Reason may be man’s defining characteristic, but it is not his only one.
Human nature is an infinitely complex tug of war between the capacity for logic and order and the deeper, hardwired instincts of man’s primitive lobes. Science, rule of law, voluntary exchange, free markets, and economic progress are modern triumphs of Apollo. The Dionysian realm encompasses collective upheaval, tribal affiliation, corporate alienation, collective nostalgia, great works of art – the emotional, often intuitive, but seldom explicable dimensions of life.
We can identify this interplay all around us, often in the most mundane minutia. Imagine a young professional in a crisply pressed suit, strolling confidently toward his perfectly right-angled, steel-framed behemoth of an office building, blasting the explicit version of the latest hip hop/pop song in his earbuds. He’s not harboring any illicit fantasies, at least not consciously; he’s preparing for a long day of sitting, marked by number crunching and carefully scheduled meetings. What might appear to his older colleagues as a bizarre musical choice – “cultural rot” – is in fact a latent symptom of the systematic purging of American masculinity. White masculinity in particular has been singled out as politically incorrect: Where is our generation’s Metallica, and where is the younger, American-born Arnold in our films? Our white-collared friend’s preference for street-inspired music merely indicates his subconscious desire to harness the dark, Dionysian forces within his own psyche and redirect them toward productive achievement.
Chances are good that if he repeats the lyrics penned by some Grammy-winning artist once he steps into his culturally sterilized office, he will be fired. In modern society, the unfiltered Dionysian must not be permitted to sully Apollo’s temple.
Aggression is an evolved constant of human nature, intrinsic to both genders but more pronounced and less opaque in the male mind. The repressed urge for unrestrained competition, deprived of an outlet in tribal conflict, expresses itself in edgy music, contact sports (especially football and mixed martial arts), gory films, video games, and uncensored regions of the internet. It can be successfully channeled toward peaceful enterprise – notably the accumulation of wealth and, especially later in life, winning on the golf course.
Why does any of this matter? Consider those frumpy (and lumpy) academics, confined to circular theorizing in their ivory towers, lacking a coherent theory of aggression and blaming “the system” for all social ills. According to them, there are no innately human desires; the State can mold human beings into peaceful hobbits seeking the public good; all of the world’s wrongs can be reduced to capitalist corruption or the Koch Brothers. The idea that human nature might be a fixed – or at least a very slowly evolving – feature of biological reality scares them. They much prefer the notion of utopian perfectibility articulated by Rousseau and, in the modern era, in songs like The Beatles’ Imagine.
The real irony is that the left-wing intellectuals detest the Apollonian. They abhor capitalism and advocate resistance against the rule of law, especially when anarchy serves Marxist goals. They envision a paradox – the Dionysian stripped of its dark essences; art and music and emotionalism existing in a vacuum, tailored to the theology of Marxism-infused social justice. They assume that human beings are entirely products of society, not because they have compelling evidence, but because they despise our natural (and evolved) inclinations toward competition, kin-loyalty and the pursuit of individual greatness.
In the bizarre spectacle of hysterically screaming social justice warriors, with their inability to permit opposing points of view, we see human nature uncloaked yet again. In what used to be Apollonian bastions of reason and free thought, we now have a return to the vindictive, tribalist mentality of the Salem Witch Trials. The crusaders for fourth-wave feminism and “intersectionality” are out to prove, by means of arrogance and intolerance, that their beliefs are universally true and worthy of implementation via force. No one is convinced; their uncivilized antics merely display the ugly side of Dionysian indulgence – and the very components of human nature whose existence their ideology denies.
In the absence of cultivated wisdom and a healthy reverence for the past, our primitive lobes will latch onto anything that promises a sense of tribal kinship, religious feeling, and social status. Relativism is contradictory and nihilism is impracticable; human nature tends to propel the proponents of both toward totalitarianism. Social justice warriors are nothing if not 21st century totalitarians.
So it goes, too, for those who blow themselves up in the name of Allah. In the absence of structures that achieve an imperfect yet sustainable balance between reason and unreason, irrational dogma will continue to prevail at the expense of the higher planes of human nature.