christianity with occaisional Wiccan characteristics. Her entire worldview can be summarized as one in which we shouldn’t focus on the actual material problems of society, and instead change how we feel about it, that all we need to do is embrace love in order to fix the world. Oh how I miss Anton LaVey’s counsel on the religions of love when I think of that.

The main way she strikes me as embodying the false morality of society is the way that she is loved despite being a demonstrably horrible and ignorant person. You’ll recall how during the 1990s she told gay people suffering from AIDs that they didn’t need medicine because God is more powerful than AIDs, but there’s more. One man even recalls Marianne Williamson telling him to imagine AIDs as “Angels in Darth Vader Suits” and then “unzip his suit to allow the angel to emerge”. Williamson also encouraged AIDs sufferers to cope with AIDs by writing fake letters to their AIDS virus and then invent replies to those letters. She further commented in her 1992 book A Return to Love that AIDs and sickness in general was not actually real but just us punishing and judging ourselves for no reason, which is just the solipsistic New Age version of that old “AIDs is punishment from God” trope. She also believes that depression is not a mental illness or neuro-physical condition despite overwhelming evidence indicating that it is, and instead seems to conflate depression with just being sad. She also believes that there was no stigma against depression before it was”medicalized”. She also believes that all diseases and illnesses are caused by identification with the body instead of the spirit – in other words, the only real you get sick is supposedly because you identify yourself as a physical being rather just an angel in a meat shield. I don’t think I need to explain too much here. She also believes that you can get cancer not only from your own bad thoughts, but the bad thoughts of other people as well. And also, yes, she is at least functionally an anti-vaxxer. While she claims that she is not an anti-vaxxer, she described mandatory vaccination as an “Orwellian” policy, and compared the subject of mandatory vaccination to the abortion debate. This on the surface suggests merely that Williamson frames the subject in terms of free choice rather than the effectiveness of vaccinations, but then you have to remember that she is on record claiming that chronic illnesses have risen since the Vaccine Protection Law, which is simply false, and then account for how she repeatedly dodges questions on her stances on vaccination. So, yes, she’s an anti-vaxxer. And then in addition to that there’s her senseless racial guilt mongering: in 2016, she held an event in which she asked white members of the audience to apologize to any random black person sitting next to them for the actions of their ancestors, for no discernible reason. Not to mention her pressing the whole reparations thing, which she argues from a position of healing the soul of the nation. If she or any of these pro-reparations people were truly interested in that, they would be arguing for reparations to be paid to Japan for the murder and irradiation of thousands if not millions of Japanese at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or for the atrocities the US carried out in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, but you will never hear any of these people talk about that, so they can all go fuck off about the soul of the nation. This apparently is the new flavour of the month for Democrats. What a fucking joke.

What infuriates me the most is that progressives seem be gabbling up her candidacy, whether ironically or otherwise. They seem to love her, especially on the subject of reparations, and the irony of that is that conservatives like David Brooks also love her because they like that her campaign is framed primarily as a moral crusade instead of a on wealth distribution or economic restructuring, as well as some dumb spiel about “deceny”. What do they mean by decency exactly? Well, clearly they don’t mean making sure gay people get actual treatment for the AIDs virus. In any case, it was only when Williamson dismissed Medicare for All that some progressives began to lose interest in her, and I have to suspect that they loved her to begin with because of her pathetic spiel about reparations and white supremacy. Also, much like Tulsi Gabbard, her fanbase is one of the worst of the bunch. Nothing can convince these people of her wrongdoing and ignorance. Even if she were to proclaim during one of the debates that vaccines cause autism or AIDs was a hoax these people would still try to say that that’s not what she actually said or that she’s being unfairly smeared.

All in all, I can’t imagine Marianne Williamson will actually get very far outside of internet memetics. She will be too embattled over her New Age beliefs to make serious headway, unless the Democrats decide that they’ll let that slide over reparations. If the Democrats run her and the US gets her as President, then it will be one of the most disgusting things I will ever witness in politics.

 

Pete Buttigieg

Another ridiculously named candidate, Pete Buttigieg seems to have gotten quite a bit of attention during his race, and when his candidacy was announced he became something of a Democratic celebrity, even being promoted by Barack Obama himself. And why not. In an age where the Democrats still seem heavily invested in bourgeois identity politics, how can they resist a chance to hype up the prospect of the first gay president being in office? Of course, as with all identity politics, this serves to obfuscate Buttigieg’s actual progressive credentials, or rather the lack thereof. He tends to be evasive on policy discussion, but we can get a decent idea of his actual substance from looking at his record as mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

When confronted with the problem of homelessness in his city, Buttigieg spent no money on providing housing for the homeless, and instead spent on consultants before ultimate driving the homeless away from the streets with cleaning trucks. He also ignored social workers who informed him of amnesty shelters capable of housing people, and he did not address that fact and in fact he pretended like that never happened. That didn’t stop him from attending an SXSW panel about fighting homelessness with “ethical technology”, which in this case is just some woo involving software, nor did it stop him from touring a veteran homeless village in Nevada in April. He continued trying to force homeless people in South Bend to vacate from their encampments, which he considered to be a nuisance, and ignored advice on how else to deal with the solution. As mayor, Pete had absolutely no regard for the homeless, and generally treated them like they were a waste of time. South Bend also has a poverty problem, a quarter of its citizens live below their means. Has Buttigieg done anything about that? As far as I can tell, no. There was also a bizarre scandal in South Bend in which he had fire an African-American police chief for apparently trying to force white fellow officers to say racial slurs so that he can record it, but Buttigieg never released those tapes, which caused some in South Bend to call for his impeachment. And yet this man is already being considered a “president in waiting”. How farcical.

But then there’s the way he treats politics in general. In his autobiography Shortest Way Home, he recounts an experience in 2001 where the Progressive Student Labor Movement staged a strike at Harvard, taking over the offices of the university president in order to demand a living wage for Harvard janitors and food workers, and seemingly dismisses their cause, claiming that the people with the real positive impact aren’t politically motivated activists but “a few mostly apolitical nerds” like Mark Zuckerberg. Yes, Mark Zuckerberg, the man whose whole enterprise amounts to one giant censorious data farm for corporations. And while you ponder that, just take note of the fact that Harvard, to this day, still doesn’t pay its workers a living wage. But Buttigieg has no problem with this. In fact, while even arch-conservatives like Ross Douthat lash out at Harvard elitism, Buttigieg has no issue with it, and indeed his only real problem with Harvard is that they don’t expect their students to serve in the military. He also has no moral problem with America’s wars, having defended the war in Iraq and, while he did oppose the Vietnam War, charactized it as a pragmatic rather than moral failure. Indeed, he even treated the American military industrial complex as a well-intentioned dummard, rather than the well-primed, calculated monster of capital expansion that it really is! For him the American state just seems to be a three year old child bumbling about the place and accidentally wiping out whole communities in the process because he doesn’t know what he’s doing. That I think might be his most damning quality, his naivety. Which, if you think about it, may or may not contextualize his aloof attitude towards the homelessness issue. Of course, another source of context could be the fact that Buttigieg has the most billionnaire donors out of all the Democratic candidates, 23 of said donors to be precise.

So in summary, Pete Buttigieg is bad in a way most people probably haven’t heard of. While he’s not as viscerally awful as Joe Biden or Kamala Harris, and he’s not the poisoned apple that best describes Tulsi Gabbard or Marianne Williamson, but he does embody a type of detached villainy. He plays heavily on the theme of innocence for both American actions and his own actions, but honestly this might just another way of him subtley saying to us, “I don’t care”. He just doesn’t seem to care about anything, and what a perfect fit for a Silicon Valley guy.

 

Seth Moulton

Another self-styled “progressive Democrat”, Seth Moulton at first appears to somewhat bold and ambitious on account of his efforts to unseat Nancy Pelosi, who is presently the speaker of the House. In fact, I hear he spent the 2018 midterm cycle focusing on precisely that issue. Although his attempt to overthrow her position failed, I have to admit I feel inclined to give him credit for trying. Pelosi is as awful as awful Democratic politicians go without being as bad as Biden or the Clintons, so getting rid of her is in my eyes an inherently virtuous political project. And his boldness is not just limited to Nancy Pelosi. Although he anticipates it will be difficult to defeat Trump, he is confident that he himself will not find it too challenging. We’ll see if fortune favors the bold in this instance, I suppose. Besides that, however, there is not much of note to say of him other than he is a fairly typical progressive. Pro gun control, anti-assault weapons, pro legalizing marijuana, thinks Donald Trump is like Adolf Hitler, opposes the war in Iraq, pro-minimum wage. One thing I like about him is, of course, is that he channels his military experience against the war in Iraq and Iran, reminds me of one of Tulsi Gabbard’s better qualities, although arguably Moulton is probably actually sincere about his opposition to regime change (or at least as sincere on the subject as it can get for Democrats). On the flipside, however, his background also sort of lends to him viewing the Trump situation in terms of post-Cold War strategy, namely, for all his theatre about Trump being akin to Hitler, he’s more than anything else worried that Trump is too stupid to have his finger over the button (which, I may say, is not completelty unjustified, but ultimately misses the point). It’s also interesting that he supports the expansion of nuclear energy, not quite what I expect of environmentalists, but perhaps that’s smarter than most environmentalists too given the effectiveness of nuclear power as an energy source. It is worth noting that Moulton was, at first, on the fence about the TPP, but ultimately came out against it. However, he has said that the US should re-negotiate its role in the TPP so that a better deal, one more focused on workers rights and environmental issues, can be forged, in order to allow the US to compete with Chinese influence, so it seems to me that Moulton is not principally opposed to the TPP in the way that would be expected of a leftist. All in all, he strikes me as having all the notes of a slightly more radicalized liberal. Slightly fascinating in a few respects, but ultimately he’s not particularly special.

 

Elizabeth Warren

Probably Bernie Sanders’ biggest rival in the race, and that’s certainly how Elizabeth Warren is being billed by the press. In fact many liberals appear to have embraced Warren as their preferred social democrat instead of Bernie Sanders. So she’s going to be a big deal in this race, and definitely seems to be thorn on the pro-Bernie side at this point. In particular her supporters praise her as less hard-edged on social democracy and class politics than Bernie Sanders, and, unlike Bernie’s resistance to identity politics, Warren has that in spades and the liberals like that. But Warren’s ascent, in my view, means bad things for the progressive movement and the left more generally, and in order to answer for why, we must look to her record.

First of all, let’s get one thing straight: until 1996, Elizabeth Warren was a conservative. For years, she supported and voted for the Republican Party and believed in free market capitalism as the best model for economic organization. Indeed, economic liberalism was the main focus of her conservatism, with no acute interest in social issues. She was of the belief that the government was meddling too much in matters of economics, and like any conservative, then as now, she feared the government taking an “activist” role. Oddly enough, though, she doesn’t appear to have been a very committed Republican: she often missed elections and only participated in one presidential election during her Republican phase – that would be the 1976 election, in which she voted for Gerald Ford. The really curious thing about her transition from Republican to Democrat is that she frames it as a matter of the Republicans no longer being committed to principled free market economics, which serves only to illustrate the depths of her ignorance about free market economics and conservatism (hint: they never abandoned free market economics, the horror that is American economics is the direct result and continuation of free market hegemony), and that their interests have shifted against the middle class. This is interesting to note on account of the fact that, during her economic career, she wrote a thesis on how the middle class was the true motor of the economy. In fact I’d say putting the middle class first is a key theme throughout her political life, both in her Republican and Democratic periods.

Even after abandoning the Republican Party, she still remains fairly conservative in her assumptions regarding economics. In 2012, she refused to support universal healthcare on the grounds that “I think you’ve got to stay with what’s possible”. Well, universal healthcare has already proven itself possible and viable throughout much of Europe, but something tells me she’s not particularly well-apprised of that fact. Even now she remains weak-minded on the subject, never daring to assert that there will be universal, free healthcare and that private insurers will be excluded from the system. Even after her rejection of free market capitalism, the logic of her political vision still appears to follow the logic of free market orthodoxy. Take for instance her approach to tackling climate change. One of her plans is to force public enterprises to disclose information about how climate change will affect their assets in order to inform investors about what to do with their money. Another, much more laughable plan, is to create a new position at the Pentagon specifically for dealing with climate change and its affects on Pentagon assets. In her book, The Two-Income Trap, she’s on record opposing universal daycare because she thought it would put middle class families at a “comparative disadvantage” to poor people. Yes, you heard me. In fact, last year she declared herself “capitalist to the bone”, which is in sharp contrast to Bernie Sanders’ invocations of the idea of democratic socialism, but also in perfect harmony with Nancy Pelosi when she affirms that the Democratic Party is a capitalist party. Indeed, she only left the Republican Party because she believed they weren’t capable of preserving market-based capitalism anymore. For an apparent progressive, she has consistently refused to take the side of Bernie Sanders, refusing to support his bills on Wall Street and instead drafting her own less effective ones, and in general she seems at odds with the more progressive wing of the party in substance.

Warren’s only claim towards “progressive” politics is in her cynical bourgeois identity politics, which it seems has once again obfuscated her lack of commitment to any even vaguely left-wing economic vision. An example of this can be found in her support for reparations. Again, I say, it’s nothing more than guilt-obsessed kabuki theatre and if you think otherwise then I dare you to tell me why you don’t support reparations for Japan, Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia. But nothing quite compares to her attempts to use her alleged Cherokee ancestry as a source of political currency, and from there that time in 2018 when she challenged Donald Trump to pay $1 million to her favorite charity if she could prove her Native American ancestry. When the test was released, it showed that Warren’s link to Native American ancestry was fairly marginal, about 1/64th, which is rather diluted. This resulted in her being mocked by Donald and the right even more and also criticized not only by the left but also by Native American groups, such as the Cherokee Nation, and she was forced to apologize. It’s all very fitting how, despite being praised by intersectional liberals and progressives, Warren is actually deeply unpopular, even in her state of Massachussetts.

All-in-all, Elizabeth Warren is not only not a leftist in any meaningful sense, or a progressive in much of a material sense, instead being a garden variety liberal feigning radicalization, but she is also an active hinderance to any progressive or left-wing movement due to her persistent defence of free market orthodoxy, her opportunism and her identity politics, which will all serve to drag the Democratic Party down. You might argue that she is more capable of defeating Trump than Joe Biden or Pete Buttigieg, but I’m honestly not too convinced considering that, in a Trump v Warren contest, Trump will have all the ammo he needs to take down a Warren campaign and he will have some likelihood of defeating Warren, and her unpopularity will not help things. So, in summary, Elizabeth Warren is a shitty candidate who will serve as a liability, rather than an asset, to the Democratic Party. She’s one of the candidates you can pick if you’re a Democrat who wants the Republicans to win again.

 

John Delaney

A 90’s man rescued from cryogenic stasis, he seens to be on the more liberal or centrist side of the Democratic Party, and also the first Democratic politician to announce a campaign for the presidency (having done so in July 2017). He also happens to be worth lots and lots of money. As of 2015 he is estimated to be worth $232,816,089, and he has hundreds of millions of dollars worth of assets and investments. I guess it’s safe to say we can’t expect this guy to come down on the side of anything to the left of Clinton, because that would probably end up cutting into his wealth a bit too much. But what does he actually believe? Well for one thing he believes in capitalism, which would put him in alignment with the core of the Democratic establishment, and really is no surprise because he almost certainly benefits from the current system as a member of the bourgeoisie. And of course, he believes the Democratic Party is in danger of becoming socialist (which, trust me, is not going to happen even if Bernie Sanders receives the nomination). Naturally, he supports bolstering the private sector over the public sector, and like Elizabeth Warren he supports the middle class over the working class (although he claims to support trade unions). One noteworthy thing about Delaney, however, is that he founded the House Artificial Intelligence Caucus, and he has a vision for artificial intelligence and how the US deals with it. But if you’re thinking it’s anything solid, don’t get your hopes up: his main focus, as with the Caucus, is national security, namely competing with China. And since China has AI undersea bases and automating the service industry down the line, we can predict that Delaney’s vision for artificial intellience will entail a because to becoming an ever more automated society at the expense of human power in order to match Chinese development. Therefore, he should be treated as an enemy of the human race as well as a shitty candidate.

One other thing you might notice about Delaney is, well, just how pathetic a person he is. In one of the recent debates, after underperforming in comparison to his progressive rivals, Delaney ran with his tail between his legs to Fox and Friends in order to complain about how Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are extremists who just want free stuff and can’t defend their proposals from scrutiny – he says, of course, after failing to defend himself from progressive criticism. Also on Fox News, Tucker Carlson praised John Delaney as “one of the nicest men in politics”, and praised him for talking about “making promises the Democrats can actually keep”. And, much like fellow centrist John Hickenlooper, it’s worth noting that, even as his fairweather friends at Fox insist that he’s being honest with the American people, Delaney is polling very poorly, being one of many candidates relegated to the 1% range at present. But don’t worry, I’m sure he’ll get all the support he needs from conservative media looking for their “Good Liberal” of the month. It’s probably the only support he’ll ever get before he inevitably drops out.

 

Amy Klobuchar

The horrifying result of a matter transporter experiment involving Elizabeth Warren and Tony Robbins gone wrong (maybe with a bit of Sylvester Stallone thrown in for good measure), most people probably know two things about Amy Klobuchar: the first is her the image of a nice, homely women she projects to the outside world, the second is the reality of how she treats her campaign staff, namely how abusive she seems to have been towards them. She is reported to have repeated belittled, demeaned, humiliated and straight up lashed out in fits of anger at her staff on a regular basis, and during her fits of anger she often threw papers and even solid objects at her employees, though apparently not with the intent of actually hitting them. And she would get mad at employees over very small things, angrily responding to her employees over misunderstandings or minor mistakes in their work (such as misplaced commas). Her aides often broke down in tears under her management, and have since compared her to Donald Trump, and Klobuchar is treated as one of the worst bosses in Comgress. I must wonder how dipolmatic negotiations involving this woman will turn out should she become president. Maybe she’ll throw a desk at the Prime Minister of Canada, or drop a plane on the president of Nigeria.

Much like Kamala Harris, Klobuchar entered politics as a prosecutor, and similarly has a controversial “tough on crime” record as prosecutor. She pursued harsh prison sentences for non-violent offences in Hennepin County, Minnesota; if you’ve ever covered the walls with graffiti in Hennepin County under her auspices, odds are you probably got thrown in jail for several years on the grounds that you committed a “livability” offence, which she treated as a felony. In fact she’s known to have set up a “task force” for dealing with graffiti and vandalism. Klobuchar was eager to make multiple offences into felonies. This included not paying child support on time, drunk driving, and elder abuse. Her efforts have resulted in a rapid expansion of Hennepin County’s prison population, which almost makes me wonder why she wants to cram the prisons so much. And as a side note it’s worth mentioning that this patently authoritarian prosecutor is sponsored by Enbridge, a multinational gas company notable for their plan to build a long oil pipeline through the Missisipi Headwaters. If you Kamala Harris only white and with severe anger management issues, you can vote for Klobuchar if you want. Otherwise, don’t bother, because she is just an awful human being, both as prosecutor and in general.

Oh, and apparently she has a voting record more conservative than many other Democrats (aside from Beto O’Rourke), so fuck her on those grounds too.

 

Steve Bullock

Initially he seemed to be another unassuming liberal Democrat, but upon looking into him he turned out to be more horrible than I imagined. For starters, unlike many other liberals, Bullock supports the death penalty. Yes, he’d give the government the power to kill whoever it likes and justifies it with the pretext of fighting terrorism. Then there’s the fact that, despite being an opponent of dark money in public and even suing the Trump administration over it, Bullock’s campaign is being supported by backdoor lobbyists who he visits in closed-door meetings in Washington DC. He also seems to have a technocratic attitude towards fighting climate change. During one of the debates, Bullock seemed to say that we should leave climate change to scientists, with the implication that the Democrats should be concerned with taking political action to solve the problems that will come with our changing climate. In addition, Bullock also seems to be yet another Democrat who plays into conservative talking points. He not only opposes universal/single-payer healthcare (preferring instead the old canard of making Medicaid more affordable), he also opposes healthcare going to illegal immigrants and characterizes this as just “wanting to provide healthcare to everyone” (to which the natural reaction is, “and?”). Tucker Carlson praised him for this, describing him as one of the few Democrats who stood against open borders (one wonders why he doesn’t support Bernie Sanders, an actual critic of open borders policy). Other than that, there’s not a damn thing to say. He just seems to be a standard fare of liberal, who also happens to be a grotesque hypocrite.

 

Cory Booker

A man who reminds me of Tom Dubois from The Boondocks but without the hair, Cory Booker, much like Marianne Williamson, has been touted as having the potential to unite the country with a message of “love” (although definitely without the New Age garbage). But, as usual, this is simply a way of blindsiding you from his obvious flaws. In 2012, he defended Mitt Romney over his record at Bain Capital, insisting that people stop “attacking private equity”. In Newark, where he was mayor, he fucked up the city’s budget so badly that the city was forced to cut three fire companies. He’s also not above carolling wealthy friends of his to support his mayoral election, such as was the case in 2006. He also seems to be pro-Israel, having once told a Jewish progressive activist from IfNotKnow “I would understand if you want to support somebody else”, and refused to say if he believed that the Israeli occuptation of Palestine constitutes a human rights crisis. In general, he comes off a very milquetoast liberal figure.

Now, to be fair, it does seem as though he’s done some good in his career, notably the Mercy Act, intended to curtail the practice of juvenile solitary confinement except in special cases. There’s also little things he did as mayor, like helping a constituent propose to his girlfriend, rescuing a dog from the cold one winter, and helping Newark residents get shelter in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. In general, it kind of seems like he’s probably, on the whole, a benevolent person. And you know, maybe that’s part of why he often comes across as too nice in politics. I’m sure he’s a good and well-meaning person to be around, but in my mind he’s just not what is needed, and his liberalism will likely stand in the way of what I want to see. So while I can’t say I hate him (which, believe me, is a rare thing in this race), I don’t really care for him either.

 

Bill de Blasio

The mayor of New York City himself, Bill de Blasio is one of the more recent contenders, having announced less than three months ago. Many things have been said about Bill de Blasio, mainly that he has tried to entrench himself in progressive positions and failed to do so. He is typically brought up over his actions regarding the death of Eric Garner, an African-American man who was killed by NYPD officers. On the one hand, he sided with the anti-NYPD protesters on the issue in 2014, and he earned ire from the NYPD on the grounds that they think he stoked anti-police sentiment, and because he later refused to attend the vigil of Miosotis Familia, who was killed in July 2017. On the other hand, despite doing all he can to alienate the NYPD and gesture to progressives, he is still remembered as a man who didn’t do enough for Eric Garner, having took no substantial action against Daniel Pantaleo, the NYPD officer who shot Eric Garner. Indeed, during one of the debates, he found himself heckled by protesters calling for him to fire Daniel Pantaleo. Based on that, he already doesn’t sound great, being a rather mediocre character and all. But having looked into him, all I want to talk about with this guy is how, during his tenure as mayor, he has proven himself to be an enemy of secularism and a threat to the lives of innocent children in order to defend Jewish tradition in the most disgusting way possible.

In 2012, the previous mayor Michael Bloomberg passed a law that required mohels (that is, the word for Jews who are trained to perform circumcision) to disclose to parents the health risks involved in a circumcision ritual known as Metzitzah B’peh. This is a ritual of oral circumcision, one which is also responsible for numerous cases of infant herpes and brain damage, as well as infant death. When the law was passed, orthodox Jews naturally complained that the law was an infringement on religious freedom. You know, the freedom to cut off an infant’s foreskin, suck on the wound and not face legal consequences or even moral condemnation for the barbaric practice that it is. In 2015, a year after he assumed the mayoral office, Bill de Blasio repealed this law following pressure from Orthodox rabbis. Since the law was revealed, several cases of infant herpes related to the Metzitzah B’peh ritual emerged. That’s right. Bill de Blasio endangered the lives of several children so that orthodox Jews couldn’t be forced to disclose the risk infant disease and death following what is already a fucked up religious ritual that shouldn’t even exist to begin with. And on top of all that, under de Blasio the city of New York also stopped alerting doctors about mohel-related infections. So not only are mohels free to not disclose the risk of infecting New York children with horrible disease and even an early death, they can also go about infecting children without the city alerting hospitals or the public about it! This is a disgusting capitulation to organized religion at the expense of innocent life and no one who allows for it should be given any quarter in politics.

And you know, I must wonder if his willingness to capitulate to orthodox Jews on this issue has anything to do with the fact that he’s also resolutely pro-Israel. In February speech he gave about anti-semitism, he characterized the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement as anti-semitic because he believes that the BDS movement believes Israel has no right to exist. When Ilhan Omar remarked on Twitter about the influence of the pro-Israel lobby in US politics, tweeting “it’s all about the Benjamins baby”, de Blasio condemned her remarks as “absolutely unacceptable”. And sure enough, as though almost intending to prove Ilhan Omar correct about the influence of the Israel lobby, de Blasio supports AIPAC and was one of many Democrats who gave a speech at this year’s annual AIPAC Policy Conference in March.

In conclusion, I find it funny that some liberals considered Bill de Blasio a “progressive hope”. If that monster is your idea of the hope of the progressive movement, please go crawl into the sewer where you belong and stay there.

 

Kirsten Gillibrand

Dubbed by CBS News as “the #MeToo Senator”, Kirsten Gillibrand is certainly gaining some particular praise from liberals for her feminist prestige. And feminist prestige she certainly has. In fact, in 2017 she was leading the call for Al Franken to resign because of false accusations of sexual assault, which turned out to be nothing more than the ramblings of right-wing talk radio. Even when the Democrats eventually realized that they were wrong to accuse Franken of sexual assault, Gillibrand expressed no regrets, and said that she’d “do it again today” and “If a few wealthy donors are angry about that, it’s on them”. I suppose it is worth noting that she was one of the few Democrats who criticized Bill Clinton and said he should have resigned after his affair with Monica Lewisnky. Well, around twenty years after the fact anyway. But like all too many feminists her activism is tinged with hypocrisy. Despite her stalwart stance against sexual harrassment, Gillibrand herself retained a male staffer who was accused of multiple counts of sexual harrassment by a female aide, and she only got rid of him after Politico ran an article about the issue. Her whole view of sexual harrassment is also very much questionably broad. When she was asked by a New Yorker journalist if Al Franken had made sexual advances or just a clumsy thank you gesture, Gillibrand responded by saying “is there a difference if someone tries to do something to you unwanted?”. This is the logic of the extreme shut-in. From the perspective of such a shut-in, contact with the outside world is unwanted, and as such basic socialization is unwanted. If we apply Gillibrand’s logic, the shut-in could claim to have had sexual advances made towards him/her. It’s a thoroughly subjectivist argument.

I mean really, what else is there to say about her other than she’s a scumbag who uses the issue of sexual harrassment to grandstand in the name of feminism, even if it means screwing over innocent people. She’s horrible, like nearly all modern feminists.

 

Andrew Yang

Mark my words, Andrew Yang is the closest thing the United States will ever get to putting the Libertarian Party in government, and that’s not a good thing. The main reason for this is also the main focus of his campaign, the Freedom Dividend (also known as Yangbucks by his online fans). Some progressives, believe it or not, are actually pretty excited about this because they like the idea of universal basic income. The problem, however, is twofold. First of all, the entire point of the Freedom Dividend is to get away with not raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, with Yang famously saying it would be easier to give everyone in America $1000 a month (thus, a meme was born). The second problem, one that progressives seem bafflingly unwilling to address, is that universal basic income as an idea that has its roots in libertarian economics. Friedrich Hayek, one of the fathers of classical liberalism, advocated for “the assurance of a certain minimum income for everyone” both as a means of protection against the risk of poverty but also, crucially, so that the individual could, in his view, no longer claim anything else from society, theoretically eliminating the justification for various benefits and other social programs. Milton Friedman, the Chicago Boy himself, wrote in Capitalism and Freedom about the idea of a “negative income tax”, which is basically the government paying a sum of money for people earning below a certain minimum, and justified it by saying it would reduce the burden of economic administration on the part of the state. Charles Murray, who you may otherwise know as the racist author of The Bell Curve, advocated “a cash grant with a surtax, funded by eliminating the transfers that already exist”, and wrote in In Our Hands that discarding social welfare in favour of universal basic income is completely possible in the present day. Even today libertarians often still argue for universal basic income, with Reason magazine saying flat out in the title of one of their articles, “Scrap the Welfare State and Give People Free Money”. Far from being a genuine left-wing or progressive project designed to help the working class, universal basic income is nothing more than a ploy for capitalists and free-marketeers to destroy public welfare and curtail real social programs, or, at the very least, to allow free market capitalism to keep going. Yang himself says that the point of his scheme is to sustain the system, or in his words “put more people in a position where they can actually participate in a free market”.

Also, for all the hype, Yang’s Freedom Dividend is nothing more than a pittance. $1,000 per month is basically $12,000 a year. That seems like a pretty big sum in isolation, but compared to the $31,200 per year you would earn with a $15 an hour minimum wage, it’s a small sum. In fact, the median household income in the US is roughly $60,000 a year, and 78% of American workers still find themselves working paycheck to paycheck to make ends meet. $1000 a month won’t be enough for them, and it’s certainly not enough to build and maintain a family, although it might be just fine for you if you’re a NEET. And just as an aside, universal basic income has been tested out in Finland, and it’s not quite the success it’s made out to be. Sure, it did suceed in making people happier, but there was no real effect on unemployment, which is what the whole point was supposed to be in the first place. So, no, Yang’s plan won’t be helping anyone in any material way, except for maybe the capitalists. No wonder right-wingers seem to like him.

Universal basic income is not even Andrew Yang’s only piece of libertarian credentials. One campaign proposal that isn’t nearly as talked about as the Freedom Dividend is the Sunset Clause. The Sunset Clause is essentially Andrew Yang’s plan to get rid of as many laws as he can by scrapping any laws that don’t successfully meet what he calls “Key Performance Indicators”. Essentially, he’s going to do deregulationism by quite literally running the government as though it were a corporation. And, as a word of advice, when he says stuff like how we need to get past the dichotomy between socialism and capitalism, just keep in mind that plenty of anarcho-capitalists and libertarians tend to consider themselves neither left-wing nor right-wing, despite being definitively right-wing in their economics, as well as various other issues.

Now I have to admit: for a brief point, I was just a little interested in Andrew Yang and wanted to know more about him, because his campaign slogan, Humanity First, led me to believe he might be onto something important, even if he was a liberal. Automation is going to be a real problem in the years to come, particularly within the capitalist framework, and this automation combined with the creeping threat of artificial intelligence poses a threat not just to human labour, but to human sovereignty as well. But Yang’s plan is not the salvation that our species needs. Instead it will do nothing to help the economically displaced, and serve only to make the next generation feel fine with being subjugated. Universal basic income is a teet upon which the serfs and the slaves will suck, while our displacement by automation and artificial intelligence will continue unchallenged. Fuck Andrew Yang, and fuck all of the idiots who thinks he’s going to save America.

 

Tim Ryan

Generously described as “the Rust Belt Democrat” by the right-wing Washington Examiner, Tim Ryan, similar to Seth Moulton, is known for his failed attempt to unseat Nancy Pelosi as leader of the House Democrats. But whereas Seth Moulton at least seems like he might be a credible (if rather weak) progressive, Tim Ryan seems to me to be a free market liberal running under the Democratic ticket, or dare I say a Republican in Democrat clothing. Take for example climate change. He states that he believes every aspect of society should be geared towards tackling climate change, but as far how he intends to stop it he basically defaults to the free market as the answer. Yeah, the same free market that is by and large responsible for the systemic causes of our rapid climate acceleration. Interestingly though, Tim Ryan also seems to share Donald Trump’s enthusiasm for punitive economic warfare against China. In 2010, he tried to introduce a bill known as the Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act, which would impose harsh tariffs on China on the grounds that the country is engaging in currency manipulation. Although the bill passed in the House of Representatives, it never made it to the Senate. But anyways, keep that in mind while he criticizes Donald Trump as a divisive figure.

It’s also worth noting that Tim Ryan is one of three Democrats who were recently praised by Tucker Carlson for opposing Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren – the other two being John Delaney and Steve Bullock. Specifically, Carlson praised Ryan for attacking Bernie Sanders over supposedly wanting to give free healthcare to illegal immigrants, claiming that this would be a move against the native working class. I must say, doesn’t it seem rather ironic that right-wingers like Carlson would suddenly come to love Tim Ryan after he supported Hillary Clinton in 2016? John Delaney also endorsed Hillary Clinton, and so did Steve Bullock, and Carlson likes them too. I guess deep down people like Carlson really don’t consider the Clintons to be the evils that they often (quite rightly, albeit for the wrong reaons) paint them to be, and when faced with people who might actually lean remotely to the left he and other conservatives will gladly embrace the Clintonites as the lesser of two evils, if only because they would rather deal with limpdick liberals than basic bitch social democrats.

In summary, if you don’t like Trump but you still want someone to do his trade war for him, Tim Ryan is probably your candidate. Otherwise, he’s worthless.

 

Joe Sestak

I was told this man was ripped straight out of the 1970s, and I’m not terribly sure if my intuitions are correct on that front. But to be fair, not many have actually heard of this man. I’m fairly convinced that unless you follow politics on a regular basis you don’t know who he is, and before his campaign announcement he wasn’t even included in primary polls, so it was fair to assume that he was a nobody unless you live in Pennsylvania. Before his run for the presidency, he in 2006 managed to get elected to Congress in the 7th district of Pennsylvania, which was at the time dominated by Republicans (although for some reason very prone to voting for Democratic presidents). While that seems impressive, he declined to run for re-election in 2010 in order to attempt a run for the office of Senator, which he lost to a Republican named Pat Toomey. After that, he would try to run for Senator again, but lost the primary to Katie McGinty. After that, there’s not much to say, as he seems to have done little of note.

Actually, there is at least one thing to say. How did a man who repeatedly tried and failed to run for Senate and then did basically nothing important get the idea to run for president? Why should I even get into his political positions? What’s the point? Why are outlets like Vox touting him as one of the best picks for the party when his only accomplishment of note was defeating a Republican in a congressional election? His entire candidacy baffles me in its pointlessness and superfluousness, and that’s all there is to say.

 

Julian Castro

For some bizarre reason, there are people think Julian Castro is special. Salon even thinks he might somehow be the next Barack Obama (which, honestly, I do not welcome because Obama was a shitty president). So far what’s notable about him, from what I can gather, is that he’s the first Latin-American candidate to run in the race and could be the first Latin-American president (a very unlikely prospect, considering he’s polling at 1%), and that he was a possible candidate for Hillary Clinton’s running mate in the 2016 election cycle, before of course she went with Tim Kaine. But what’s so special about him, really?. Well, he did distinguish himself from other Democrats by supporting reparations for slavery, which he refers to as “the original sin” (which in my view is pretty much the tell that we’re dealing in religious morality trumped up as politics). In fact, he attacked Bernie Sanders for asking a questioner what was meant by reparations. Other than that, however, Julian Castro is just another generic, unpopular liberal who will be propped up by the media because of identity politics.

 

Beto O’Rourke

Beto O’Rourke is a very odd case, and not just because his fanbase consists of horny senior citizens who fantasize about having sex with him. He somehow managed to rise to fame because it looked like he was going to beat Ted Cruz during the midterm elections last year, and even though he lost to Cruz, he became enough of a media sensation that apparently some people wanted him to run for president. And then that’s what he did several months latet. I mean let’s just stop for a second and talk about the kind of guy Ted Cruz is just to underscore Beto O’Rourke’s failure here. Ted Cruz is about as a much of a garden variety Bible-thumping Republican as it gets without quite being entrenched in the MAGA camp. But more importantly, this is the man who lead Republican efforts to shut down the government in 2013 over Obamacare, which the Republicans were convinced would lead America down the path to communism even though it was written by the Heritage Foundation. He weaponizes concerns about political correctness in order to lionize some of the notorious Christian fundamentalists in American society (including Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson). He also straight up lied to Republican voters to their faces when, during his debate with Bernie Sanders in 2017, he said that tax cuts would actually decrease the deficit, citing Ronald Reagan among his examples. And this family values conservative was also caught liking a hardcore porn video on his offical Twitter account. Keep in mind of course that his party considers pornography to be a national public health crisis and not to mention a moral crisis. This is who Beto O’Rourke lost to. He probably could’ve have beaten him given the narrow margin of Cruz’s victory, but he didn’t, and that’s all that matters. And yet somehow there are Democrats who think that running this guy as their nominee is a great idea. Just goes to show how stupid the party really is.

But what’s really interesting is that despite billing himself as a progressive opponent to people like Ted Cruz, Beto O’Rourke has one of the most consistently conservative voting records among Democrats. He repeatedly voted for Republican bills, he even seems to have voted in line with Donald Trump on many occaisions, and voted against the majority of House Democrats. And these votes were not intended as a progressive or leftward dissent from the liberal establishment of the Democrats, rather they were simply intended to pass through Republican legislative agendas, which involved cutting taxes and chipping away at public services, and most notably weakening Dodd-Frank regulations and pushing for the death penalty. His right-wing voting record has been compared to Amy Klobhuchar, which is a very bad sign considering what has already been said of Klobuchar here. In any case, this leads many to ask the question of “just what does Beto O’Rourke actually believe?”. And, from what I’ve seen, he has a reputation of  being incredibly vague on progressive policy. The only thing we know for certain is that he sure as hell isn’t going to go after Wall Street. Nor is he going to go after big oil, considering he took hundreds of thousands of dollars from oil and gas executives and voted to remove restrictions on crude oil exports. And he certainly isn’t going to oppose the occuptation of Palestine, because he considers himself to be a proud supporter of Israel and met with AIPAC members, including one AIPAC member who previously accused him of siding with terrorism.

You know what, taking all this into account, it becomes pretty easy to see why Beto O’Rourke lost to Ted Cruz. He stands for very little, but what little he does stand for puts him in the same economic agenda (and sometimes even social) as the right. People have said that Beto just wants to be all things to all people, and I guess that’s a decent explanation for what we’re seeing of him. And, ultimately, it makes sense that people would pick Ted Cruz over him. I mean why go for a Democrat who just votes conservative almost every chance he gets when you can just vote Republican and get it over with? Or alternatively, why go with someone who’s kind of maybe not really a progressive when you can support an actual committed progressive? Beto O’Rourke is ultimately just a milquetoast liberal who, while he might get further than many other liberals, will ultimately fall by the wayside.

 

Bernie Sanders

I could go on about a lot of things with Bernie Sanders. I could point out how he was a consistent fighter for civil rights while some of his rivals probably either weren’t old enough to give a shit or in some cases actively opposed civil rights. I could go on about how he is one of the few Democrats who actually gives a shit about the US’ criminal involvement in Yemen. But to be honest, I think the best way to summarize Bernie Sanders is during an interview he recently gave for the Joe Rogan Experience. When I saw him talk to Joe Rogan about drug abuse and diseases of despair in a manner that ties it all back to real world economic conditions, such as outsourcing and rampant unemployment, I got a very profound reminder of why I like Sanders and think “to the hell with everyone else”. He’s the only person in the entire race capable of articulating the malaise of the current American system in terms of the material conditions that the average worker operates under. He’s not a dialectical materialist as far as I know, but something tells me he would be interested in it if you could explain it to him adequately.

In case you haven’t figured it out already throughout the rest of this post, I support Bernie Sanders. This seems strange in the context of my Marxist politics, and the fact his own politics is, at face values, not nearly radical enough for what we need in the grand scheme of things, not by a long shot. But, he is arguably the only person in America who can offer a salient example of a strucutral analysis of capitalism, albeit packaged as a populist social-democratic platform.

My support for Bernie Sanders should not be taken as unreserved or unequivocal, except perhaps in relation to all the other Democratic candidates. Indeed, I have had issues with Bernie Sanders in the past and sometimes still do. I initially supported him in the 2016 election cycle until April when he lost New York. When that happened, I lost hope at the time, and I had become convinced somehow that he had no idea what he was doing. It was only in June 2016 when it was eventually revealed that the DNC had been rigged against Bernie and several other candidates in favour of Hillary Clinton. What I thought was Bernie being an idiot turned out to be Bernie never having a chance because the DNC wouldn’t give him a fair chance. But by that point I lost interest in the Democrats and the progressives, supported the Libertarian Party for the summer of 2016 before finally just defaulting to Donald Trump rather than support Hillary Clinton, which I could never stomach. But my right-wing phase only lasted for over a year, eventually I got sick of the Trump team and became a socialist. After this, I began to look at Bernie in a new light. Now I see him expressing a credible skepticism of identity politics, globalization, open borders and a whole host of liberal shibboleths, but without the conservative or reactionary framing that we usually see from right-wingers and liberals on the subject (or, for that matter, the framing you get from some leftists which basically just amounts to “it’s bad when we’re not doing it”). This is a candidate who, although ultimately he just wants to reform capitalism, wants to address the system on structural terms, and he doesn’t have time for people who want to split hairs about race, sexuality, gender identity, or whatever pet issue the mainstream media and the DSA want to talk about instead. For that, as well as his consistent record of standing up for the powerless, I can respect him.

But what of socialism, you may ask? That is one of the problems I still have with Bernie Sanders, the way he handles the concept of socialism. When he’s not calling himself a democratic socialist, he’s accused Donald Trump of being a socialist for whatever reason (if only he were). He doesn’t seem to have a good grasp of socialism as a conceptual theory of political and economic organization, given that his idea of democratic socialism seems to just amount to when the government provides an extensive set of social programs aimed at helping ordinary people live their lives in a market-based system. Yet, this seems all the more striking when we consider that he has a record of defending the idea of socialism during his tenure as mayor of Burlington, Vermont. In fact it’s so interesting the way conservatives seem hell bent on smearing him for his takes on the subject, or hell even for telling children that drugs are bad, and the way they do it it just makes me like him even more than I already do. His record in support of some socialistic ideas leads some Bernie supporters to believe that he is in fact a socialist who is softening his image so that he can run as one of the more radical candidates in the Democratic Party. To be honest, I kind of hope it’s true. But even if it isn’t, a Bernie Sanders presidency would have a profound effect on the left in not just the US, but also the world. His ascent to power would give new energy to the left, and it will inspire people to pursue the idea of socialism to its true character, to joint/social ownership of the means of production rather than welfare capitalism. Only if the masses are can be shown that the discourse of socialism on a national level need not be an apocalyptic scenario (or, indeed, never was such a scenario!) will there be the upsurge of class consciousness needed to form an actual socialist movement, and Bernie Sanders might just be the best man for the job.

But of course, trust a lot of the online left not to understand this. The more radical portions of it are prepared to snipe Bernie on just about everything, but mostly they just go after the fact that he supported the bombing of Kosovo during the 1990s. Now that was a bad decision on his part, and Michael Parenti (who was friends with Bernie in the 1980s) rightly criticized him for it. But does that make Bernie irredeemable? Well considering that we’ve gone through Democratic candidates who are easily worse than Bernie on the question of imperialism and foreign policy, I’d say absolutely not. Especially when he’s been vocal about the other horrible wars carried out by the US, such as the pointless invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. His “more anti-imperialist than thou” critics often use Israel against him, but Bernie Sanders has made it clear that he does not support the Likud government or its occuption of Palestine, and in fact he says plain as day, “to oppose the reactionary policies of Netanyahu doesn’t make anyone anti-Israel”. I will say that he was a little weak on Venezuela, quick to condemn the PSUV, but nevertheless he implores that invading Venezuela for the purpose of regime change isn’t the answer. He is in the overall a clear critic of US foreign policy and an opponent of its regime change policy, whether you like it or not, in spite of his past.

In summary, for however I felt about him in the past, and however I feel about him today, I support Bernie Sanders and reject any Democrat who stands against him. And if you don’t understand that even after seeing just how bad most of the rest are, I’m not sure what to tell you.

 

Jay Inslee

Finally, the last guy on our list, and also decidedly the candidate with one of the creepiest smiles I’ve seen in a while. Jay Inslee gained national attention for a while because his state (Washington) sued Donald Trump over his travel ban in 2017, which barred immigrants from seven select Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States on spurious grounds of said countries harbouring terrorism. He also seems to be very interested in infrastructural reform in relation to the problem of climate change, and he wants to fund a series of deradicalization programs aimed at counteracting white nationalism in response to mass shootings. Apparently climate change seems to be his strongest suit, and despite his low polling his campaign has been getting a lot of praise for releasing detailed policy plans about dealing with climate change. And if that’s not enough he apparently has been introducing bills aimed at transitioning from fossil fuels and towards cleaner energy for years. He also deserves credit for being an outspoken critic of the Bush administration who voted against the Iraq War.

That’s nice and all but, other than the exceptional attention to detail he seems to put on climate change, I don’t see what the point of him running for president is. Again, there are lots of progressives like him in the race at this point, it just seems like, why go with any of them when you’ve got Bernie?

 

So, there you have it. These are the Democratic candidates currently in the race for 2020 nomination. We’ve seen many different kinds of Democrat here. We’ve seen corrupt authoritarian prosecutors, neoconservative Zionist liberals, warhawks pretending to be doves, the usual bland centrists, conservatives pretending to be progressives, billionnaire donors, free market wonks, pervy weirdos, and many other types of candidates. I honestly have a sense of foreboding about the race as a whole, because I predict that the Democrats will try to push through either Joe Biden or Kamala Harris, and since Biden is in hot water over his racist sympathies and polices in the past and the media seems to fawn over Kamala Harris anyway, I worry that will probably have to deal with a Kamala 2020 run going against Trump instead of a Bernie Sanders run. Not that I expect a party as morally and ideologically bankrupt as the Democrats to try anything else. Still, I hold out hope that Bernie Sanders will win, and begin planting the seeds for much greater political change in the minds of the people.