For those of us on the Right who long despaired for the future of our country, Donald Trump offered an unlikely ray of hope. He defied cultural Marxism, a.k.a. “political correctness”. He promised to end the flooding of our country with foreigners and the export of its middle-income jobs. He rejected Wilsonianism and its endless wars for endless peace. In short, he promised to give us our country back.
That hope is now gone. The Establishment has launched a double envelopment of President Trump that shows every sign of succeeding. On the one hand, it has taken over his administration from the inside, giving us the usual policies of the Republican Establishment. On the other hand, it is drowning the president in a flood of mostly phony charges intended to drive him from office. Either way, it wins, and real conservatives are left with no voice and no hope in the political system. The most important lesson of the Trump presidency may be that reform through the system is impossible.
Where do we go from here? On issues such as foreign policy, trade policy, and immigration, we may be able to do little beyond wait for the disasters inherent in Establishment policy to unfold, then move in to pick up the pieces. Whether the state can survive such a monumental failure is an open question.
But on the most important issue, culture, there is a way forward. That way is Retroculture.
Retroculture is a call to revive old ways of thinking and living, with an emphasis on the latter. The basic lesson of America’s history since the 1960s is that the old ways worked and the new ways don’t. It does not require a great intellectual leap from that fact to wanting to live once again in the old ways, many of which had their origins in the Victorian period.
For millennia, when a society found itself decaying and declining, it turned back and attempted to revive a past when life was better. The Renaissance and the Reformation are both examples. The result was not an exact recreation of the past, but by drawing on the past these attempts have at least sometimes brought about a new synthesis that was an improvement.
At present, Retroculture is only a word and an idea. If we are to save and restore our country, it needs to become a movement. It will not be a political movement, aimed at gaining power in Washington and changing laws. That way has failed. Rather, a Retroculture movement will be individuals, families, and perhaps in time whole communities changing how they live. That is far more powerful than politics.
There is an obvious parallel between Retroculture and Rod Dreher’s “Benedict Option”. The difference is that Retroculture is secular. Because religious faith and worship were of central importance in the lives of our ancestors–just look at the churches they built–Retroculture will tend to lead people toward religion. But they can join a Retroculture movement on purely secular grounds, i.e., wanting to create a better life for themselves and their families by doing what works.
A Retroculture movement is a central theme in Thomas Hobbes’ novel Victoria (which, as his agent, I recommend) and also in the last book Paul Weyrich and I wrote together, The Next Conservatism. More than that, it is reflected in the lives of several important groups of people. One is the Amish, who live rural lives similar to those of 100 years ago, before Henry Ford’s Model T overran the countryside. Another group that embraces part of Retroculture is the home schoolers, many of whom home school to avoid the dreadful “education theory” that has replaced learning skills and facts with psychological conditioning and babble such as “self-esteem”. A college graduate of today knows less than a high school grad of 1950.
There is no single time period that defines Retroculture. Any time up through the 1950s, America’s last normal decade, will do. Our country was wrecked by the cultural revolution of the 1960s, and any model for present life drawn from before that catastrophe will be an improvement. Emmett Tyrrell once defined utopia as the 18th century with modern medicine and air conditioning.
Toward the goal of creating a Retroculture movement, this website is establishing a Retroculture bulletin board. Anyone who has ideas about Retroculture they want to share, or wants to connect with others choosing a Retroculture life, is welcome to post on it.
Retroculture’s home truth is simple: what worked before can work again. Ideologies promise perfect future societies based on this or that philosophy; invariably, they fail. Retroculture, in contrast, is based in reality, in the concrete, specific ways of living of our own forefathers. They were real, the ways in which they lived were real, and they worked. They built the greatest country on Earth. It wasn’t perfect; no human endeavor can be. But their America worked a whole lot better than the country we now know by that name. It’s time we brought that America back.