'What an Artist Dies in Me!'

This week, the-Pipeline.org has published the first of what we plan as a series of timely but well-considered "Againsts"  concerning various aspects of the current crisis: Against the Great Reset, published by Bombardier Books in cooperation with Simon and Schuster. Edited by myself, the roster of writers includes Michael Anton, Salvatore Babones, Conrad Black, Jeremy Black, Angelo Codevilla, Janice Fiamengo, Richard Fernandez, David P. Goldman, Victor Davis Hanson, Martin Hutchinson, Roger Kimball, Alberto Mingardi, Douglas Murray, James Poulos, Harry Stein, and John Tierney. What follows here is a brief excerpt from my essay, the final one of the book, "What an Artist Dies in Me!" 

Or so the Emperor Nero was supposed to have said, just before one of his freedmen helped him drive a dagger through his throat in the year 68 A.D. Too afraid to die a noble Roman by his own hand, declared a public enemy by the Senate, his castrated transsexual catamite, Sporus, by his side, the last of the Julio-Claudians went to Hades piteously declaiming what a loss to the world his death would be.

We remember Nero today primarily as the man who fiddled, or rather played upon the lyre and sang, while Rome burned as he pondered some architectural improvements. As the man who murdered his own mother (Agrippina the Younger, the model for all scheming momsters), as well as two of his wives—Octavia, the daughter of Emperor Claudius, and the pregnant Poppaea, who formerly had been married to one of his closest friends, Otho, who later briefly succeeded him as emperor. And as the man who threw the early Christians to the lions, when he wasn’t covering them in pitch and setting them ablaze as human torches, according to some hostile accounts.

Dining by Christian candlelight.

But we remember him still, despite his notorious reputation as a sexual deviant, even by Roman standards, a matricide, an uxoricide, and the unworthiest descendant of the line of Mark Antony and Germanicus, a category that also includes the stiff competition of Caligula. He considered himself, however, a great poet, musician, singer, and actor, who spent much of the period 66–67 A.D. in Greece, where he competed in the Olympic Games as both an actor and a charioteer. And his last words, more poignant and delusional than most, tell us how he saw himself. He was not just the emperor, a demigod, and the absolute monarch of a still-expanding empire: he was a bard and a singer.

The nexus among art, religion, and power is an ancient one, dating back to the wellsprings of humanity. To the seer and the shaman were given tribal standing; the man of insight and ability won leadership. The talent to conceive and draw big game on the walls of caves—three-dimensional objects in two-dimensional space—was tantamount to summoning them to the slaughter. To evoke the as-yet-unborn Schopenhauer, the world was both will and representation, and it would take millennia of scientific and philosophical advancement to try—imperfectly—to separate them.

The path from reification to the middle step of representation—objectification—led, perhaps paradoxically in the eyes of modern “feminists,” to more abstract concepts of beauty, with their attendant webs of nuance, recollections, desires, hopes, dreams. Writing in his book, Beauty, the late Sir Roger Scruton noted, “Metaphors make connections which are not contained in the fabric of reality but created by our own associative powers. The important question about a metaphor is not what property it stands for, but what experience it suggests.”

This was the next step in the creation of art (throughout this essay, I will be using the term “art” to encompass all the arts, not simply painting and sculpture), because at root, art is about beauty and nothing but beauty. No matter how brutal the art may be, how coarse and even nihilistic, beauty in a free society is always present by its absence, the standard against which the emptiness of evil is measured. The corruption of art is therefore an act of the purest evil. Small wonder that totalitarian movements such as the Great Reset fear its power and must co-opt and destroy its independence.

The Greeks had Mount Parnassus, sacred to both Apollo and Dionysus and their attendant arts, and perhaps the home of the Muses as well. Later, pedagogues developed the notion of the Gradus ad Parnassum, denoting the steps to mastery novices must take as they ascend to the peak of artistic attainment. And, as noted in my Introduction, the great German novelist Thomas Mann synthesized these themes and many more in 1924 his masterpiece, The Magic Mountain—located, as fate would have it, in Davos, Switzerland, in the heart of the Swiss Alps, which also happens to be the locus of the World Economic Forum’s annual celebration of obscene wealth and unbounded ambition—a fitting locale for our latter-day emperors.

However, instead of encountering Mann’s indelible cast of characters at the Berghof sanatorium—the scalding intellectual Naphta; the rationalist, secular freemason Settembrini; the seductive hot kitten, Clawdia Chauchat of the Kirghiz eyes; and the despotically exotic Mynheer Peeperkorn—we find waiting for us instead the clinical dispassion of Klaus Schwab, as Teutonic in mien and accent as the character of Dr. Szell in Marathon Man. We half expect him to ask us, “Is it safe?”


In the year 1643, in France, the Sun King assumed the throne. The Age of Exploration was well underway. The English civil war raged. The Thirty Years’ War was nearing an end. And in the sovereign state of Venice, La Serenissima, the Italian composer Claudio Monteverdi premiered the last of his works in a new art form called, fittingly, opera (works). Its name: L’incoronazione di Poppea. Its main characters: the beautiful Poppaea Sabina, soon to be called the Augusta, whose favorite saying was that she hoped she would die before she got old; and the man born Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus and ended up as Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus—or, simply, Nero.

Its final, ravishing duet, “Pur ti miro” (“I adore you, I embrace you, I desire you”), Poppea and Nerone (performed today by a woman or a countertenor, castrati being largely unavailable, except among the progressive gender dysphorics) sing of their undying love. No matter that Nero has killed his mother and made his marriage to Poppaea possible by eliminating the prior Mrs. Nero, Claudia Octavia. No matter that we know the marriage will last only three years, when Nero will kick Poppaea and her unborn child to death in a fit of pique, and then marry again, taking not only Statilia Messalina to wife but an emasculated boy made up to look, and function, exactly like the dead Poppaea.

We know the tragic ending but they don’t—and it doesn’t matter. In this radiant moment, one of history’s greatest monsters is resurrected as a lovesick hero, transformed not by dramatic fiat but by the otherworldly power of Monteverdi’s music, which makes us forget history and be carried along by an alternate reality we briefly prefer to believe. The artist Nero fancied himself is thus given immortality—but not absolution—in the field in which he most desired it.

Art, like the Christ figure, has conquered death. This is its power, which cannot be reset. This is why religious and secular authorities fear it, seek to diminish it, try to co-opt it, reduce it to a grubby economic transaction, send it to a prison camp, hang it. Like Boccaccio’s Decameronians, holed up in a fashionable villa to avoid the Black Death but with absolutely no storytelling ability, they await and encourage the collapse of contemporary civilization so that they might improve it, along with their own fortunes. That artists subscribe, consciously or not, to the Nietzschean doctrine of eternal recurrence never seems to occur to them; even if they’ve never read Cloud Atlas, perhaps they should harken to the sextet by Vyvyan Ayrs.

Artists neither mourn nor celebrate their subjects; rather, they exhibit their own power to resurrect the dead or summon the nonexistent to squalling life, whether their characters are sacred or profane. Profoundly indifferent to morality, yet completely human, art exists on its own terms, open to all to inspect, embrace, imitate, or reject. From the Roman Empire to the seventeenth-century Venetian court; from the Zauberberg a hundred years ago to Davos Dorf today, many have tried to geld it or beat it into submission, but art and artists will always have the last word. There is no Reset, neither by gods nor bonzes, but there is always rebirth. And that is forever the province of the glory, jest, and riddle of the world—Man.

'You'll Own Nothing'—and Like It. Or Will You?

The much-circulated slogan “You will own nothing, and you will be happy” was coined by Danish MP Ida Auken in 2016 and included in a 2016 essay published by the purveyors of the so-called “Great Reset” at the World Economic Forum (WEF) headquartered in Davos, Switzerland. It is, of course, only half true. Nonetheless, the phrase is certainly apt and should be taken seriously. For once the Great Reset has been put in place, we will indeed own nothing except our compelled compliance.

The world’s farmers and cattle raisers, deprived of their livelihoods on the pretext of reducing nitrogenic fertilizers and livestock-produced methane, will own next to nothing. Meat and grain will become increasingly rare and we will be dining on cricket goulash and mealworm mash, an entomorphagic feast. We will be driving distance-limited electric vehicles rented from the local Commissariat and digitally monitored by Cyber Central—assuming we will still be allowed to drive. Overseen by a cadre of empowered financial managers who can “freeze” our assets at any time, we will possess bank accounts and credit ratings, but they will not be really ours. 

Subject to a conceptual misnomer that is nothing but a vacuous abstraction, we will have become “stakeholders”—the WEF’s Klaus Schwab’s favorite word—with no real stake to hold apart from a crutch. In fact, what Schwab’s “stakeholder capitalism” really means, as Andrew Stuttaford explains at Capital Matters, is “transferring the power that capitalism should confer from its owners and into the hands of those who administer it.” 

Beware the Magic Mountain.

Should the Great Reset ever be fully implemented, we will have been diminished, as Joel Kotkin cogently argues in The Coming of Neo-Feudalism, to the condition of medieval serfs, or reduced to the status of febrile invalids, like those in Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, which, as it happens, was also set in Davos. As Mann ends his novel, addressing his main character Hans Castorp: “Farewell, Hans…Your chances are not good. The wicked dance in which you are caught up will last many a little sinful year yet, and we will not wager much that you will come out whole.”

Modern-day Castorps, we will indeed own nothing, and most assuredly, we will not be happy. As Schwab writes in his co-authored Covid-19: The Great Reset, people will have to accept “limited consumption,” “responsible eating,” and, on the whole, sacrificing “what we do not need”—this latter to be determined by our betters.

What strikes me with considerable force is the pervasive indifference or cultivated ignorance of the general population respecting what the Davos cabal has in store for them. A substantial number of people have never heard of it. Others regard it as just another internet conspiracy—though it is not so much a conspiracy since it is being organized in full sight. The majority of “fact-checkers” and hireling intellectuals wave it away as a right-wing delusion.

Others I have spoken to simply cannot grasp the enormity of so vast, diabolical, and methodically orchestrated a scheme. “Surely, you’re joking,” my neighbor said to me. I was tempted to parrot Leslie Nielsen’s snappy one-liner, “Don’t call me Shirley,” as a correlative idiocy. The general state of public stupefaction and complacency is precisely what may ensure the success of what is nothing less than a social apocalypse, epically scalable and coercively networked by an unholy alliance between government, corporations, NGOs, academia, techno-elites and a coterie of the world’s billionaires. It is real. “It matters,” writes Ben Sixsmith at The Spectator World, “that some of the world’s richest and most powerful people are so interested in ‘resetting’ the way we live.”

The evidence is everywhere though the majority refuse to recognize it: one pandemic and variant after another, strictly on schedule: Covid, Omicron BA.4, BA.5, Monkeypox, Bird Flu, with more to come; vaccines whose deadly consequences are legion; the creation of a new category of political prisoners; climate alarmism presaging the end of mankind—an extinction which is continually deferred; the systematic suppression of civil rights and Constitutional guarantees; supply-chain disruptions; currency deflation and its result, rampant inflation; ballooning taxes of every shape and form: gas taxes, equity taxes, capital gains taxes, carbon taxes; and the growing campaign against energy and food, the essentials of life and prosperity, leading to the culling of the world’s population—we have the Malthusian word of Bill Gates on that.

Taken together, this is the Reset idea in a nutshell, a dystopian blueprint whose effect will be devastating, and which most people remain blind to. It is sometimes the glaringly obvious that is most obscure, the onset of a tectonic shift dismissed as a mere tremor, until it is too late to prepare and react. 

Yuval Noah Harari, author of the bestselling Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, represents an interesting case in the ongoing debate over the nature of the Great Reset. Often condemned by skeptics as a vigorous promoter of the movement, he appears to be more of a Cassandra prophetically surveying the evolution of our political, economic and technological future, which, he believes, may well be unstoppable. He suspects that artificial intelligence (AI) and the algorithmic revolution will generate a “global useless class.” Disruptive technologies,” he says in a New York Times interview, “which have helped bring enormous progress, could be disastrous if they get out of hand.” These new technologies “could hijack democracy, and even our sense of self,” which would spell the doom of “liberal democracy as we have known it for the last century.”

Harari is often closely associated with Schwab, but his predictions should be taken in—not out of—context, as an insightful foray into what is looming on the horizon, for better or worse. In referring to “hackable humans,” he is not advocating for but warning against how the new technologies, such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Neural Evidence Aggregation Tool (NEAT) program, are envisioning the future and how, if we are not careful, they can go wrong. Harari’s warning is the content of the Great Reset’s proposed aspirations—but he seems to be misunderstood rather than heeded.

A new book, Against the Great Reset, edited by The Pipeline editor Michael Walsh and scheduled for October, would doubtlessly enlighten the crepuscular sensibilities of an apathetic and irresponsible demographic, the incipient victims of an unprecedented global upheaval. But most of the people I daily meet at their trades, and enter into conversation with, do not read anything apart from the agitprop drivel of the mainstream press. Even so, such a volume, featuring many of our most prestigious scholars, needs to be “out there” as a curator of ideas. One never knows. It may change some minds among the literate and nudge the news cycle, at least to some extent, in the direction of sanity.

The only event, however, that I can see radically forestalling what has begun to seem inevitable would be the total collapse of the economies, traditional pursuits, communal trust in national leadership, and, in effect, the  structural cohesion of nations, as in Sri Lanka, Argentina, and possibly Holland and Canada in the approximate future. Such convulsions may serve to rouse the masses. Otherwise, we may be inviting a fait accompli. Barring the unforeseen, one thing is certain. The oligarchs and poser-brokers who are busy installing the insidious measures and manorial provisions of the Great Reset, should they succeed in their plans, will have much to look forward to. They will own everything, and they will be happy. Very happy.

Atop the Magic Mountain, 'The Great Reset'

In case you're curious about what the international Left has in store for you, and just how much they despise you, freedom, personal liberty, capitalism (even though, like George Soros, they're all "capitalists"), you could do worse than to cast your eyes in the direction of the little town of Davos, high in the Swiss Alps. For a century, it was famous as the sanatorium of choice for Europe's consumptives -- sick, neurasthenic victims immortalized in Thomas Mann's masterpiece, Der Zauberberg (The Magic Mountain).

Here, in the translation of H.T. Lowe-Porter, is how The Magic Mountain begins:

An unassuming young man was travelling, in midsummer, from his native city of Hamburg to Davos-Platz in the Canton of the Grisons, on a three weeks’ visit.

From Hamburg to Davos is a long journey — too long, indeed, for so brief a stay. It crosses all sorts of country; goes up hill and down dale, descends from the plateau of Southern Germany to the shore of Lake Constance, over its bounding waves and on across marshes once thought to be bottomless.

At this point the route, which has been so far over trunk-lines, gets cut up. There are stops and formalities. At Rorschach, in Swiss territory, you take train again, but only as far as Landquart, a small Alpine station, where you have to change. Here, after a long and windy wait in a spot devoid of charm, you mount a narrow-gauge train; and as the small but very powerful engine gets under way, there begins the thrilling part of the journey, a steep and steady climb that seems never to come to an end. For the station of Landquart lies at a relatively low altitude, but now the wild and rocky route pushes grimly onward into the Alps themselves.

Hans Castorp — such was the young man’s name — sat alone in his little grey-upholstered compartment, with his alligator-skin hand-bag, a present from his uncle and guardian, Consul Tienappel — let us get the introductions over with at once — his travelling- rug, and his winter overcoat swinging on its hook. The window was down, the afternoon grew cool, and he, a tender product of the sheltered life, had turned up the collar of his fashionably cut, silk-lined summer overcoat. Near him on the seat lay a paper-bound volume entitled Ocean Steamships; earlier in the journey he had studied it off and on, but now it lay neglected, and the breath of the panting engine, streaming in, defiled its cover with particles of soot.

Once in the sanatorium, Hans becomes the ideological captive of two memorable fellow-sufferers: the Jew-turned Jesuit, Leo Naphta, and the Italian secular humanist, Ludovico Settembrini. Their prolonged battle for Castorp's soul as Europe awaits the Guns of August occupies much of the novel. And that global conflict resulted in not only World War II but the Cold War as well. Indeed, we're still dealing with its disastrous legacy.

The Left, it seems, is always itching for a fight, during which it can impose its noxious brand of vicious conformity. In the last century, it went by such names as Marxism, Communism, and National Socialism. Here's its latest incarnation:

A disciplined, well-regulated, orderly society in which all men are brothers and everybody knows his place in the Matrix, er... the system. Perhaps we now have a notion of why such ostensibly "conservative" publications such as the zombie shell of National Review have long reported -- in a very flattering way! -- about the goings-on at Davos. There's just something so darn fascinating about watching our betters disport themselves like Clavdia Chauchat and Mynheer Peeperkorn in the snows of a yesteryear that never quite was. Especially when we know the sequel.

Here's a sample

Davos, Switzerland — A pleasure it is to write to you from the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum, high up here in the Alps. As you may know, this meeting takes place every January, in Davos, Switzerland — home of the Magic Mountain, site of the revered Thomas Mann novel. (And someday I’ll get through it — right after Bleak House.)

In years past, I have described Davos as a fairytale setting, or a shakeup globe. It looks this way more than ever now. When I pulled in, it was snowing, and I saw a horse-drawn sleigh. It seemed almost too ideal to be real. But real it was, and is. The pine trees (or whatever one is supposed to call them) are groaning with snow, looking like umbrellas, being folded down.

That the writer could so blithely toss off both Der Zauberberg and Dickens' Bleak House -- two of the greatest novels ever written -- says something about both the publication and the writer. If you want to try something that's hard to get through, try anything by Nobel Prize-wining author and progressive favorite Toni Morrison. How bad is she? This bad:

Don’t be afraid. My telling can’t hurt you in spite of what I have done and I promise to lie quietly in the dark -- weeping perhaps or occasionally seeing the blood once more -- but I will never again unfold my limbs to rise up and bare teeth. I explain. You can think what I tell you a confession, if you like, but one full of curiosities familiar only in dreams and during those moments when a dog’s profile plays on the steam of a kettle. Or when a corn-husk doll sitting on a shelf is soon splaying in the corner of a room and the wicked of how it got there is plain. Stranger things happen all the time everywhere. You know. I know you know.

By contrast, here is the arresting opening of Bleak House:

London. Michaelmas term lately over, and the Lord Chancellor sitting in Lincoln’s Inn Hall. Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill. Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snowflakes—gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun. Dogs, undistinguishable in mire. Horses, scarcely better; splashed to their very blinkers. Foot passengers, jostling one another’s umbrellas in a general infection of ill temper, and losing their foot-hold at street-corners, where tens of thousands of other foot passengers have been slipping and sliding since the day broke (if this day ever broke), adding new deposits to the crust upon crust of mud, sticking at those points tenaciously to the pavement, and accumulating at compound interest.

Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little ‘prentice boy on deck. Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon and hanging in the misty clouds.

And the beginning of The Magic Mountain -- which won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1929 -- you can read above.

Imagine there's no countries;
It isn't hard to do.

Which brings us back to Davos and to the World Economic Forum and its plans for the peons of the world, whom they very much don't want to unite [Marxist language in bold]:

The Covid-19 crisis, and the political, economic and social disruptions it has caused, is fundamentally changing the traditional context for decision-making. The inconsistencies, inadequacies and contradictions of multiple systems –from health and financial to energy and education – are more exposed than ever amidst a global context of concern for lives, livelihoods and the planet. Leaders find themselves at a historic crossroads, managing short-term pressures against medium- and long-term uncertainties.

As we enter a unique window of opportunity to shape the recovery, this initiative will offer insights to help inform all those determining the future state of global relations, the direction of national economies, the priorities of societies, the nature of business models and the management of a global commons. Drawing from the vision and vast expertise of the leaders engaged across the Forum’s communities, the Great Reset initiative has a set of dimensions to build a new social contract that honours the dignity of every human being.

Unsurprisingly, they're ready to start right away:

Is this what you want? Is this what you voted for? Is this the life you desire? To be an admiring plaything of the Davos elite, caught like poor Hans Castorp in zugzwang at the Berghof clinic?  We've been having this same discussion for more than a century, and it always ends up in the same place. A velvet prison with plays, music, even opera. Where absolutely everyone is well treated. And where all the best people go.