‘Might is Right or the Survival of the Fittest’ (1896) by Ragnar Redbeard
‘Sayings of Redbeard’ (1890) by Ragnar Redbeard
Perhaps the most iconoclastic book ever written, a work so incendiary that it is widely dismissed as a parody, ‘Might is Right’ has, perhaps unsurprisingly, largely been ignored by mainstream philosophers and political theorists.
Written, like Thus Spake Zarathustra, in a pretentious pseudo-biblical style, sometimes deliberately paralleling biblical passages (“Blessed are the strong for they shall possess the earth”, “If a man smite you on one cheek, smash him on ‘the other’” etc.), ‘Might is Right’ is, unlike Nietzsche’s infamously incomprehensible screed, a straightforward, if rather repetitive, read.
Indeed, Redbeard would, I suspect, attribute the failure of earlier thinkers to reach similar conclusions to a failure of ‘The Will’ rather than ‘The Intellect’—a failure to face up to the reality of the human condition, or else, more likely, a deliberate desire to dissimulate and deceive.
Interestingly, ‘Might is Right’ did come to the attention of some notable contemporaries, not least Alfred Wallace, the lesser-known co-discoverer of the theory of natural selection, himself copiously quoted by Redbeard within the pages of his book.
Wallace, a socialist, predictably disavowed Redbeard’s social Darwinism, but nevertheless acknowledged:
“Dr. Redbeard has given us a very brilliant and rhythmical poem—‘The Logic of Today’. I admire his verse, but I decline to alter the meaning of such words as ‘justice’ and ‘right’ to make them accord with his theory that men are merely herds of brute beasts.”
Here, Wallace, himself a keen amateur poet as well as a pioneering naturalist, is surely right.
Thus, whatever his demerits as a political theorist or moral philosopher, Redbeard is a talented wordsmith – and has a better claim to being a great poet than he does to being a consistent or coherent moral philosopher.
Throughout ‘Might is Right’, and indeed ‘Sayings of Redbeard’, he coins countless quotable aphorisms, and his poetry, while sometimes clumsy, is oftentimes quite brilliant.
HL Mencken, a contemporary of Redbeard of similarly cynical, anti-Christian, social Darwinist and Nietzschean leanings, wrote, “Religion… like poetry, is simply a concerted effort to deny the most obvious realities” and “a device for gladdening the heart with what is palpably untrue” (A Mencken Chrestomathy: p7; p569).
Redbeard would surely agree with Mencken with respect to religion. However, in regard of poetry, he disproves Mencken’s dicta with his own delightfully cynical social Darwinist verse, among which the twelve-stanza ‘The Philosophy of Power’ (aka ‘The Logic of Today’) is indeed his masterwork.
Amoralism, Moral Relativism or Morality of Power?
At the core of Redbeard’s philosophy is his rejection of morality. On one occasion he opines:
“Conventional moral dogmas and political standards-of-value are, like wooden idols, the work of men’s hands.”
Interestingly, at least in this passage, the critique is explicitly restricted to what Redbeard calls ‘conventional’ morality. It therefore holds out the possibility that Redbeard’s rejection of moral thinking does not necessarily apply to all forms of moral thinking, but only with conventional Christian moralisms.
This interpretation is consistent with the fact that, as we will see, Redbeard does indeed seem to champion a form of morality, albeit a very different one that champions strength and conquest, much like that of Nietzsche, at other points during his treatise.
Elsewhere, however, Redbeard is more absolute, emphatically rejecting all forms of morality, without exception. Thus, his treatise includes the following categorical pronouncements:
“All ethics, politics and philosophies are pure assumptions, built upon assumptions. They rest on no sure basis. They are but shadowy castles-in-the-air erected by day-dreamers, or by rogues upon nursery fables.”
“They are not even shadows; for a shadow implies a materialized actuality. It is somewhat difficult to define what is non existent. That task may be left to University professors and Sunday school divines. They are adepts at clothing their mental nudity in clouds of wonderous verbosity.”
“‘All moral philosophy is false and vain for man is unlimited… Good and Evil liveth only in men’s minds… Right and Wrong are no more than arbitrary algebraic signs, representing hypnagogic phantasies.”
“All rights are as transient as morning rainbows, international treaties, or clauses in a temporary armistice.”
But Redbeard is nothing if not self-contradictory. Perhaps among the moral ideals that he rejects is that of intellectual consistency and internal coherence!
Thus, elsewhere, he seemingly espouses instead a radical moral relativism.
Yet, as always, Redbeard is insistent on going far further than other thinkers exploring similar ideas, and hence takes moral relativism to its logical conclusion, if not its reductio ad absurdum, by insisting, not only that conceptions of morality may differ as between different cultures and societies, and in different times and places, but also that even individuals within a single culture may legitimately differ in their moral ethos and philosophy.
Indeed, for Ragnar, a single individual, not only can arrive at his own personal morality, quite different from that of his neighbours, but moreover that he must do so if he is to be truly free.
“Every age and nation must interpret Right and Wrong for itself. So must every man. It is each man’s manifest duty to invent his own Ethical Credo.”
Here, morality is not abandoned altogether, but rather devolved to individual conscience.
Moreover, the demand that each man must invent anew his own ethical credo becomes, in Redbeard’s formulation, itself a universal moral injunction.
In other words, in insisting that each man must invent his own ethical credo afresh, Redbeard is propounding a universal moral law that in itself contradicts the very relativism that this moral law purports to insist upon.
Thus, one might ask: If no man should accept any ethical credo unless he has arrived at it himself through his own reasoning power, does this then extend even to the very ethical credo that insists that no man should accept any ethical credo unless he has arrived at it himself by his own reasoning power?
In other words, Redbeard’s envisaged moral ethos fails even by its own criterion for validity.
Redbeard’s primary justification for his injunction against any man adopting the moral credo of another is that, by doing so, a person invariably renders himself vulnerable to exploitation at that other’s hands.
“A sensible man should never conform to any rule or custom, simply because it has been highly commended by others, alive or dead. If they are alive he should suspect their motives. If dead, they are out of Court. He should be a law unto himself in all things: otherwise he permits himself to be demonetized to the level of a domesticated animal.”
“He who ‘keeps the commandments’ of another is necessarily the slave of that other.”
This suggests that the ultimate purpose of any moral system is to promote one’s own self-interest, and that self-interest is the ultimate moral good.
Thus, a moral ethos promoted by a third-party is likely to reflect their self-interest, and hence must be rejected because it is likely to be in conflict with our own self-interest, which our own moral ethos would presumably promote.
In practice, then, the ultimate moral end is one’s own self-interest, and any system of morality must be judged against this criterion. This, in effect, elevates the promotion of individual self-interest to a universal moral injunction, again contradicting Redbeard’s insistence that there are no universal moral moral laws.
Thus, Redbeard concludes:
“He abdicates his inherent royalty who bends before any human being or any human dogma – but his own.”
However, this raises the question: Does this injunction against adopting the moral ethos expounded by a third-party extend even to the moral system expounded by Redbeard himself?
For, elsewhere, Redbeard, contradicting himself yet again, does indeed champion a universal morality, albeit one very different to that of the Christian moralists and instead, like that of Nietzsche, idealizing strength, power and conquest.
Thus, he writes:
“All ‘moral’ dogmatisms and religiosities are positive hindrances to the evolution of the Higher Manhood; inasmuch as men who honestly grasp at Morals, do not so energetically grasp at power – power being essentially non-moral.”
Yet, here, in presuming that men ought to grasp towards power, Redbeard is implicitly elevating the pursuit of power itself to, itself, a moral ideal.
Might Proves Right?
If power, and the pursuit of power, is, then, the essence of Redbeard’s moral philosophy, what evidence does he present in support of this moral theory?
More specifically, does not Redbeard’s own moral ethos, that of strength and the pursuit of power, suffer from the precise same defect that he purports to uncover in all other moral credos – namely that, in Redbeard’s own words, it “rests on no sure basis” and is but “a shadowy castle-in-the-air”.
To this objection, however, Redbeard has a ready response—namely that the superiority of his own moral system is proven by its real-world success in competition with other moral systems, in particular the Christian morality that he so abhors and excoriates.
Thus, a man who acts in accordance with a morality that idealizes conquest and confrontation will, Redbeard argues, inevitably and overcome, conquer, annihilate or enslave a man who acts instead in accordance with Jesus’s admonition to ‘turn the other cheek’.
Thus, just as different individuals compete to survive and reproduce, and only the ‘best’ survive, so the same is true of what Richard Dawkins, in The Selfish Gene, called ‘memetic’ selection among ideas, including, for Redbeard, conceptions of morality.
Thus, Redbeard writes:
“Let a tribe of human animals live a rational life, Nature will smile upon them and their posterity; but let them attempt to organize an unnatural mode of existence an equality elysium, and they will be punished even to the point of extermination.”
“Let any nation throw away all ‘habits of violence,’ and before long it must cease to exist as a nation. It will be laid under tribute—it will become a province, a satrapy. It will be taxed and looted in a thousand different ways. Let any man abandon all property, also all overt resistance to aggression and behold, the first sun will scarcely have sunk down in the west, before he is a bondservant, a tributary, a beggar, or—a corpse.”
This is, of course, the essence of so-called ‘social Darwinism’, whereby, in Redbeard’s own words:
“Force governs all organic life
Inspires all right and wrong
It’s Nature’s plan to weed out man
And test who is the strong”
Of course, for anyone with even a rudimentary schooling in the dogmas of contemporary moral philosophy, alarm bells will immediately start to sound in their mind on reading these passages.
Ah, they will insist, but Redbeard is committing the ‘naturalistic fallacy’, or ‘appeal to nature fallacy’. He is deriving ‘ought’ from ‘is’ and deducing facts from values and hence violating one of the most sacrosanct tenets and dogmas of contemporary moral philosophy.
Yet, to his credit, Redbeard is not, it seems, entirely unaware of this criticism. On the contrary, he explicitly anticipates this objection and pre-emptively responds thusly – namely by denying outright that ‘naturalistic fallacy’ or ‘appeal to nature fallacy’ is indeed truly a fallacy at all.
Thus, Redbeard declares forthrightly and unapologetically:
“To be right is to be Natural, and to be natural is to be right.”
Does Might Make Right?
Thus, for Redbeard, the ultimate criterion of moral truth is to be found in the outcome of real-world conflict.
This is, of course, quite different from most people’s conception of how moral truth is to be arrived at.
Yet, for Redbeard, it is so obvious as barely to require supporting argumentation in the first place. Thus, he laments:
“That ‘Might is Master’ should require demonstrating is itself a proof of the mental and moral perversity that pervades the world.”
Thus, Redbeard does not bother to justify his contention that morality is determined by force of arms. Instead, he insists that the fact this is so is so obvious and straight forward as not to require justification or supporting arguments.
Readers may disagree with Redbeard on this matter, but, in one sense, Redbeard does indeed have a point.
If, as most moral philosophers maintain, moral principles cannot be derived from facts, then it follows that moral principles can only be derived from other moral principles. Thus, one moral belief may be justified only on the basis of another, more fundamental, such principle.
However, whence then are our ultimate moral principles, from which all our other moral principles are derived, themselves to find justification? Ultimately, it seems, they must simply be taken on faith.
Therefore, it follows that there can be no ultimate justification for preferring any one moral ethos over any other. Each is equally valid (and invalid).
Therefore, Redbeard’s own proposed criterion for determining moral truth (namely, victory in battle) is quite as valid as any other such criterion – which is to say, not very valid at all.
However, although Redbeard purports to believe his own ultimate moral axiom, namely ‘Might is Master’, so obviously true as to be scarcely even in need of justification were it not for the decadence and perversity of the age, this does not prevent him from nevertheless belabouring this same point, over and over, at several different points during his treatise. Thus, at various places during his diatribe, he writes:
“Might is victory and victory establishes rightness.”
“Ethical principles are decided by the shock of contending armies.”
“Right… can be logically defined… as the manifestations of solar energy, materialized through human thought and thew, upon battlefields—that is to say, in Nature’s Supreme Court.”
Always, however, a better poet than he is a consistent or coherent moral philosopher, Redbeard expresses himself best in his poem, ‘The Philosophy of Power’ (aka ‘The Logic of Today’), where he declares:
“Might is right when Caesar bled
Upon the Stones of Rome;
Might was right when Joshua led
His hordes through Jordan’s foam…
For Might is Right when empires sink
In storms of steel and flame;
And it is right when weakling breeds
Are hunted down like game.”
In short, for Redbeard, might not only is right, but might makes right!
Memetic Selection Among Moralities?
Yet, if, as he claims, Redbeard’s own social Darwinist moral ethos will itself inevitably overcome and outcompete every other moral system, Christian morality very much included, then this raises the question as to how the latter body of moral thinking ever come to be so widely espoused and championed?
Indeed, since Christian and egalitarian moral systems seem to be far more widely espoused, at least in the contemporary West, than is the ‘Might-is-Right’ social Darwinist ethic of Redbeard, this would surely seem to suggest that it is Christian ethics which actually has the higher memetic fitness.
This, in turn, suggests that Redbeard’s moral system fails even in accordance with the very criterion for success espoused by Redbeard himself, namely survival of the fittest.
Thus, a contemporary review for an Australian socialist publication protested:
“[Redbeard] overlooks the fact, however, that if the fittest individuality survives, so does the fittest idea. The very fact of its survival is proof of its fitness. So his condemnation of Socialism falls flat, for Socialism survives and flourishes, so does Christianity.”
Of course, we may doubt whether, as this reviewer claims, socialism did indeed flourish, in 1899 when the reviewer penned these words any more than it does today. On the contrary, time and time again, socialism, when put into practice, has proven, at best, economically inefficient, and, at worst, utterly unworkable and conductive to tyranny.
Yet, in another sense, socialism does indeed flourish, even today in the twenty-first century long after the dissolution of Soviet communism. Thus, while socialism as an practical real-world economic and political system may have proven again and again utterly unworkable and disastrous, socialism as an ideology has proven remarkably resilient and impervious to repeated falsification, whether at the hands of economists or indeed of history itself.
In other words, if socialism itself certainly does not flourish, socialist ideas surely do.
The same is also true of Christian moral teaching, which has indeed proven of greater longevity and resilience even than socialism.
Thus, no society, save the smallest of utopian communes, has ever successfully put into practice such ideas as ‘turn the other cheek’ or ‘judge not lest you yourself be judged’ – ideas that, taken literally, are incompatible with either an effective criminal justice system or an effective defense policy and hence inherently self-defeating, leading as they do to either internal anarchy and/or external conquest at the hands of a foreign power, and hence are as hopelessly utopian as communism.
Likewise, Christian morality is just as self-defeating at the individual level. Thus, whereas at the state level, the adoption of Christian principles leads to rampant crime, internal anarchy, and likely conquest by a foreign power, so, if an individual were to live by such principles as ‘turning the other cheek’ and giving up one’s worldly possessions, both of which are explicitly demanded by Jesus in the Gospels, so he would inevitably invite exploitation and destitution.
Thus, crime novelist and alumni of the American prison system Edward Bunker described, in a beautiful and poetically evocative metaphor, what was likely to happen if you tried ‘turning the other cheek’ in the Californian prison system:
In short, a Christly life is inherently self-defeating. As Redbeard himself observes:
“If we lived as Christ lived, there would be none of us left to live. He begat no children; he labored not for his bread; he possessed neither house nor home; he merely talked. Consequentially he must have existed on charity or stolen bread. ‘If we all lived like Christ’ would there have been anyone left to labor, to be begged from, to be stolen from. ‘If we all lived like Christ’ is thus a self-evident absurdity.”
Yet, if Christian ideas are as unworkable as socialist ones, nevertheless Christianity as a belief system thrives, at least in the sense that people still profess to believe in its tenets, even if, in practice, their own behaviour almost invariably falls short.
Thus, contemporary secularists, including militant atheists, continue to espouse a morality derived ultimately from Christian teaching, even though they have ostensibly abandoned the Christian scripture, and Christian God, in whom this morality formerly found its ultimate basis and justification.
Thus, as John Gray argues in Straw Dogs: Thoughts on Humans and Other Animals (reviewed here), humanism replaces an irrational faith in an omnipotent God with an even more irrational faith in the omnipotence of Mankind himself.
Much the same is true of the pseudo-secular political faiths of modernity, which derive ultimately from a thinly-veiled Christian eschatology.
Thus, ostensibly secular Marxists replace the irrational Christian belief that we will ascend to heaven after death (or, in some versions, after Armageddon and the Day of Judgement) with the equally absurd and irrational Marxist belief that we will achieve communism (i.e. heaven-on-earth, in all but name) after the revolution.
As Redbeard observes in Sayings of Redbeard:
“Rationalists in religion are numerous, but rationalists in politics are few. Nevertheless, salvation by politics is quite as much an insanity and a dream as salvation by the watery blood of a circumcised Jew. When his faith is analyzed the average Rationalist is even more irrational than the wildest Supernaturalist. What is politics but priestcraft in a new mask and cloak.”
Morality as ‘Opiate of the Masses’
How then has Christian and egalitarian moral thinking ever come to acquire such a hold over the Western mind? And does not the popularity and resilience of these ideas prove their worth in accordance with the principle of ‘survival of the fittest’ championed by Redbeard himself?
While he does not address this objection directly, a careful reading of Redbeard’s writing suggests his likely response.
For Redbeard, the popularity of Christian moral thinking is attributable to its cynical adoption by ruling elites as a method of indoctrinating and thereby pacifying the masses, by encouraging them to acquiesce in their own subjugation and exploitation.
Thus, the masses are admonished by scripture to ‘turn the other cheek’ and ‘render unto Caesar what is his’ because, if persuaded to do so, they are more easily subjugated, taxed and thereby exploited and enslaved.
Thus, Redbeard concludes:
“All moral principles… are the servitors, not the masters of the strong.”
Thus, Redbeard lamentsin ‘Sayings of Redbeard’:
“The ‘light’ that comes from Jerusalem is a wrecker’s beacon.”
“Poison lurks in pastor preachments,
Satan works through golden rules,
Hell is paved with law and justice,
Christs were made to fetter fools.”
Thus, for Redbeard, ‘Might is Right’ in yet another sense—namely, ‘Might’ permits the mighty to dictate to, and instil in, the weak a false morality that serves the interests of the mighty.
Thus, just as Marx contended that religion was ‘the opiate of the masses’, and functioned to keep the subjugated in a state of subjugation, happy in their lot, and content in the belief that, despite their suffering, they would get their due recompense in the next world, so Redbeard extends this analysis to morality itself.
In a sense, then, he is simply taking the Marxist critique of bourgeois values to their logical conclusion—a conclusion that, ironically, undermines the very moral basis upon which the Marxist critique of capitalist exploitation rests.
For, if morality is indeed a capitalist contrivance and example of a ‘dominant ideology’ in the Marxist sense, then there can, of course, be no moral grounds for regarding capitalist exploitation as immoral, nor for viewing Marx’s own envisaged communist utopia as in any way morally preferable to capitalism, feudalism or any other economic system.
Thus, American professor of philosophy Allen Wood writes of how:
“Marxists often express a contemptuous attitude towards morality, which (they say) is nothing but a form of illusion, false consciousness or ideology. But… the Marxists condemn capitalism for exploiting the working class and condemning most people to lives of alienation and unfilfilment [sic]. What reasons can they give for doing so, and how can they expect others to do so as well, if they abandon all appeals to morality?”
To the extent, then, that:
1) Morality is an example of capitalist ‘dominant ideology’ designed to perpetuate the existing class system; and
2) Marxism is founded upon a moral critique of capitalism, and moral advocacy for communism;
Then, it naturally follows that Marxism itself is an indirect inadvertent outgrowth capitalist indoctrination. If, then, morality is a capitalist invention, it is surely one with the potential to be turned against its capitalist inventors.
Given the inconsistency of Marxists, and of Marx himself, on this issue, therefore, Redbeard’s true precursor is not Marx, but rather the fictionalized Thrasymachus of Plato’s Republic, the latter anticipating both Marx and Redbeard in his famous pronouncement that:
“Justice is whatever is in the interests of the stronger party”.
Social Contract Theory Debunked
Ultimately, however, social order and obedience to the law depends, for Redbeard, not on indoctrination or brainwashing, but rather on force of arms. Thus, in the poem ‘The Philosophy of Power’ (or ‘Logic of Today’), he boldly proclaims in one of his many quotable aphorisms:
“Behind all Kings and Presidents
All Government and Law,
Are army-corps and cannoneers
To hold the world in awe”
Here, Redbeard echoes the sentiments of Thomas Hobbes, who maintained that:
“Covenants without the sword are but words.”
Redbeard, in contrast, is no fan of peace and views all governmental power as based, ultimately, on subjugation and oppression.
Thus, where Hobbes recommended ceding all rights and powers to a sovereign authority in order to maintain the peace, Redbeard insists that no man ought ever to acquiesce in subjugation before any higher authority than himself. Far from viewing a government maintaining a monopoly on the use of force as a good thing, Redbeard instead insists:
“Unarmed citizens are always enslaved citizens, always.”
“‘Put not your trust in princes’ is a saying old and true
‘Put not your hope in governments’ translateth it anew.”
Thus, Hobbes, most cynical, hard-headed and realist of the great philosophers of the Western cannon (and a personal favourite of mine for this very reason), is revealed to be, at least in comparison with the unrelenting cynicism of Ragnar Redbeard, a hopelessly naïve and utopian romantic.
Redbeard also rejects the ‘social contract theory’ championed by Hobbes, as well as such other eminent luminaries as Rousseau and Locke, who each envisaged free men in a ‘state of nature’ freely coming together to jointly agree the terms of their cohabitation in a community.
In contrast, Redbeard insists that, far from arising through voluntary agreement, all polities ultimately arise through conquest and subjugation:
“How did the government of man by man originate? By force of arms. Victors became rulers.”
“‘Government’ arises from physical force applied by the strong to the control and exploitation of vanquished foes.”
For Redbeard, therefore, all taxation is thus ultimately ‘tribute’ extracted from the vanquished by their conquerors, and this is the ultimate function and purpose of all government:
“Forms of government change but the principle of government never changes: It is taxgathering.”
Thus, he concludes in ‘Sayings of Redbeard’:
“While statesmen are your shepherds ye shall not want for shearing.”
Moreover, if all taxation is ultimately ‘tribute’, so all laws originate ultimately from this same initial conquest and subjugation:
“When an army of occupation settles down upon an enemy’s territory, it issues certain rules of procedure for the orderly transference of the property and persons of the conquered into the absolute possession and unlimited control of the conquerors. These rules of procedure may at first take shape as orders issued by military generals but after a time they develop themselves into Statute Books, Precedents, and Constitutions.”
Thus, in another of his poems, Redbeard counsels readers:
“Laws and rules imposed on you
From days of old renown
Are not intended for your good
But for your crushing down.”
Similarly, he avers in one aphorism:
Instead, Redbeard concludes:
“No man ought to obey any contract, written or implied, except he himself has given his personal and formal adherence thereto, when in a state of mental maturity and unrestrained liberty.”
“We are ruled, in fact, by cadavers—the inhabitants of tombs”.
Thus, for Redbeard, not only the constitution itself, but also all other laws, whether at the state or federal level, enacted ultimately thereunder, are invalid and of no moral force whatever.
Indeed, on this ground, Redbeard dismisses the moral force, not only of the US constitution and legal system, and that of all other contemporary western polities, but also the influential school of political theory alluded to above known as social contract theory.
In short, even if a polity and jurisdiction did indeed originate, not through conquest as Redbeard maintains, but rather through free men coming together to voluntarily relinquish their freedom and agree the terms of their cohabitation, as maintained by the social contract theorists, this is nevertheless an irrelevance.
After all, any parties to such an agreement are long since dead. Why then should we, at most their distant descendants, be bound by the agreements of our distant ancestors? Thus, Redbeard forcefully maintains:
“It is only slaves that are born into contracts, signed and sealed by their progenitors. The freeman is born free, lives free, and dies free.”
If conventional morality functions, as Redbeard maintains, to facilitate and disguise the subjugation of the masses, the same is also true, Redbeard contends, of democracy, or rather the façade of democracy that currently prevails in the West.
I say the façade of democracy because, for Redbeard, real democracy does not exist and indeed simply cannot exist. It is, like socialism, a patent impossibility, defying the very laws of nature (or, at least, of human nature).
Redbeard thus summarily dismisses the notion of the people as sovereign:
“In all lunatic asylums may be found inmates who fancy themselves kings and queens, and lords of the earth. These sorrowful creatures, if only permitted to wear imaginary crowns and issue imaginary commands, are the most docile and harmless of all maniacs.”
“To don… a set of brightly polished steel manacles; it being cunningly represented to him, that the irons were the regalia of sovereignty… When the chains were firmly clasped around his limbs, he was led away, to die of vermin, turning a mill in a Spanish dungeon. What those glittering manacles were to the Indian Chieftain, constitutions, laws [and] moral codes… are to the nations of the earth.”
Thus, Redbeard concludes:
“Cursed indeed are the harnessed ones! Cursed are they even though their harness be home made—even though it tinkle musically with silver bells—aye! even though every buckle and link and rivet thereof is made of solid gold.”
Indeed, for Redbeard, it is the very glittering beauty of the “polished steel manacles” that ought to provoke our suspicion and put us on guard.
“It is notorious, universally so, that the blackest falsehoods are ever decked out in the most brilliant and gorgeous regalia. Clearly, therefore it is the brave man’s duty to regard all sacred things, all legal things, all constitutional things, all holy things, with more than usual suspicion.”
Work versus Warriorhood
Today, contemporaries of all political persuasions champion the notion that work is somehow intrinsically liberating.
This is what I cheerfully call the ‘Work Sets You Free’ mantra, by reference to the famous signs (‘Arbeit Macht Frei’) displayed above the entrances to Nazi concentration camps such as Dachau and Auschwitz.
The idea is, of course, preposterous. Indeed, work is, perhaps by very definition, something one does, not because one enjoys the activity itself, but rather because of either the end product of such work, or the remuneration offered in recompense for doing it.
Thus, for example, a person cleans their house, not because they enjoy cleaning their house, but rather because they enjoy living in a cleaner environment. On the other hand, a person does a salaried job, not because they enjoy doing the job, but rather because of the salary offered precisely in recompense for the fact that they don’t enjoy it.
To put the matter bluntly, if people really enjoyed their work, then you wouldn’t have to pay them to get them to do it!
Yet it is natural that governments and capitalists should espouse and encourage the notion that work is somehow uniquely liberating, since, by doing so, they encourage the masses to willingly submit themselves to work for the benefit of capitalists and government.
Redbeard, however, has no time for such nonsense. For him, work is the mark of a slave:
“The very idea of labor is in chains and yokes. There is no dignity in a bent back – no glory in a perspiring brow – no honor in greasy, copper-riveted rags.”
“Cursed is the brow that sweats – for hire, and the back that bends to a master’s burden. Calloused hands imply calloused minds.”
Indeed, he insists that hard continuous labour is, not only unpleasant, but also has a negative effect on the constitution, both physical and psychological:
“Hard continuous methodical labor destroys courage, saps vitality and demoralizes character. It tames and subdues men, just as it tames and subdues the young steer and the young colt. Men who labor hard and continuously have no power to think. It requires all their mental force to keep their muscles in trim.”
Thus, Redbeard concludes:
“The civilized city working-man and working woman are the lowest and worst type of animal ever evolved from dust slime and oxygen. They actually worship work: and bow down before law as an ox-team crouches and strains under the lash.”
Instead, he extols warriorhood over work:
“In the strength of his arm man eats his bread; in the sweat of his brow (and brain), the slave earns bread – for a master.”
The Labour Theory of Property Debunked
Thus, John Locke famously formulated and expounded the notion that private property rights ultimately derive from labour expended in the transformation of natural resources.
Thus, while God, according to Locke, gave the world to all mankind in common, nevertheless, if a person expends labour in transforming some natural resource – say sculpting a rock into an statue, chopping down a tree in order to construct a wooden hut, clearing a wilderness in order to raise crops, or castrating a slave to produce a eunuch – he or she thereby acquires ownership over the resource in its transformed state.
This is Locke’s famous ‘labour theory of property’, whereby a person acquires property rights by mixing his labour with the resource in question, which also represents the philosophical basis for the so-called ‘homestead principle’.
In ‘Sayings of Redbeard’, however, the pseudonymous Redbeard rejects wholly this notion and replaces it with the more cynical and realistic notion that property rights derive ultimately from force of arms.
“In the history of nations, the sword at all times commands the plow, the hammer and the spade. Everywhere the soil must be captured before it can be cultivated.”
“‘The laborer is entitled to the full fruits of his labor’… but only on condition that he… can successfully defend his product against any one and everyone who comes up against him. Whoever can defend a thing against ‘all the world’ is its natural and rightful owner.”
“Upon land titles written in blood the entire fabric of modern industrialism is founded.”
Predictably, in the current feminist-dominated political and intellectual climate, Ragnar’s views on women have drawn inevitable accusations of misogyny. Thus, among other things, Redbeard asserts:
“Woman is two thirds womb. The other third is a network of nerves and sentimentality.”
“A woman is primarily a reproductive cell organism, a womb structurally embastioned by a protective, defensive, osseous network; and surrounded by antennæ and blood vessels necessary for supplying nutrient to the growing ovum or embryo.”
Actually, however, these statements reveal an impressive understanding of the evolutionary basis for sexual differentiation. Indeed, they anticipate the great late-twentieth-century biologist Edward O Wilson’s infamous observation that:
This certainly suggests a realistic view of human females, and arguably perhaps even an unflattering one, but it is certainly nothing amounting to a hatred of women, as suggested by the overused term ‘misogyny’.
On the contrary, although Redbeard insists that women must be subservient to men, he nevertheless also insists in the very same breath that, among men’s duties with respect to women, are “providing for, and protecting them”.
Indeed, far from hating women, he actually repeatedly refers to women as “lovable creatures” and even as “lovable always”.
Certainly, it appears he has had the benefit of enjoying the company of rather different women to myself.
On the other hand, elsewhere Redbeard is, to his credit, altogether more realistic, or perhaps, once again, simply self-contradictory, writing:
“For innate cruelty of deed, no animal can surpass woman.”
He also observes:
“In many respects women have proved themselves more cruel, avaricious, bloodthirsty and revengeful than men.”
He also echoes Schopenhauer in observing that:
“Women are also remarkably good liars. Deception is an essential and necessary part of their mental equipment… Without deception of some sort, a woman would have no defense whatever against rivals, lovers, or husbands.”
“Just as lions are furnished with claws and teeth, elephants with tusks, boars with fangs, bulls with horns, and the cuttlefish with its dark, inky fluid, so Nature has provided woman for her protection and defense with the faculty of dissimulation.”
Women, Warriors and Polygyny
Indeed, far from hating women, Redbeard seems to see their biological instincts, especially with regard to mate choice, as fundamentally sound, eugenic and conducive to the higher evolution of the species.
Thus, he insists that, just as men are drawn to battle, so women are naturally drawn to warriors who have proven themselves in battle.
“Wherever soldiers conquer in war, they also conquer in love… Women of vanquished races are usually very prone to wed with the men who have slaughtered their kindred in battle.”
This is surely true. Indeed, it is proven by population genetic studies of the ancestry of contemporary populations.
Thus, among populations that have been the subject of violent conquest at some point in their history, their mitochondrial DNA, passed down the female line, is invariably more likely to have been inherited from the indigenous, conquered population, whereas their Y-chromosomes, passed instead down the male-line, are more likely to have been inherited from the conquering group.
Indeed, one particularly successful military leader and conqueror, Genghis Khan, is even posited as the origin of a Y chromosome haplogroup now common throughout much of Asia and the world.
Yet, in observing that “women of vanquished races are usually very prone to wed with the men who have slaughtered their kindred in battle,” Redbeard does not reproach women for their faithlessness, treachery or lack of patriotic feeling for ‘consorting with the enemy’. On the contrary, he applauds them for thereby acting in accord with biological law and hence contributing to the propagation of, if you like, ‘warrior genes’ and, as he sees it, the progressive evolution of the species.
Yet curiously, Redbeard seems to reject the primary means by which sexual selection might bring about this outcome – namely polygyny.
“Readers must distinctly understand that sexual morality is nowise condemned in these pages.”
“Second-class males are driven by necessity to mate with second-class males; and in strict sequence third class males select partners from feminine remainders. (Hence the stereotyped nature of servile Castes.) Superior males take racially superior women, and inferior males are permitted to duplicate themselves, per media of inferior feminines.”
However, in a highly polygynous mating system, this is not true. Here, high-status males command exclusive access to all females, and females themselves, anxious to secure the superior genes, and superior resources, commanded by high-status males, are often only too ready to comply.
“Maternal instinct leads a woman to prefer a tenth share in a first-rate man to the exclusive possession of a third-rate one.”
Women, Warriors and Intersexual Selection
Yet, in extolling female mate choice, Redbeard surely goes too far when he writes:
“Women instinctively admire soldiers, athletes, king’s nobles, and fighting-men generally, above all other kinds of suitors – and rightly so.”
Certainly, the dashing soldier in his uniform has a certain sex appeal. However, “above all other kinds of suitor”? Surely not.
Indeed, the sorts of ‘sex symbols’ fawned over and fantasized about by contemporary women and girls are more often actors or pop stars than they are soldiers – and the foppish movie star or pop icon is about as far removed from the rugged, battle-scarred warrior of Redbeard’s own erotic fantasies as it is possible to envisage.
Similarly, Redbeard also insists:
“Women congregate at athletic sports and gladiatorial contests; impelled by the same universal instinct that induces the lioness to stand expectantly by, while two more rival males are ripping each other to pieces in a rough-and-tumble – for her possession.”
Yet, actually, the audiences at most sporting events are overwhelmingly male. Moreover, the more violent the sport in question (e.g. boxing and MMA) the greater, in my experience, the scale of the disparity.
This is rather ironic since, among his copious quotations from Darwin himself in ‘Might is Right’, Redbeard actually quotes the very passage from Darwin’s The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex where Darwin first made this distinction:
“The sexual struggle is of two kinds: in the one it is between the individuals of the same sex, generally the males, in order to drive away or kill their rivals, the females remaining passive; while in the other, the struggle is likewise between the individuals of the same sex, in order to excite or charm those of the opposite sex, generally the females, which no longer remain passive, but select the more agreeable partners.”
Though actually, perhaps tellingly, the version of this passage quoted by Redbeard is subtly altered, omitting the parenthesis “in order to excite or charm those of the opposite sex”. This perhaps reflects his inability to adequately understand the nature of intersexual, as opposed to intrasexual selection, or perhaps even a deliberate attempt to play down this form of selection.
Thus, intrasexual selection involves one sex, usually males, fighting over access to the other, usually females, and seems to be the form of sexual selection that Redbeard primarily has in mind and so extols.
Here, females, not males, are very much in control of the mating process and the result is not so much the mighty antlers of the stag, as the beautiful but, from Redbeard’s perspective, rather less than manly tail of the peacock.
Thus, if male warriors like Genghis Khan did indeed enjoy the remarkable reproductive success that genetic studies suggest, then this may have been as much attributable to male coercion as to female choice, and, to the extent it is a product of female choice, as much a reflection of the female preference for high-status males as for successful warriors per se.
Men, Sexual Selection and Carnivory
Yet, if, in failing to fully understand sexual selection theory, Redbeard misjudges the nature of women, the same is no less true of his assessment of the fundamental nature of men
Thus, though he disparages contemporary men as pale and decadent imitations of their noble warrior forbears, nevertheless his image of Man, at least in his original pristine state, is distinctly flattering to the average male ego.
Man is, according to Redbeard, by nature, a warrior, conqueror and carnivore. Indeed, one of his chapters is even titled “Man – the Carnivore!”.
Similarly, in his poetry, Redbeard repeatedly compares men to other carnivorous predators such as wolves and lions, writing:
“What are men but hungry wolves, a prowling on the heath?
If in a pack of wolves you hunt, you’d better sharp your teeth.”
“Life is strife for every man,
for every son of thunder;
Then be a lion not a lamb,
and don’t be trampled under.”
Of course, humans are indeed apex predators, with the unique distinction of having driven many prey species to extinction, as well as having caused great death and destruction among their own kind through warfare and conflict.
However, Redbeard surely exaggerates the purely physiological formidability of Man. Thus, he maintains:
“Structurally, men are fashioned for purposes of inflicting and suffering pain. Every human anatomy is an elaborate nerve and bone infernal machine – a kind of breathing, perambulating Juggernaut – a superb engine of lethal immolation that automatically stokes its furnace with its victims… Men’s anatomy, external and internal; his eyes, his teeth, his muscles, his blood, his viscera, his brain, his verebra; all speak of fighting, passion, aggressiveness, violence, and prideful egoism.”
Here, Redbeard surely flatters himself and other men.
Actually, our muscles and teeth are decidedly unimpressive compared to other carnivores occupying a comparable place in the food chain (e.g. lions and tigers). Indeed, even our closest extant relatives, the primarily frugivorous chimpanzee, has far greater average upper-body strength than the average human, or even the average athlete.
Thus, compared to a lion or a bear, or even the largely herbivorous gorilla, even Mike Tyson in his prime, unarmed, could not, I suspect, put up much of a fight.
It is only our ability to devise weapons, tools, and tactics that gives us a chance. In other words, our greatest weapons are not the muscles, claws, fangs or antlers, of which, compared to other carnivores, and even some herbivores, we are sorely lacking – but rather our brains.
As the ‘The Beast’ declares in the excellent recent movie ‘Shot Caller’:
“A warrior’s greatest weapon is his mind.”
Individualism vs. Nationalism
While popular among some more intellectually-minded (and sociopathic) white nationalists, Redbeard, far from nationalist, is actually a radical individualist, arguably influenced as much by Max Stirner as by Nietzsche.
Indeed, when military and political leaders demand that we sacrifice our lives for our race, tribe or nation, Redbeard would see this as representing, not the interests of the race, tribe or nation, but rather the individual interest of the military or political leader responsible for issuing the demand.
However, Redbeard would, I get the distinct impression, have nothing but disdain for the ordinary soldier – the mere cannon-fodder who risked, and often lost, their lives in the service, not of their own conquest and glory, but rather the conquest and glory of their commanders, or, worse still, the economic interests of their rulers and exploiters.
Indeed, Redbeard’s individualism is among his grounds for rejecting morality. Thus, he declares:
“All arbitrary rules of Right and Wrong are insolent invasions of personal liberty.”
Yet, in purporting to reject morality on this ground, Redbeard is, in effect, not rejecting morality altogether, but rather, once again, championing a new moral ethos – namely, one which regards individual freedom as the paramount, if not the sole legitimate, moral end.
Thus, in purporting to reject universalist morality on individualist grounds, Redbeard inadvertently transforms individualism itself into a universalist moral injunction.
“‘Every man for himself’ is the law of life. Every man for an Institution, a God or a Dogma, is the law of death.”
Once again, the self-contradiction is obvious: If all universalist moralities are, in Redbeard’s words, “insolent invasions of personal liberty,” then this surely applies also to his own universal moral injunction (i.e. “the law of life”) that demands that we always act in our own individual self-interest.
Moreover, such a moral system, if adopted by all, would obviously result only in anarchy and the impossibility of any sort of functioning society.
Interpreted in this way, it would then seem to fail even by the criterion of ‘survival of the fittest’ that Redbeard himself espouses – since societies composed of group-minded altruists, who are willing to sacrifice their own self-interest for the benefit of the group as a whole, will inevitably outcompete societies composed of pure egoists, who look out only for themselves, and are all too ready to sell out their own group for individual advantage.
However, in his defence, it is clear, at least by implication, that Redbeard never envisaged his morality being adopted wholesale by all. Instead, like Nietzsche’s philosophy, it is envisaged as necessarily restricted to a select and elite minority.
Predictably, Redbeard has been charged with nihilism by some of his detractors. However, this is far from an accurate portrayal of his philosophy.
It is true that, as we have seen, Ragnar does indeed flirt, albeit inconsistently, with a form of moral nihilism.
Moreover, he sometimes seems to go further, seemingly embracing a more all-consuming nihilism, as, for example, in his alternative beatitudes, where he writes:
“Blessed are those who believe in nothing—Never shall it terrorize their minds.”
Yet, in Sayings of Redbeard, Redbeard rejects any notion of nihilism, writing:
“One must have faith and courage even to be a pirate. He who does not believe in anything does not believe in himself, which is atheism of the worst kind. A religion is essential. Nobility of action is impossible without it. Faith is an integral part of all heroic and noble nature… He must believe something or else sit down to contemplate his navel and rot into nothingness as the Buddhists teach. The negative life won’t do, remember that.”
Exactly what one should believe in, other than oneself, he is not altogether clear.
“Christ is dead. Thor lives and reigns.”
But he clearly means this only in a metaphoric sense, just as Nietzsche meant the death of God in a metaphoric sense. In a literal sense, God could never die, simply because He had never existed, and hence never been alive in the first place.
Ultimately, given his radical individualism, I suspect Redbeard believes that we must, in the last instance, believe ultimately only in ourselves.
Thus, he would, I suspect, approve of the tenth century Viking, who, asked by a Frank, what religion he adhered to, reputedly replied:
“I believe in my own strength – and nothing else.”
In other words, to translate Redbeard into explicitly Nietzschean terms, we might say:
God is dead; Long live the Ubermensch.
Or, as Redbeard himself might have put it:
Nietzsche said: ‘God is dead’.
Ragnar Redbeard says: ‘God is dead. Long Live Ragnar Redbeard!’
A particularly troubling aspect of ‘Might is Right’ for many modern readers of Redbeard’s treatise, even those otherwise attracted to his radical individualism and rampant social Darwinism, is Redbeard’s extreme racialism.
Indeed, given that it was first published in 1896, when notions of white racial superiority were almost accepted as given (at least among whites), one suspects that Redbeard’s racialism, overblown and exaggerated though it is, was, for contemporaries, among the least controversial aspects of his thought.
It is often objected that Redbeard’s racialism is incompatible with, and contradicts, his individualism.
However, I think this is a misreading of Redbeard.
Thus, no individualist would sacrifice his own interests for those of his race or nation. However, an individualist is quite capable of also believing that different races differ in their innate aptitudes, temperaments and ability – including to such an extent as to make only individuals of certain races capable of true individualism, just as certain species (e.g. the social insects) are surely incapable of individualism.
Thus, in my reading, Redbeard comes across as consistently individualist, but simply regards his individualism as applicable to, and within the capability of, individuals of only one particular race.
Moreover, though he clearly regards black Africans, for example, as an inferior subspecies fit only for enslavement, this remarkably racist claim is, in the context of Redbeard’s philosophy as a whole, actually not quite as racist as it sounds, since he also thinks the same of the vast majority of all peoples, white Europeans very much included, at least in their current ostensibly degraded form.
Thus, of his (white) American contemporaries, he writes:
“Never having enjoyed genuine personal freedom (except on the Indian border) being for the most part descendants of hunted-out European starvelings and fanatics (defeated battlers) they now stupidly thought they had won freedom at last by the patent device of selecting a complete outfit of new tax-gatherers every fourth year.”
Yet, here, Redbeard is again rather inconsistent and contradictory.
Thus, he often seems to suggest that all white Nordic Europeans, or at least all white Nordic European men, were once at least capable of the heroism and ruthlessness that he so extols.
Thus, writing of the now almost universally-reviled Cecil Rhodes, one of the few contemporaries to earn his unreserved admiration, he claims:
“In days long gone by, such men were the norms of Anglo-Saxondom. Now! Alas! They are astounding exceptions.”
Yet the entire thrust of Redbeard’s philosophy is that always, at all times, all societies are composed of, on the one hand, the conquerors and, on the other, those whom they conquer, the latter invariably vastly outnumbering the former and very much deserving of their fate.
Yet, if this is true universally, then it must also be true of the indigenous societies of the Nordic European peoples themselves, before they came into contact with, and were hence able to conquer and enslave all those ostensibly inferior non-Nordic untermensch.
Inevitably, then, at this time in history, or prehistory, they must have conquered, subjugated and enslaved only one another. Like all other peoples, then, the vast majority of Nordic Europeans must have been slaves, serfs or vassals.
This suggests that the vast majority of all peoples, including Nordic Europeans themselves, have always been slaves, and that the superior class of man is to be found, only in the minority, if at all, among all peoples, Nordic Europeans very much included.
Anti-Semitism, Philo-Semitism and Self-Contradiction
Yet, if Redbeard’s racialism is peripheral to his broader themes, the same is not true of his anti-Semitism, which represents a recurrent theme throughout his writing.
Yet, here again we encounter another of many contradictions in Redbeard’s thought.
For, in addition to other anti-Semitic canards, Redbeard endorses the familiar anti-Semitic trope whereby it is claimed that, through nefarious political and financial machinations, and especially through usury or moneylending, Jews have come to secretly control entire western economies, governments and indeed the world.
Thus, in one particularly dramatic passage, Redbeard declares:
“The Jew has been supinely permitted to do — what Alexander, Caesar, Nusherwan, and Napoleon failed to accomplish — crown himself Emperor of the World; and collect his vast tributes from ‘the ends of the earth’.”
Yet, if Jews do indeed control the world, including the West, as Redbeard so dramatically asserts, then this surely seems to suggest Jews are anything but inferior to the white western goyim whom they have ostensibly so successfully subjugated, hence contradicting any basis for Redbeard’s anti-Semitism.
Moreover, applying the ‘Might-is-Right’ thesis of Redbeard himself, the inescapable conclusion is that Jewish domination is necessarily right and just.
Thus, in the footnote accompanying this passage in the Underworld Amusements Authoritative Edition, editor Trevor Blake observes:
“Not a few pages earlier, Redbeard wrote: ‘Among the vertebrates, the king of the herd (or pack), selects himself by his battle-prowess—upon the same ‘general principles’ that induced Napoléon to place the Iron Crown upon his own brow with his own hand.’ By Redbeard’s own words and reasoning ‘the Jew’ is not only Emperor of the World but justly so. A significant challenge to both those who consider ‘Might is Right’ to be antisemitic and those who consider ‘Might is Right’ to be consistent.”
Yet Redbeard himself is not, it seems, himself entirely oblivious of this necessary implication, since, on various occasions he comes close to accepting this very conclusion.
“What are the lords of horded gold—the silent Semite rings
What are the plunder patriots—High pontiffs, priests and kings?
What are they but bold masterminds, best fitted for the fray
Who comprehend and vanquish by—the Logic of Today.”
Here, “the lords of horded gold” and, more specifically, “the silent Semite rings” are explicitly equated with “bold masterminds, best suited to the fray” who “comprehend and vanquish” in accordance with the tenets of Redbeard’s own philosophy of power.
Likewise, Redbeard does not exclude from his pantheon of heroes those military leaders, historical or mythological, who conquered and vanquished in accordance with Redbeard’s theory merely on account merely of their Jewish ethnicity.
Thus, in ‘The Philosophy of Power’ he is unapologetic in declaring, “Might is Right when Joshua led his hordes o’er Jordan’s foam” and when “Gideon led the ‘chosen’ tribes of old”, just as much as when “Titus burnt their temple roofed with gold”.
Yet, elsewhere, Redbeard evades the inescapable conclusion of his own arguments—namely that, if Jews do indeed control the world, this surely demonstrates that they are indeed the master race and hence that, according to Redbeard’s own philosophy, that their rule is just and right. He does so by asserting the current social, economic and political order, in which Jews are supposedly supreme, is a perversion of the natural order.
Thus, he avers:
Thus, while he views democracy and Christian morality as merely a façade for a thinly veiled exploitation, inequality and subjugation no less insidious than that of the ancients, nevertheless Redbeard yearns for the return of a more naked manifestation of authority and exploitation.
In other words, he seems to be saying: Might is Right—but only so long as the right ‘Might’ is currently in power!
The Coming (Long Overdue) Armageddon?
Yet as well as calling for the overthrow of the current corrupt social, political and economic system, Redbeard also believes we may not have long to wait—for, being unnatural, the current system is also, he insists, inherently unsustainable.
Thus, a recurrent theme throughout ‘Might is Right’ is the coming collapse of Western civilization, which is, according to Redbeard, both inevitable and long overdue. Thus, he writes:
“The Philosophy of Power has slumbered long but whenever men of sterling are found, it must again sweep away the ignoble dollar-damned pedlarisms of today and openly, as of old, dominate the destiny of an emancipated and all-conquering race.”
Over a century after Redbeard penned these words, this collapse has conspicuously yet to occur. On the contrary, the ostensibly decadent liberal democratic polities and capitalist economies that Redbeard so disparages have only continued to flourish and spread—and, in the process, become ever more weak, and decadent.
Yet, although he anticipates the coming collapse of Western civilization, Redbeard is far from pessimistic about this outcome. On the contrary, it is something he, not only anticipates, but very much welcomes and, indeed, regards as long overdue.
This then demonstrates, in case we still harbored any doubts, just how radical and transgressive Redbeard’s philosophy truly is.
Thus, whereas conservatives and white nationalists usually pose as defenders of western civilization, Redbeard himself evinces no such conceit.
He does not want to restore Western civilization or, to adopt a famous political slogan, ‘Make America Great Again’. Rather, he wants to do away with civilization altogether, American capitalist democracy very much included.
Civilization is, for Redbeard, inherently decadent and effeminate. Thus, he laments of contemporary society:
Thus, although, as we have seen, Redbeard views naked self-interest as underlying the façades of liberal democracy and Christian morality, he nevertheless pines for a government that relies openly on naked force rather than a pretense of democracy or egalitarianism.
Thus, where Bertrand Russell famously disparaged Nietzsche’s philosophy as amounting to nothing more than, “I wish I had lived in the Athens of Pericles or the Florence of the Medici”, Redbeard prefers, not the civilization of Athens, but rather the barbarism of Vikingdom.
Redbeard’s Racialism Revisited – and Debunked!
After all, the main evidence cited by white supremacists in support of the theory that whites are superior to other races is the achievements of whites in the spheres of science, technology, art, democracy, human rights, architecture, mathematics and metallurgy (and on IQ tests) – in short, their achievements in all the spheres that contribute towards creating and maintaining successful, peaceful, stable and technologically-advanced civilization.
Yet, if one rejects civilization as an ideal, then on what grounds can whites still be held up as superior?
Thus, the high crime rates of blacks, and abysmal state of civilization in so much of sub-Saharan Africa, not to mention Haiti, Baltimore and Detroit, so often cited by racialists as evidence of black pathology, is, from the perspective of Redbeard’s inverted morality, converted into positive evidence for black supremacy!
Blacks are, today, better barbarians than are whites. Therefore, from the perspective of Redbeard’s savage theory, they must be the true Herrenvolk.
Finally, rejecting civilization leads Redbeard ultimately to reject intellectualism too:
“Intellectualism renders more sensitive. Sensitive persons are very excitable, timid, and liable to disease. Over cultivation of the brain cells undoubtedly produces… physical decay and leads on towards insanity.”
Perhaps this excuses the intellectual inadequacy of, and rampant internal contradictions within, his own philosophical treatise.
However, it also begs the question as to why Redbeard ever chose to write a philosophical treatise in the first place—an inherently intellectual endeavour.
Indeed, had Redbeard, whoever this pseudonymous author really was, truly believed in and followed the precepts of his own philosophy, then he surely would never have put pen to paper, since he would be far too busy waging wars of conquest and enslaving inferior peoples.
Indeed, his writing of the book would not merely have been a distraction from more important activities (e.g. war, conquest), but also positively counterproductive—because the more people learn the truth from his book and are inspired to lead conquests of their own, then the less willing they will be to be conquered and enslaved by Redbeard, and the more competition he will have in his envisaged conquests.
Yet, whatever the true identity of the pseudonymous author who wrote under the pen-name of “Ragnar Redbeard”, he was surely neither Napoleon nor Alexander the Great. (For one thing, the dates don’t match up.)
Therefore, Redbeard, whoever he was, did not live, or die, by his own philosophy, which, like the diametrically-opposed Christian morality he so detests, sets impossibly high standards for its adherents.
Indeed, even leaving aside the contradictions and inconsistencies, Redbeard’s philosophy is so extreme that almost no one could ever truly live by it. Indeed, it would be far easier to die by Redbeard’s theory than it would be to live by it.
“You must prove your Right by deeds of Might of splendor and renown.
If need-be march through flames of hell, to dash opponents down.
If need-be die on scaffold high on the morning’s misty gray is still
For Liberty or Death is still the Logic of To-Day.”
Thus, for Redbeard, the only truly honourable outcomes are either an endless succession of conquests and victory, or death in the pursuit thereof.
“Far better for a free animal to be killed outright, than to be mastered, subordinated, and enchained.”
Thus, inevitably failing to live up to his own impossibly high ideals, Redbeard, whoever he was, must, to the extent he truly believed in the ideals he espoused, have been consumed by insecurity and self-hate.
“Ragnar Redbeard”: An Alter-Ego or a Fictional Character of Arthur Desmond’s Invention?
This leads me to consider again a possibility that I first dismissed offhand—namely that ‘Might is Right’ is indeed, as some have claimed, a work of satire, a kind of reductio ad absurdum of the worst excesses of social Darwinism and Nietzscheanism.
Yet this simply cannot be true. The very power of Redbeard’s words demonstrates that the author was at the very least sympathetic to the ideas he espouses.
I cannot believe any writer, howsoever gifted, could ever write such brilliant poetry, nor coin such memorable aphorisms, in support of a theory to which he was himself wholly opposed and had no attachment whatsoever.
This leads me to a third possibility. Perhaps the author, almost certainly one Arthur Desmond, was adopting a persona, namely that of “Ragnar Redbeard”, in order to explore, and take to their logical if remorseless conclusion, ideas with which he had developed a fascination, but to which he was nevertheless unwilling to put his own name.
Thus, other philosophers, notably the proto-existentialist Søren Kierkegaard, have written under pseudonyms in order to explore alternative, often mutually contradictory, viewpoints.
Perhaps then, in adopting the persona of Ragnar Redbeard, Arthur Desmond was doing the same thing.
In other words, ‘Might is Right’ is neither an exposition of Desmond’s own views, nor still less a parody or critique of these views, but rather a kind of extended thought-experiment.
Thus, just as Plato used his own fictionalized version of Socrates as a mouthpiece through which to expound ideas what were, in reality, almost certainly very much Plato’s own, so Arthur Desmond invented the entirely fictional figure, or alter-ego, of “Ragnar Redbeard” to espouse ideas which were, again, very much Desmond’s own, but to which he was nevertheless as yet unwilling to put his own name or entirely commit himself.
This would make sense given the extremely controversial nature of the views expressed by Redbeard in his treatise.
Clearly, Desmond was a bold, daring, radical, even extremist thinker, who could certainly never be accused of intellectual cowardice. However, to wholly commit himself to Redbeard’s severe and remorseless philosophy was perhaps a step too far even for him.
After all, as we have seen, to truly live by Redbeard’s philosophy is almost an impossibility.
Thus, by writing under pseudonym, Desmond would shield himself from the allegation that, in failing to lead any wars of conquest of his own, he was a hypocrite who failed to live up to the ideals of his own ideals.
This idea, namely that Redbeard was, not so much a mere pseudonym or pen name, but an alter-ego or fictional character of Desmond’s own creation, might help explain why, although writing in a name other than his own, Desmond apparently made little if any effort to conceal his authorship, his own name often appearing on the same byline as that of his persona “Ragnar Redbeard” in the various obscure turn-of-the-century Nietzschean, anarchist and Egoist publications for which he wrote.
“Ragnar Redbeard” is not then a mere pen-name. Rather, he is an alter-ego or alternate persona, in whose voice the author chose to author this work.
Thus, the views expressed are not necessarily, at least without reservation, those of the Desmond himself. But neither is there any evidence that Desmond opposed to these views either, let alone that he soughtt to parody or satirize such views.
Rather, they are the views, not of Desmond, but of “Ragnar Redbeard”, a fictional character of Desmond’s own creation.
God is dead! Long live Ragnar Redbeard!
 To the extent it is remembered or widely read today, it is largely among, on the one hand, certain of the more intellectually-minded (and sociopathic) white nationalists, and, on the other, an equally marginal fringe of occultists and self-styled Satanists. Both associations are odd and actually contrary Redbeard’s philosophy.
On the one hand, Redbeard is, despite his racialism, actually an egoist and radical individualist, influenced at least as much by Stirner as by Nietzsche and hence opposed to nationalism of any guise (see above). On the other, Redbeard is nothing if not a trenchant materialist, opposed to all forms of supernaturalism religion, occultism presumably very much included.
Admittedly, he does aver, in ‘Sayings of Redbeard’ that:
“Christ is dead. Thor lives and reigns”.
However, this is clearly meant in a metaphoric sense, as when Nietzsche declared the death of God, rather than an actual endorsement of paganism.
The curious association of Redbeard’s work with occultism seems to derive from the championing of his work, then apparently largely forgotten, by Anton Lavey, founder of the Church of Satan. Indeed, Lavey stands accused of lifting large sections of his own ‘Satanic Bible’ directly from ‘Might is Right’. Perhaps among the aspects of conventional morality rejected by Laveyian Satanists is the prohibition on plagiarism.
However, Lavey’s own so-called ‘Satanism’ is itself resolutely nontheistic and indeed almost as trenchantly materialist as Redbeard’s own severe philosophy.
 Leo Tolstoy was also familiar with Redbeard’s treatise, referring to it in name in his essay ‘What is Art?’ and accurately summarizing its key tenets. Like Wallace, he has little time for Redbeard‘s philosophy. However, despite his literary background, Tolstoy, unlike Wallace, fails to show any appreciation of the brilliance of Redbeard’s verse, perhaps on account of his lack of fluency in English, which has also been suggested as a reason for his failure to appreciate the work of Shakespeare.
 Indeed, given that he, at times, rejects the whole notion of morality, it is doubtful whether Redbeard would indeed welcome being described as a ‘moral philosopher’ anyway. As will become clear in the course of this essay, although with regard to his moral philosophy Redbeard is highly self-contradictory, I feel that, in addition to the brilliance of his poetry, Redbeard has much to offer as a political theorist.
 Admirers of his verse would do well to read ‘Sayings of Redbeard’, a collection of poetry and aphorisms by the same author, including much poetry and other material omitted from ‘Might is Right’, and seemingly even less well known and widely read. As an example, I quote a shorter (seemingly untitled) piece from ‘Sayings of Redbeard’:
“‘Let lions cease to prowl and fight,
Let eagles clip their wings,
Let men of might give up their right’,
The foolish poet sings.
‘Let lords of gold and Caesars bold
Forever pass away,
Enrich the slaves; enthrone the knaves,’
The base-born prophets say.
But I maintain with hand and pen
The other side of things,
The bold man’s right to rule and reign,
The way of gods and kings.
So capture crowns of wealth and power
(If you’ve the strength and can)
For strife is life’s eternal dower,
And nothing’s under ban.
Ye, lions wake and hunt and fight,
Ye, eagles spread your wings;
Ye, men of might, believe you’re right
For you indeed are kings.”
 Interestingly, although it is usually assumed that Redbeard is a disciple of, or at last influenced by, Nietzsche, the latter is never actually mentioned by name throughout the text, nor, to my knowledge, in any of Redbeard’s other published writings. Neither does Redbeard adopt such tell-tale Neitzschean neologisms as “übermensch”, “slave morality” etc. The ostensible editor of the original 1896 edition, one “Douglas K Handyside M.D. Ph.D.” (likely itself a pseudonym) makes, on Redbeard’s behalf, the interesting admission that:
“Through his inability to read German, he [Redbeard] very deeply regrets that he cannot search thoroughly into the famous works of Friedrich Nietzsche, Felix Dahn, Alexander Tille, Karl Gutzkow, Max Stirner and other missionaries of what Huxley names ‘The New Reformation’.”
At the time Redbeard was writing, of course, English translations of many of these works were not widely available. Redbeard’s themes, however, do often echo, or at least mirror, those of both Nietzsche and Stirner in particular.
 Strictly speaking, presumably, for Redbeard, an individual’s own personal morality need not necessarily be wholly different from that of every other person, so long as it is arrived at independently. A person could, purely by chance, or by rather convergent reasoning, arrive at the same moral ethos as his neighbour. However, this is acceptable to Redbeard only so long as the convergence occurred without any coercion or indoctrination.
 Perhaps this apparent contradiction could be reconciled by claiming that, although each man must, for the sake of his freedom, determine anew his own version of morality, nevertheless, given the power of Redbeard‘s arguments, any intelligent, rational individual will inevitably arrive at the same conclusion as he himself. Interestingly in this light, although Redbeard usually regarded as having been influenced by Nietzsche in his views on morality, the latter is never actually cited or otherwise mentioned by name, or quoted, at any point within Redbeard’s text. Perhaps Redbeard is thereby attempting to emphasize that, howsoever much his ideas may converge with those of Nietzsche, they are nevertheless very much of his own, derived by way of independent reasoning.
 ‘The editors, ‘A bogus book ‘The Survival or the Fittest or The Philosophy of Power’ By Ragnar Redbeard’, Tocsin, Thursday 23 March 1899.
 This is certainly true of communism. Communism’s apologists typically claim that “‘true communism’ has never been tried”, but this only illustrates the fact that there is a reason that ‘true communism’ has never been achieved – namely, it is simply impossible and unworkable and therefore never could be achieved. Watered-down socialism, in the form of what is today called social democracy has proven workable and sustainable, albeit at some economic cost, in, for example, the, perhaps not unconincidentally, (until recently) racially and ethnically homogenous Nordic economies.
 Such small utopian communes sometimes succeed for a generation, because those drawn to them are highly committed to the ideology of the group, which is why they choose to join the group, and are thus a highly self-selected sample. However, they typically either break down, or, as in the case of Israeli kibbutzim, abandon many aspects of the original ideology and practice of the group, in succeeding generations, as those born into the group, though raised according to its precepts, nevertheless lack the commitment to its ideals of their parents. On the contrary, they often inherit their parents’ rebellious streak, the very rebellious streak that led their parent to join a commune, but which, in their offspring, leads them to rebel against the teaching of the commune.
 In pinning their hopes on science for our liberation, secularists are, rather ironically, themselves following the biblical teaching that “the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32). In reality, the truth does not set us free: It merely reveals the truth of our own enslavement, namely precisely that which we were seeking to escape in the first place.
 For more on this interesting topic, see Wood, A (1990) ’Marx Against Morality’, in Singer (ed.), A Companion to Ethics (pp. 511- 524) Oxford: Blackwell; Rosen, M. (2000). The Marxist Critique of Morality and the Theory of Ideology. Morality, Reflection and Ideology, 21-43.
Here, Hitler directly echoes, and indeed combines, not only the quotation from Nietzsche in The Anti-Christ that I have quoted just above but also passage from The Anti-Christ, where Nietzsche anticipates Hitler by lamenting:
“Christianity remains to this day the greatest misfortune of humanity” (The Anti-Christ).
 After all, throughout history, conquest and subjugation has been a frequent occurrence. However, only rarely have states or peoples voluntarily entered into unions with other states or peoples in order to form a new state or people.
On the contrary, peoples, with their inevitable petty hatreds against even their close neighbours (indeed, especially against close neighbours) are almost always reluctant to surrender their own traditions and identity, howsoever petty and parochial, and be subsumed into larger monolithic ethnic grouping.
Moreover, when such unified polities have been voluntarily formed, this has typically been either to facilitate or forestall conquest, as when a group of smaller polities join together to protect themselves against a potential conqueror through force of numbers, or when they join together to facilitate the conquest of a third-party power. Even voluntary unions, then, are typically formed for the purposes of conquest or resisting conquest. Thus, as Herbert Spencer wrote:
“Only by imperative need for combination in war were primitive man led into cooperation” (quoted in: Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny: p56).
Indeed, Robert Wright goes so far as to suggest:
“This is almost like a general law of history…formerly contentious Greek states form the Delian league to battle Persia, five previously warring tribes forming the Iroquois league (under Hiawatha’s deft diplomacy) in the sixteenth century after menacing white men arrived in America; American white men, two centuries later, merging thirteen colonies into a confederacy amid British hostility… The loosely confederated tribes [of Israel] transform[ing] themselves into a unified monarchy [under threat from the Philistines]” (Nonzero: The Logic of Human Destiny: p58).
 This quotation comes from ‘Might is Right’. Another formulation on the same theme, and an extension of the same rhyming couplet, also quoted above, is found in ‘Sayings of Redbeard’, where the author writes:
“Poison lurks in pastor preachments,
Satan works through golden rules,
Hell is paved with law and justice,
Christs were made to fetter fools.”
 Perhaps first-generation immigrants are an exception, having chosen to migrate to the jurisdiction of their choosing and hence voluntarily agreed to be bound by its laws. However, even this decision is hardly made “in a state of… unrestrained liberty”, the stringent condition demanded by Redbeard. After all, there are only a limited number of jurisdictions to choose from, most of them with legal systems, and bodies of law, rather similar to one another, such that the actual choice available is very limited.
Incidentally, Arthur Desmond, the likely real person behind the pseudonymous Redbeard, was himself a migrant, having migrated from New Zealand to the USA at the time he authored this book.
 Thus, Redbeard concludes:
“The ‘Voice of the People’ can only be compared to the fearsome shrieks of agony that may now and then be heard, issuing forth from the barred windows of a roadside madhouse.”
 For socialists to champion work is, however, altogether odder. Indeed, the very essence of leftist ideology implicitly presumes that work is something to be avoided. Thus, those who are obliged to work, through coercion or circumstance (i.e. slaves, wage-slaves, serfs and the aptly-named ‘working-classes’) are, by virtue of this fact alone, presumed to be oppressed and exploited, while those who are exempt from work (the ‘idle rich’ and ‘leisure class’) are regarded as privileged, if not as exploitative oppressors, on precisely this account. Yet somehow leftist agitation on behalf of workers was corrupted into a perverse and sentimental celebration of the working classes, and thence into a perverse and sentimental celebration of work itself as somehow ennobling.
A cynic, of course, would suggest that this curious transformation was deliberately engineered by the capitalist employers and government themselves, and would also observe that ostensibly socialist governments tend to be as exploitative of, and parasitic upon, the working population as are every other form of government. This would, of course, be the view of Redbeard himself.
 Interestingly, at one point in the same discussion, Redbeard seems to go yet further, rejecting not only the labour theory of property, but also the so-called labour theory of value. This is the idea, long discredited among serious economists, but still held to as a sacrosanct dogma by unreconstructed Marxists and other such ‘professional damned fools’, that the value or price of a commodity is determined by the labour expended in creating it. Thus, Redbeard seemingly attempts to argue that, not just ownership, but also economic value is somehow determined by force of arms:
“The sword, not labor, is the true creator of economic values.”
I am, of course, like all right-thinking people, all in favour of gratuitous sideswipes at Marxism. Moreover, the labour theory of value is indeed largely discredited. However, the idea that ‘value’, in the economic sense, can be created by force of arms seems to me even more wrongheaded than the idea that value of a commodity is determined by the labour expended in creating it, and it is difficult to envisage how this idea would work in practice.
‘Value’ , in the economic sense, is usually understood as being based on the free exchange of goods and services, rather than their focible capture. Could ‘value’ really be measured by, say, the security costs expended on behalf of protecting property (e.g. security guards, burglar alarms, barbed wire fences), or the expenses incurred in the forcible taking of such property, rather than the value of the property for which one would be willing to exchange that property? This seems problematic.
At any rate, whatever the merits of this admittedly novel and intiguing idea, to justify such a notion, some sort of sustained argument is clearly required. Redbeard’s single throwaway sentence clearly does not suffice.
 Of course, a Darwinian perspective is arguably no more flattering to males. If the quintessential female is specialized for making eggs, then the quintessential male is an organism specialized to compete to fertilize as many such eggs as possible. Males, therefore, are destined to compete for access to females. This, of course, does not mean that for a either a man or a woman, or a male or female of any other species, to devote their life to such an endeavour is necessarily the morally right thing to do, nor even that it is necessarily the most psychologically rewarding course of action.
 For example, James Watson reports that, whereas 94% of the Y-chromosomes of contemporary Colombians are European, mitochondrial DNA shows a “range of Amerindian MtDNA types” (DNA: The Secret of Life: p257). Thus, he concludes, “the virtual absence of Amerindian Y chromosome types, reveals the tragic story of colonial genocide: indigenous men were eliminated while local women were sexually ‘assimilated’ by the conquistadors” (Ibid: p257). Similarly, the Anglo-Saxon and Viking invaders to Britain made a greater contribution to the Y-chromosomes of the English than they did to our mitochondrial DNA (see Blood of the Isles).
 I put the phrase ‘warrior genes’ in inverted commas because Redbeard was actually writing before the modern synthesis i.e. before importance of Mendel’s pioneering work regarding the mechanism of heredity, what is today called ‘genetics’, was widely recognized. Redbeard himself therefore does not refer to ‘genes’ as such.
 Indeed, perhaps the only exception to this general principle is in respect of those sporting events in which women are also themselves the competitors, since most men are, in my experience, uninterested in female sports. Yet this is clearly totally contrary to Redbeard’s theory of sports as an arena for female mate choice. For a more sophisticated evolutionary theory of competitive sport, see Lombardo (2012) On the Evolution of Sport Evolutionary Psychology 10(1).
 In referring to “male coercion”, I do not have in mind primarily outright rape, though this did indeed likely play some small part in the propagation of warrior genes as it is a recurrent feature of war and conquest. Rather, I have in mind more subtle and indirect mechanisms of coercion such as, for example, arranged marriages.
 Other predators rarely drive their prey to extinction, since, once the prey species starts to become rare, then the predator species either switches to a different source of food (e.g. a different prey species) or else, bereft of food, starts to dwindle in numbers itself, such that, one way or another, the prey species is able to recover somewhat in numbers. Humans are said to be an exception because, in human cultures, there is often prestige in successfully capturing an especially rare prey, such that humans continue to hunt an endangered species right up to the point of extinction even when, in purely nutritional terms, this is a sub-optimal foraging strategy: see Hawkes K (1991) Showing off: Tests of an hypothesis about men’s foraging goals Ethology and Sociobiology 12(1): 29-54.
 Thus, Anton Lavey, in lifting material from ‘Might is Right’ for his own so-called Satanic Bible, largely cut out the racialist and anti-Semitic content, and, in doing so, produced a philosophy that was at least as consistent and coherent as Redbeard’s own (which is to say, not very consistent or coherent at all).
“All anti-Semites agree that the Jews have a certain superiority. If you read anti-Semitic literature, you’re struck by the fact that the Jew is considered to be more intelligent, more cunning, that he is credited with having singular financial talents – and, moreover, greater communal solidarity. Result: six million dead.”
“The mightiest counterpart to the Aryan is represented by the Jew. In hardly any people in the world is the instinct of self-preservation developed more strongly than in the so-called ‘chosen’. Of this, the mere fact of the survival of this race may be considered the best proof. Where is the people which in the last two thousand years has been exposed to so slight changes of inner disposition, character, etc., as the Jewish people? What people, finally, has gone through greater upheavals than this one – and nevertheless issued from the mightiest catastrophes of mankind unchanged? What an infinitely tough will to live and preserve the species speaks from these facts” (Mein Kampf, Manheim translation).
Thus, Nazi propaganda claimed that Jews controlled banking, moneylending, whole swathes of the German economy and dominated the legal and medical professions. Yet, if Jews, who composed only a tiny fraction of the Weimar population, did indeed dominate the economy to the extent claimed by the Nazis then, this not only suggested that Jews were far from inferior to their ‘Aryan’ hosts, but also that the Germans themselves, in allowing themselves to be dominated by a group so small in number, were anything but the Aryan Übermensch and Herrenrasse of Hitler’s own demented imaginings.
 In the authoritative edition, the editor, Trevor Blake, suggests that, just as Anton Lavey, in plagiarizing ‘Might is Right’, omitted the racialist and anti-Semitic elements, so, in editions produced by some white nationalist presses, these favourable references to Jewish figures are omitted. He does not, however, cite any specific examples of alterations from the text.
Interestingly, however, the first version of the poem ‘The Philosophy of Power’ (aka ‘The Logic of Today’) with which I became familiar did just that, replacing “Might is Right when Joshua led his hordes o’er Jordan’s foam” with “Might is Right when Genghis led his hordes o’er Danube’s foam”. Indeed, a google search for this version reveals nearly as many hits as for the correct, original wording, perhaps because this version was also used as the lyrics for a song by (somewhat) popular nineties white power band, Rahowa in their album, ‘Cult of the Holy War’. Perhaps, from a white nationalist perspective, praising a non-white Asian military conqueror is more acceptable than praising a mythical Jewish military conqueror.
However, another reason to actually prefer the altered version is that, in terms of the poem’s metre or rhythmical structure, the changed version actually scans rather better than the original, the extra syllable in “Joshua”, as compared to “Genghis”, both breaking the iambic pentametre of the verse and making this line one syllable longer than the preceding line and most of the other lines in the poem.
 From a social Darwinist perspective, however, this is to be welcomed, since it increases the competition between prospective despots and dictators, and hence ensures that only the greatest conqueror will prevail. However, among the many contradictions in ‘Might is Right’ is that Redbeard vacillates between championing a radical individualist egoist morality, and a social Darwinist ethos.
Social Darwinism is actually, in a sense, a collectivist ideology, since, although it champions conflict between individuals, it does so only so that the only most superior individuals survive and reproduce, hence resulting in a eugenic benefit to the group or species as a whole.